Power and Persecution
IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE, IF WE WANT NEW TESTAMENT POWER, WE MAY EXPERIENCE NEW TESTAMENT PERSECUTION.
Not that persecution in itself produces the supernatural, but those who are persecuted for their faith have no questions to whom their allegiance is, and God backs that up with a demonstration of His presence.
It is interesting that the fastest growing churches in the world, (who by the way are prohibited from public meetings in a building) are in some of the most spiritually oppressed countries. China, North Korea, Iran all have thriving underground churches yet have some of the greatest restrictions on Christianity. They can’t demand rights because they have none. There is no legal help because attorneys are absent. No one can march on the capitol because they will be killed. And yet the church, in the middle of that oppression, unlike here in America, is exploding in growth. It does beg the question of why and underscores the fact that when God is all you have, he’ll be all you need.
What are some of the lessons we are learning from the present COVID issue and what can the persecuted church teach us?
1. We’re learning in America that unless it’s a Sunday and we don’t have a building, we don’t know how to do church.
That’s unfortunate because the church was never a building, but a group of people committed to Christ and each other. The first-century church (that we say we want to be like) never panicked over buildings. They just kept praying in their homes together and raised the dead, saw angels release people from prison, cast out devils and healed the sick. That was normal for them. They did not have a relationship with a building but with the living God; hence the supernatural power. There are multiple accounts of Jesus appearing to Muslims in countries where they have tried to stomp out Christianity. It’s not possible and will never be possible to stop the Lord as God never intended His presence to be confined to a building. Our lack of power is only evidence of our misplaced priorities. Now, I’m not suggesting that buildings aren’t necessary; but if we miss what God is trying to teach us, the last several weeks will be an absolute waste of time.
2. We’re seeing the subtle rebellion that exists toward authority in the body of Christ.
I’m sure I’ll be excoriated with criticism for this, but I’ve found it interesting how willingly so-called Christians call elected officials, stupid, dumb, ignorant, etc. But you say “don’t you see how they are taking away our privileges as citizens? We have a constitution and demand our rights!” I understand we live in America, but the vast majority of the world does not. What does a believer do, and how did first-century Christians respond when there was no constitution? The apostle Paul stood before a group of hostile people determining his future. Acts 23 records:
"Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!” Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?” Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest? ” I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’
Don’t speak evil of the ruler of the people? Why not- they were evil! Here’s the reason why from Romans 13;
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
The apostle Peter even said to “fear God and Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).” That doesn’t mean much until we understand the King was the Roman emperor Nero.
Should we say nothing? Of course not. But it’s not what is said but HOW it is said that matters to God. There are multiple examples in scripture from Moses, the 3 Hebrew boys in the fire, the prophets, to New testament apostles of how to address evil leaders. It doesn’t mean we can’t speak up, but Christians seem to think the louder they yell, the more they will be heard. Of course, this also crosses over into families, businesses, and churches. The inability of some believers to communicate intelligently and effectively with wisdom and tact really shows how much we don’t understand the culture we are living in and how God would have us respond to people who have no relationship with the Lord.
3. We are learning that our times are in the hand of the Lord.
We love to be in control, don’t we? The fact is, everything is really out of our control right now. Here’s a question for every believer; Do we really believe that all things work together for good? Do we understand the admonition to give thanks in all things? Can we grasp that nothing can separate us from the love of God? Do we get that a God who created the universe is not panicking over anything, can actually take care of us, and knows exactly what he is doing? This is a moment in time to take a step back and see the big picture. Awakening will not come without a cost. The Lord is looking for some people who understand that it’s better to put trust in the Lord then princes, governors, prime ministers, and presidents (Ps. 118:8) and lean on the arm of the Lord.
"My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, rescue me. Don’t let me be disgraced, O LORD FOR I call out to you for help. Let the wicked be disgraced; let them lie silent in the grave. Silence their lying lips—those proud and arrogant lips that accuse the godly." Psalm 31:15