It has become more common for Christians in the western world to experience some form of discrimination. Private business owners are being sued for refusing to provide services to same-sex couples. Preventative birth control measures are now being demanded at the expense of Christian companies, regardless if it goes against their beliefs. Restaurants that uphold traditional marriage views and actually speak out for it are being targeted and boycotted.
To this day, I have not experience any major persecution. I don’t have to sneak around for corporate worship. I am still able to read my bible and pray openly. Threats on my life have not come after I have shared my faith. I don’t know anyone, personally, that was imprisoned or killed for their faith in God. Yes, I have been left out of group activities because I was viewed as different. The Christian walk has been lonely at times and my fellow believers have disappointed me.
I am sure many of you know what it means to be left out, to be labeled as different, weird or even marked as the infamous Jesus freak. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion because you can’t put in those Sundays hours that are required because of your commitment to family and faith. In a world where Christians are expected to be tolerant of everyone, yet no one is tolerate of our beliefs, it’s easy wonder if it’s worth it at times.
As believers, we are feeling the pressure to conform to a world that says we are our own gods, free to do what feels good to us, and everyone else should be responsible for our happiness. If that said happiness is questioned or refused, it is not uncommon for those that have opposing beliefs to feel the backlash. But please understand that these mere inconveniences, even though not just, are not persecution. This is endurance training for the persecution promised to come.
This drastic shift in our belief system has left many Christians dumbfounded and possibly even afraid at how this will turn out. Let me go ahead and tell you the ending of this story: Christians will be persecuted and ostracized even in this great nation. The cost of discipleship is great and Jesus never told His people who it would be an easy road.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you
are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,
therefore the world hates you…..If they persecuted Me,
they will also persecute you.” John 15:18-20
Here are four ways to be prepared to stand when hard times come:
1. Work on your relationship with Jesus. Stay in God’s word. Know what you believe so you can avoid falling victim to false teaching. The strength of your faith can be compared to someone who is preparing to run a marathon. It requires dedication and conditioning. If a runner doesn’t prepare, he or she will never be able to finish the race. Our Christian walk should be approach the same.
2. Accept this hard truth: It is a privilege to suffer for Jesus. 1 Peter 4:14 states, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” It is an honor for someone to look at you and see that you are different! My family recently moved to Georgia and my husband’s work environment is very diverse. Needless-to-say, he stuck out like a sore thumb when he walked in! His mannerisms were different and the men around him noticed the difference. They were very curious as to why he seemed so different. My husband now has a great opportunity to introduce many of them to the Man that changed his life. But my husband also understands he might face some opposition for his faith.
3. Start or continue sharing your faith. Sharing God’s love and favor with others should be as natural as breathing. If you don’t practice, it can be hard to speak up in times when you have to. It might make you uncomfortable at first, but there is freedom in knowing you don’t have to be bound by fear because we serve a great God.
4. Burn your bridges. That might sound a little backwards. I thought you weren’t supposed to burn your bridges? In times of hardship, it is very easy to go back to a place in your life that is safe and comfortable. If the bridge is burned, you can’t return. You are more likely to push forward in your Christian walk.
How we rise up to the challenges we face will be up to each of us. The cost of discipleship can be great, but our reward is far greater.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7