By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
When the church of God first was created in the year 30 A.D., it quickly met fierce opposition.
First, it was attacked by many of the Hebrews who hated the Gospel of Christ. The persecutions were fierce and deadly, beginning with a courageous preacher of the Lord’s Word named Stephen (Acts 7).
As the people sneered and threatened this man of God, he continued to valiantly and courageously preach and defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Even as he was dying, the Bible tells us of the last actions of this humble servant:
Acts 7:59-60-And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Thus began a terrible persecution which spread through the land (Acts 8:1-4). Many of God’s people suffered and laid down their lives for their testimony to Christ.
Judaism threw its’ worst at the church, and yet the church triumphed.
Then, there was the terrible and vicious Roman Empire.
The prophesied fourth beast of Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:1-25) which would trample the saints of God (Daniel 7:7, 25) struck out at the church with a terrible ferocity. History records the violent attempts of the Empire to overthrow the fledgling faith; yet they were ultimately unsuccessful.
The faithful were humiliated, bankrupted, left homeless, destitute, were crucified and made to suffer in all manner of depraved ways; yet they remained true to the calling of the Lord.
The story of Polycarp is especially encouraging as we consider the faithfulness of these disciples of Christ.
His martyrdom has been recorded as an example of courage for all Christians:
“Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was martyred on Saturday, 23rd February, AD 155. It was the time of the public games; the city was crowded, and the crowds were excited. Suddenly the shout went up: ‘Away with the atheists; let Polycarp be searched for.’ No doubt Polycarp could have escaped; but already he had had a dream in which he saw the pillow under his head burning with fire; and, when he woke, he told his disciples: ‘I must be burnt alive.’ His whereabouts were betrayed by a slave who collapsed under torture. They came to arrest him. He ordered that they should be given a meal and provided with all they required, while he asked for himself the privilege of one last hour in prayer. Not even the police captain wanted to see Polycarp die. On the brief journey to the city, he pleaded with the old man: ‘What harm is it to say: “Caesar is Lord” and to offer sacrifice and be saved?’ But Polycarp was adamant that for him only Jesus Christ was Lord. When he entered the arena, there came a voice from heaven saying: ‘Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.’ The proconsul gave him the choice of cursing the name of Christ and making sacrifice to Caesar – or death. ‘Eighty and six years have I served him,’ said Polycarp, ‘and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’ The proconsul threatened him with burning, and Polycarp replied: ‘You threaten me with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.’ So the crowds came flocking from the workshops and from the baths with bundles of wood – and the Jews, even though they were breaking the Sabbath law by carrying such burdens, were ahead of everyone in bringing wood for the fire. They were going to bind him to the stake. ‘Leave me as I am,’ he said, ‘for he who gives me power to endure the fire will grant me to remain in the flames unmoved even without the security you will give by the nails.’ So they left him loosely bound in the flames, and Polycarp prayed his great prayer: O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Child, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received full knowledge of thee, God of angels and powers, and of all creation, and of the whole family of the righteous, who live before thee, I bless thee that thou hast granted unto me this day and hour, that I may share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, for the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. And may I today be received among them before thee, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as thou, the God without falsehood and of truth, hast prepared beforehand and shown forth and fulfilled. For this reason I also praise thee for all things. I bless thee, I glorify thee through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Child, through whom be glory to thee with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages that are to come. Amen.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Revelation Of John-Volume One, 84-86 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
For three centuries, the Roman Empire threw everything it had against the church of Christ; and yet the church triumphed.
Fast forward to the last hundred years. Militant Islamists have been torturing, crucifying, beheading, burning alive, and in every way possible exterminating Christians.
Infidel atheistic regimes (such as those of China and North Korea) have terribly abused Christians, attempting to put to death any who call on the name of Christ.
