Why does God allow persecution?

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  -2 Timothy 3:12

We can see in so many places in the Bible where God’s people were persecuted and even killed!  It causes many to wonder why God would allow persecution to happen.  It doesn’t seem like a very loving thing to do.

The truth behind the persecution of the Christian churches can also be found within the pages of the Bible.  In Genesis 3:15, God’s curse against Satan is this: “From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers.  You will strike his heel but he will crush your head.” (TLB)

Satan caused Adam and Eve to bring sin into the world because of the great hatred and animosity that he felt against God.  The truth is, Satan hates God!  And so he also hates humans, because we are loved by God and have His protection.

You can see Satan’s bitterness against God and His beloved creation in the story of Job.

“One day as the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan, the Accuser, came with them. 

“‘Where have you come from?’ the Lord asked Satan. 

“And Satan replied, ‘From earth, where I’ve been watching everything that’s going on.’

“Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth-a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.’

“‘Why shouldn’t he when you pay him so well?’ Satan scoffed. ‘You have always protected him and his home and his property from all harm. You have prospered everything he does-look how rich he is! No wonder he ‘worships’ you! But just take away his wealth, and you will see him curse you to your face!’

“And the Lord replied to Satan, ‘You may do anything you like with his wealth, but don’t harm him physically.’

So Satan went away and sure enough, not long afterwards when Job’s sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother’s house, tragedy struck.” Job 1:6-13 (TLB)

Satan comes to God again in chapter 2 of Job and acts the same way. What hatred Satan presents to God!

We are also warned in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be careful-watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart.” (TLB)

There are many stories in the Bible about God’s people being persecuted. Next time you read about them, remember the one who is doing the persecuting; Satan, who is our enemy.

IDOP-StoriesOfPersecution

We can read more about Satan’s animosity in Revelation 12:7-13.

“Then there was war in heaven; Michael and the angels under his command fought the Dragon and his hosts of fallen angels. And the Dragon lost the battle and was forced from heaven. This great Dragon-the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world-was thrown down onto the earth with all his army.  

“Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, ‘It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth-he accuses them day and night before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him. Rejoice, O heavens! You citizens of heaven, rejoice! Be glad! But woe to you people of the world, for the devil has come down to you in great anger knowing that he has little time.’

“And when the Dragon found himself cast down to earth, he persecuted the woman who had given birth to the child…” (TLB)

So Satan resents God for exiling him, and he takes out his resentment by persecuting God’s people on earth.   You could say it’s Satan’s way of getting God back for punishing him.

IDOP-TypesOfPersecution

But that doesn’t explain why God would allow us to be persecuted.  After all, if He’s a loving God, wouldn’t he have the power to stop Satan from persecuting His people that He loves?

But here’s some news that may seem unbelievable…

We are actually blessed by our persecution.

Yes, it’s true.  When we are persecuted, we can count our blessings and feel joy in these truths:

  • We are identified through Christ Jesus.
"At one time you were separate from God. You were God's enemies in your minds because the evil deeds you did were against God. But now Christ has made you God's friends again. He did this by his death while he was in the body, that he might bring you into God's presence. He brings you before God as people who are holy, with no wrong in you, and with nothing that God can judge you guilty of. And Christ will do this if you continue to believe in the Good News you heard. You must continue strong and sure in your faith. You must not be moved away from the hope that Good News gave you. That same Good News has been told to everyone in the world. I, Paul, help in preaching that Good News. I am happy in my sufferings for you.  There are many things that Christ must still suffer through his body, the church. I am accepting my part of these things that must be suffered. I accept these sufferings in my body. I suffer for his body, the church." Colossians 1:21-24 (ICB)
  • The world is paying us tribute because we belong to Christ.
"But you should be happy that you are sharing in Christ's sufferings. You will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. When people insult you because you follow Christ, then you are blessed. You are blessed because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you." 1 Peter 4:13-14 (ICB)
  • God compliments us over our service to Him.
"Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you noticed  my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him.  He is an honest man, innocent of any wrong. He honors God and stays away from evil. You caused me to ruin him for no good reason. But he continues to be without blame.'" Job 2:3 (ICB)
  • God is weaning us off of our love for the world by letting us see where our trouble actually comes from.
"Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.  

