The Fire of Faith
July 10, 2022
But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you (John 16:4).
Over and over again Jesus warned the disciples of the coming opposition to the Gospel and persecution to those who bear witness of it. He again emphasized the necessity to be prepared when the time of testing arrived. At that time the Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance those things He told them.
(Acts 14:21-22) And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." To young Timothy the Apostle Paul wrote (2 Timothy 3:10-12), But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra - what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Some years later the Apostle Peter affirmed (1 Peter 4:12-13), Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. And the Apostle James wrote (James 1:2-5), My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. While opposition to the Gospel is not the desired result of our witness, we know that it is the common result to our witness. The record of such opposition is seen throughout the Old Testament. (Mat 5:10-12) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Jesus faced it personally, as did Peter, Paul, Stephen, James, etc.
But the Lord did not give warning to the disciple, or to us, to weaken our faith and make us fearful. Through His words He encouraged them and assured them He would be with them, the Holy Spirit would strengthen them, give them words to speak, and, in some instances, provide a means of escape. Such opposition would embolden the disciples and temper their faith and resolve like steel is made strong when tempered by fire. No one likes persecution. But persecution becomes the catalyst through which the Christian church is set ablaze with the fires of faith and witness. Someone said, “If you want the Christian faith to die out, leave it alone. If you want the Christian faith to spread like wildfire, persecute it.” Amen.