Several excellent authors have written about this epidemic, including one whose book on persecution of Christians has pointed out many disturbing details and facts:
“Our book focuses on an underreported fact: Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today. This is confirmed in studies by sources as diverse as the Vatican, Open Doors, the Pew Research Center, Commentary , Newsweek , and the Economist . According to one estimate, by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community , 75 percent of acts of religious intolerance are directed against Christians. 5…Why are Christians persecuted? As you’ll soon see, there are a myriad of reasons. Persecution can be government sponsored as a matter of policy or practice, as in North Korea , Vietnam , China, Burma , Saudi Arabia , and Iran . It can be the result of hostility within the society and carried out by extremists and vigilantes who operate with impunity or are beyond the government’s capacity to control. That is the situation today in Nigeria and Iraq . It can also be carried out by terrorist groups exerting control over territories, such as the Al- Shabab in Somalia and the Taliban in Afghanistan . Or it can come from the hands of combined and even conflicting powers, as in Egypt and Pakistan . China, Vietnam, and Cuba show us that in some countries Christianity rebounds and rejuvenates when persecution becomes less intense. This, however, is not always so. In most of the Middle East and North Africa, the percentage of native Christians remains negligible. The Christian church in those places has never recovered from past persecution. Over the past one hundred years, according to a range of estimates, the Christian presence has declined in Iraq from 35 percent to 1.5 percent; in Iran from 15 percent to 2 percent; in Syria from 40 percent to 10 percent; in Turkey from 32 percent to 0.15 percent. Among the most significant factors explaining this decline is religious persecution…..Not all the countries discussed in this book are among the world’s worst persecutors. Nevertheless we have taken into consideration the IRFA standard. What we mean by the word persecution in this book is that there are Christians in the countries of focus who are tortured, raped, imprisoned, or killed for their faith. Their churches may also be attacked or destroyed. Their entire communities may be crushed by a variety of deliberately targeted measures that may or may not entail violence. And all of them most certainly experience, as the IRFA puts it, “flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”…But Christians also are persecuted in each of these countries, and in many others. The persecution of Christians is massive, widespread, increasing, and still underreported. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life , a highly respected source of data on religion, reports that Christians have suffered harassment by the state and/or society in 133 countries— that’s two- thirds of the world’s nation states— and suffer in more places than any other religious group.” (Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, Nina Shea, Persecuted: The Global Assault On Christians, 4-9 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson)
Atheism, radical Islam, corrupt religions, and wicked rulers have combined through the ages in an attempt to destroy the church: and yet the church has triumphed.
The church will ALWAYS triumph.
God declared that His kingdom would be a kingdom which would never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44).
Jesus promised that the church would never be overcome by the gates of Hades (Matthew 16:18-19).
While many will attempt to destroy the Lord’s bride, she will remain here until the Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Many people are convinced that the continual eroding of America will bring devastation to the Lord’s church.
They harbor a secret fear that our next President will hasten the end of Christianity in America, or the end of America as a nation.
Because of this, I have been shocked to see faithful Christians who at one time stood against wickedness give evil a free pass.
Let’s be clear:
Hilary Clinton’s stance on abortion (not to mention her illegal activities over the years, the whole question of Benghazi, and her recent “email scandal”) makes her unfit to be a godly leader of this nation.
Donald Trump’s stance on desiring to have our military kill the innocent families of terrorists-including children- (in direct contradiction to the Law of God in Scripture and to the Geneva Convention, not to mention several other of his actions such as mocking the disabled, speaking viciously of women, etc.)makes him unfit to be a godly leader of this nation.
Despite the obviously gross immorality of Trump’s position, many Christians have been defending him and supporting him.
Perhaps they are so concerned about Hilary that they are willing to try and vindicate wickedness?
Whatever their rationale, the Scriptures are clear for God’s people regarding these matters:
Proverbs 17:15-He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.
Listen to me, my friends: no politician will make America great again!
No proposed leader who advocates the murder of innocent children (whether children in the womb or innocent children of terrorists) will make America great again!
No leader who justifies abominations will make America great again!