"You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet-and before God himself." 1 Peter 4:1-5 (MSG)
  • God is perfecting patience through our persecution.
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 

"If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open." James 1:2-8 (MSG)
  • We are being identified with great saints of the past.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
  • We are waiting to receive God’s great promise to us.
"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long.  Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (TLB)

 

IDOP-OvercomingPersecution

We typically think that in Jesus’ resurrection, He destroyed Satan’s power which is death. But that’s not true! Jesus actually destroyed Satan’s power and plans with His death, not rising from the dead.  He was sinless- our passover lamb.  His innocent blood washes us clean.

“Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15 (MSG)

“We have this treasure from God. But we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure.  This shows that this great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us.  We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. . We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies, so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death. This is so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. So death is working in us, but life is working in you.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (ICB)

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Girls With Swords, Week 5

The chapter this week focused on the cross, and how Satan thought he was victorious as Jesus drew his final breath on the cross and said “It is finished.”  Satan didn’t realize that it was man’s fate of being covered in sin with no hope of redemption that was finished; not God’s wonderful plan of salvation!  Through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, we are forgiven! There is no condemnation for us; all that is expected is that we boast in the cross and believe (and proclaim) Jesus Christ is Lord!

“…Aaron will take the two goats and bring them before the Lord at the entrance to the Meeting Tent. He will throw lots for the two goats—one will be for the Lord and the other for the goat that removes sin. Then Aaron will take the goat that was chosen for the Lord by throwing the lot, and he will offer it as a sin offering. The other goat, which was chosen by lot to remove the sin, must be brought alive before the Lord. The priest will use it to perform the acts that remove Israel’s sin so they will belong to the Lord. Then this goat will be sent out into the desert as a goat that removes sin. … He will put both his hands on the head of the living goat, and he will confess over it all the sins and crimes of Israel. In this way Aaron will put the people’s sins on the goat’s head. Then he will send the goat away into the desert, and a man who has been appointed will lead the goat away. So the goat will carry on itself all the people’s sins to a lonely place in the desert. The man who leads the goat will let it loose there.” Leviticus 16:7-10, 21-22

In the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to use the blood of a lamb for the forgiveness of their sins.  They were also commanded to send out a scapegoat to carry their sins into the wilderness.  Once gone, the sins would be forgotten.

Looking into the future, the prophet Isaiah told how one day a Savior would come to the nation of Israel and save God’s people from the judgment that awaits those who do not respect and obey God.  In Isaiah 49:6, the prophecy even tells how people who are not part of Israel will also be saved by this wonderful Savior. “The Lord told me, ‘You are an important servant to me. You will bring back the tribes of Jacob. You will bring back the people of Israel who are left alive. But, more importantly, I will make you a light for all nations. You will show people all over the world the way to be saved.’(ICB)  God wanted us ALL to be brought into righteousness.

Isaiah 53 is a direct prophecy of Jesus Christ, telling how He would be treated unfairly, killed, and become the sin offering for all who believe in Him. “We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done.” (verse 6, NCV)

Jesus is not only the Lamb of God which is sacrificed to wash away sins, but He is also the scapegoat which carries the sins of all the people away, no longer to be thought of.

Isaiah also prophecies Jesus’ victory in his resurrection. Isaiah 53:11 says that After his soul suffers many things, he will see life and be satisfied. My good servant will make many people right with God; he will carry away their sins.” (NCV)  Jesus did gain the victory over death, and He offers the same to us.

“He willingly gave his life and was treated like a criminal. But he carried away the sins of many people and asked forgiveness for those who sinned.” (verse 12, NCV)

Praise the Lord!  Thank you, Jesus.

