Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” – 1 Peter 4:12-13.
The history of the church is a long and persistence story of defense against relentless persecution in different forms and ways. At the very onset the early church was persecuted by the jealous Jewish leaders. As it grew and increase in numbers, it caught the attention of the civilian authorities as a threat to the security of the state. The church experienced a little respite when the emperor Constantine supposedly, was converted to Christianity in 313 AD. It gained the royal favor of the throne. But at the end of the first millennium as the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church become unbearable, some sectors in the church clamored for reforms. They started to preach against the immoralities of the priesthood. These were the Albigenses and the Waldenses, the forerunners of the Reformation which climaxed in the reforms of Martin Luther. To counteract the impact of the reformation in the church in Europe, severe persecution was resorted by the by the Roman Catholic Church. In France, in the famous St, Bartholomew’s Massacre, on the night of August 41, 1572, 70,000 Huguenots, including most of their leaders, were massacred. In Bohemia, by 1600, in a population of 4,000,000 80% were Protestants. After the Hapsburgs and Jesuits had done their work 800,000 were left, all Catholics. This is just a drop in the bucket. It is said, that the number of martyrs under Papal persecution far outnumbered the early Christian martyrs under Pagan Rome. According to history books of the church there were hundreds of thousands among the Albiganses, Waldenses, and Protestant of Germany, Netherlands, Bohemia and other countries were massacred.
All of this been predicted by the Lord himself.“They will put you out of the synagogues; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you think he is offering a service to God.” (John 16:2). Apostle Paul explicitly declared, “In fact, everyone who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). The church of the Lord Jesus Christ in the end time is no exemption! Persecution was abounded even when the church was very young. But it has always been, the Church continues to grow by leaps and bound, a sign on the presence of the Lord in the church!
How should we deal with persecution comes? How should we react when persecution comes? We are blessed in some way for being in a system of government that the some way for being in a system f government that to some degree guarantees the free exercise of one’s religion. In cases in the Bible we can see what they did in times of persecutions.
1. In Isaiah 37:14-20, King Hezekiah receive a letter from Gen. Sennacherib demanding his surrender. The general has subdued eight kingdoms already and Juda will be the next victim. King Hezekiah knows he is no match against Sennacherib. But notice what he did.“He went up to the temple of the Lord and spread out the letter before the Lord and prayed” The Lord brought a mighty miracles. That night an angle smote the army of Sennacherib of 85,000 men. The following morning they broke camp and withdrew.
2. In Acts 4:5-31, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhendrin and threatened not to teach and preach His name. “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people reported all that the chief priest and elders had said to them. When they heard this, the raised their voices together in prayer to God… After they have prayed, they were all filled with the Holly Spirit and spoke the word of Godly.”
3. In Acts 12:1-17, there was other attempt to destroy the young church by killing one of its prominent leaders, Pete. He was imprisoned to be killed by the following day. The Lord answered and sent an angel and let Peter out of prison.
We can glean from the Scriptures that prayers in times of persecution is not only for God’s protection but also to:
- Ask for wisdom and guidance for actions
- Ask for peace of mind and spirit
- Boldness to persevere in doing will of the Lord.
Let us always bear in mind the word of the Lord in 1 Peter 4:12-13, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Persecutions are allowed by the Lord that we may see the great victories of the Lord!