Only ONE THING will make America great again, and that is for its’ citizens to repent before the God of Heaven and seek Him and His way.
The renowned Alexis de Tocqueville recognized what makes America great when he wrote:
“I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests- and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning- and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution- and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” (quoted in Michael D. Evans, The American Prophecies: Ancient Scriptures Reveal Our Nation’s Future, 251; New York, NY; Warner Faith).
The writer of Proverbs had long ago declared by inspiration:
Proverbs 14:34-Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.
If we want to see America “exalted” or “made great” again, then we must first determine to do what is right.
We must not sacrifice the principles of God’s Word for a wicked leader; we must not capitulate to a system that would tell us we must choose a “lesser evil.”
So, what do we do?
I would like to offer the following suggestions.
First, pray for America and for our leaders (whoever they are or will be).
This is something which the Lord has commanded us to do for all of our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-6).
A friend once told me that the enemies of God are helpless in the presence of our prayers, and this is true. Let’s pray for our leaders!
Second, let’s commend the good that our leaders do, wherever it may be found.
No matter how much we might dislike people like President Obama or President Bush, or Clinton or Trump, let’s commend them for the good that they do and accomplish (Romans 13:7).
Third, let’s determine that we will follow the decrees of government in as far as they do not contradict the Word of God (Acts 5:29; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
Fourth, let’s determine that we will speak out against the wickedness of our government when we see it (Luke 3:19-20).
Yet let us do our very best to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and to not be disrespectful (Acts 26:25).
Remember that even Michael the archangel would not bring a railing or slanderous word against the devil (Jude 9).
Fifth, while we must not lose hope that American will find its’ way back to God again, we must not lose sight of our overall mission in this world: to preach the Gospel to the lost (Mark 16:15-16).
We have been commissioned to convert the lost to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13), not Democrats to Republicans or Clinton supporters to Trump.
As I have been watching discussion on my Facebook over the last several weeks, I have been intrigued by the number of people who are so involved in politics that they are becoming vicious and mean-spirited.
I know what that is like: there have been times in my life when I have been the same.
Thankfully, God has been gracious to me and has helped me to learn that this is not the way, and I am trying to become more like the servant of God that Jesus calls me to be (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Fortunately, many Christians have been kind to their fellows in their discussions about politics; but I have seen others tear into believers over politics.
Let’s not allow ourselves to be distracted by these matters from our true objective: the preaching and teaching of the Gospel.
Sixth, I would also suggest that we need to be very considerate of our military veterans and their families throughout all of these discussions and encounters.
We owe more than we can ever repay to the soldiers who keep America safe and who defend our freedoms with everything they have.
It has been said that the freedoms we enjoy are due to soldiers who wrote a blank check to our country, and the payment that the was required was their all.
This is true.
I have been blessed to know, be friends with, counsel, and work with many veterans and their families; and we are so blessed by them!
Let’s lift them up continually, no matter what our political beliefs or stances.
Finally, let’s remember this: while voting is a privilege granted to Americans, it is not the only way to affect change in our nation!
Whether or not you are comfortable voting, please determine that you will do what you can to make a difference in this country by being a follower of Jesus Christ.
There are so many lost souls around us, and they need the church of God to stand firm on His Word and share His message with them.
Be that light!
Make that difference!
We will find that the key to changing America begins with allowing that change to start within us.
In the meantime, I guarantee: no matter who becomes President of the United States, the church of Christ will triumph!
Are you a member of His church? God created the church by allowing His Son to die in the place of sinful humanity on the Cross of Calvary (1 John 2:1-2; John 3:16; Romans 5:8).
Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
He promises forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (as well as membership in His church) to all believers who will repent of their sins and be baptized into Him (Acts 2:37-38, 47).
Why not accept His gracious call today?
If you are a child of God who has left the Lord, why not today repent of that sin and confess it to Him, being restored immediately (Galatians 6:1; 1 John 1:9)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and now the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.