“The cross addresses our raw human tendency that not one of us can escape. Before the cross, we were victims of destiny, our own fate hung over our heads like doom, but after the cross, we had another option: eternal life with Jesus.” –quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“It’s the blood of lambs that would wash away the sins of the Israelites. A purely good life must be given – its blood spilt, for the sanctification of our own sinful lives.  And so what other way could Christ have saved us?  He is our lamb of God; a sinless, perfect life. He had to fulfill all the prophesies.”  –quote from Kat’s fencing manual

Girls with Swords, Week 3

For my birthday earlier this month, Lacy bought me a book that I’ve been wanting: The Art of War.  It’s said to be a great book, used by successful entrepreneurs  to improve their skill.  But as I read it during this time while I’m also studying Girls with Swords, I find we can apply it to Christian living, too.

“To all nations war is a great matter.  Upon the army death or life depend: it is the means of the existence or destruction of the State.” Sun Tzu in The Art of War

The existence of God’s Holy nation – Christians from every part of the world – depends on how well each of us prepares for our spiritual battle.   If we stand ready to fight against the spiritual enemies who wage war against us, we will be able to persevere and protect our people from the enemy’s attacks; but if we stay ignorant and in denial of the war around us, Satan will easily overpower us and cause the people of God to stumble and fall away.  War is a great matter, whether we stand in the offense or in the defense; we have to be ready for the battles ahead.

If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” John 15:18-21  (ASV)

This week, the Girls with Swords chapter focused on how we might be heroes just like the men and women spoken of in Hebrews 11.  Through faith, we can face the enemy and stand bravely for Christ.  With God as our power, we can be superhuman.

It sounds unbelievable; but don’t be fooled by Satan’s lies against this concept- you really are the hero of your own story.  The moment you chose to be baptized, you became an enemy of Satan, and all the angels in heaven rejoiced (Luke 15:3-10).  If you haven’t chosen baptism yet, then Satan’s legion of demons fight every day to keep you from making the decision of accepting salvation through Christ’s resurrection.  While God wants no man to perish but all to have eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, 2 Peter 3:9), Satan wants quite the opposite. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), but Satan wishes that all people shall perish and none have eternal life.

Once you accept your role as hero, whether you perform amazing miracles like the hero Captain Sullinberger of the US Airways flight 1549 or you’re just a forgotten survivor, victim of life’s worst events the way that Chuck Noland was in the movie Castaway, you are a hero in your own story and Satan is trying to bring you – as a Christian – to ruin.

“Reacting does not equal choosing. Fear will drive you to react, but as you become more skillful with the sword, you will choose your response with the intent of honoring your Father – rather than protecting yourself.” -Lisa Bevere, from the Girls with Swords Fencing Manual

The best way to choose your response with an intent of honoring God instead of fearing the enemy is to prepare for the attack and be ready for whatever will happen.  To be ready, we must put on the proper armor so that we will have the protection that God provides us.

“He who does not know the evils of war will not reap advantage thereby. He who is skillful in war does not make a second levy, does not load his supply wagon thrice.”  Sun Tzu, The Art of War

If you don’t spend your time preparing, then the enemy will have an advantage over you and you won’t have enough “supply” -strength, knowledge, and will- to fight back.  On the other hand, if you prepare for war and grow skillful with the provisions that God gives you through Scriptures, then the enemy cannot surprise you with an attack that you didn’t expect.

Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us six articles of protection that we should wear in our fights against Satan.  We should never be found without them, unprepared.  Our enemy is always on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8), and will pounce the moment we set our armor aside for a moment of rest.

Heroes may feel afraid of something, but they trust in their power, whether its the power of their sword, or their own [superhuman] abilities, or something else. In [Christians’] case, God is our power.  -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

God is permitted to do what he wants with me, because I have no idea who I am anymore. I mean, if my ideas have to “be scrapped” before God can place me in his own, then let it be so, because my plans are void almost like a money check when it’s VOID. So Lord, I permit you. -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

 

Chivalry, Vileness, and Death

An armored Knight galloped on a horse so fine,

A white horse: that milky, pale mare,

And the Knight, pure and refined,

He portrayed heroism, indeed.

~ ~

Dark eyes watched enemies at abroad horizons,

Surveyed lands: lush, green grasslands,

Emitting a bright sword, so pious,

Its appearance was crimson-free.

