“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41).
- The early church enjoyed a glorious beginning on the Day of Pentecost, and thousands were filled with God’s Spirit.
- The early church faced great difficulties and was immediately persecuted for its beliefs.
The two above statements don’t contradict each other; both are correct. The believers experienced a glorious time as the Spirit fell upon those in the upper room. Before the day was over, three thousand were filled with the Spirit and baptized (Acts 2:41). Yet, persecution of the young church began immediately. Did it hinder its growth? Not at all. A boldness filled them that could not be quenched, and they rejoiced in the opportunity to suffer for the name of Jesus.
Persecution Still Exists
Persecution of the church still exists today, although most in North America do not experience its extreme form. We may face criticism or harsh words, but few if any have faced torture, imprisonment, or death for our faith. Paul wrote in II Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (NKJV). The word “all” is clear. Those who seek to live a committed life to God will endure some form of persecution in time.
While we may not be going through severe oppression where we live, our brothers and sisters in other areas of the world are. Current research shows that 215 million Christians are experiencing high levels of persecution. This includes imprisonment without trial, abductions, churches attacked, and death. Yet, many, if not all, of those affected would say as Paul in II Corinthians 12:9-10,
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (New King James Version).
Persecution Will Increase
Current world events show us that the end of the church age is near. Persecutions will increase, and all of us will be affected more and more. In the meantime, we must pray for boldness and perseverance, not only for ourselves but for those suffering for the name of Jesus in other parts of the world. There can be joy in suffering if it is for His name’s sake.
“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (I Peter 4:14).
Prayer: Lord, I know that times of persecution will come. Within myself I am weak, but You give me strength to endure. Give me boldness to stand firm when trials come. Also remind me to uphold my brothers and sisters in Christ as they face great opposition for their faith. Help us to count all joy for Your name’s sake.