~ ~

His cape draped over the back of his mare,

A strong shield: a firm, polished helmet,

Those were all attributes he handled with care.

He had a character that was careful and clean.

~ ~

His heart was saddened, though,

From an attempt, an awful, fatal attempt,

That a Princess had sworn by, she chose

To be bound by a deadly creed.

~ ~

Dragon was fierce; he cared for no one,

Angry feelings: angry, livid rage,

He had a personality feared by everyone.

This Princess was a prisoner of his greed.

~ ~

She had what he wanted: she had what he needed,

Her beautiful heart: a kind and gentle heart,

Yet timidity, her one weakness,

She was Dragon’s key.

~ ~

The door to life, everlasting riches,

Promised to those who contained kind hearts,

He planned on killing her, hence,

To obtain what he needed.

~ ~

Dragon had forced the Princess to surrender

Her life: Her precious and wholesome life.

So that he could be the one to live on forever.

He didn’t once take heed.

~ ~

The Knight on the horse, that milky, pale mare,

Was going to tell Dragon what he should hear.

So he galloped on his horse, that milky, pale mare,

Day by day, battling both cold and heat.

~ ~

He raced across plains, dashed through valleys,

The horse was always weary, but he was always brave,

Night after night for strength he prayed,

Dear Father, I don’t want to be too late.

~ ~

As the Knight arrived closer, every step at a time,

Dragon pined for that lovely immortality.

He laughed and mocked, but the Princess never whined;

She tried holding onto her faith.

~ ~

Dragon hated waiting, so he would linger no more!

Her heart he would take, that precious, pure heart,

From her, so he could live forevermore.

There would be no more wait.

~ ~

The Knight galloped on, so fast and never stalling,

When envisioning death, of his beautiful Princess,

How could he even think about stalling?

No, it couldn’t be too late!

~ ~

Dragon leered; he moved his claw across her skin.

The cackle was there, that crude, blunt cackling.

He began by pinning his claw to her chin,

And he knew then, that her skin soon wouldn’t be crimson-free.

~ ~

As he neared her chest with his sharp weapon,

A noise, an approaching, tedious noise,

Like the prancing of hooves, it startled Dragon,

And he turned to look and see.

~ ~

“Who is he?” Dragon sneered.

As he saw a bright and shining Knight.

He was mounted on horse, a milky, pale mare,

It was like this Knight was cloud sailing.

~ ~

“I am a knight,” he replied, “and this is my bride.”

“You think you can take her away?”

“Snatch her from my side?”

His hands were bruised, from much laboring.

~ ~

Even so, his bravery increased,

And he unsheathed a sword, so pious,

He dismounted his horse, and neared

The Dragon, who was glaring.

~ ~

“You can’t take what’s mine away,”

“You’re fate still remains the same, Dragon.”

“Even if you take my bride away,”

“You are still dying.”

~ ~

“Steal a heart, but you’ll remain in death,”

“Even if that heart’s full of kindness.”

“Change your own heart, and you’ll be free,”

“Life will be yours, and immortality.”

~ ~

Dragon refused to listen, and the Knight shook his head.

The Princess would be set free, but Dragon’s fate was death.

The Knight cast his sword forward, a tear slipping, and falling,

He was hoping Dragon would change his mind.

~ ~

But because of his stubbornness,

His foolish, stupid stubbornness,

Dragon would reap what he sowed.

His own vileness would heap and teem.

~ ~

It would become millions of times worse,

Than it was before: all the evil he had boasted,

Would bounce back, and be his curse,

Dragon would gnash his teeth.

~ ~

So it was done, the Knight pierced him:

Dragon cried in pain, a loud and mournful cry,

And he knew then, there would be no one to save him.

The knight blade was not crimson-free.

~ ~

The burning fire he had treated others to,

That seething, potent pain they felt,

Was now engulfing Dragon, who,

Had the choice to surrender and yield.

~ ~

The Knight bent down, and checked his bride,

To see if she was still humble.

He had saved her from death, and the Dragon’s pride,

Her heart, he had tried to steal.

~ ~