It is no secret that the world is descending into chaos. Every day the news bears story after story of individuals turning against each other and their communities (Matthew 10:21; 24:12). For the Christian, we know we will be specifically sought out as well.
Believers in the United States have been fortunate in how we have come this far without seeing the kind of persecution dominating other parts of the world, but there is coming a day when that will no longer be the case, Scripture is clear about that:
- “They will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues.” -Matthew 10:17
- “There will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” -Matthew 24:21
- “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” -2 Timothy 3:12
- “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” -1 Peter 4:12
While I have significantly grown in my faith over the last few years, I’m still afraid I won’t stand very long if my relationship with God is put on trial. “If I perish, I perish” is easier said than done (Esther 4:16).
For anyone combating similar fears, here are seven ways to prepare.
#7 — Find scriptural truths in secular content
The power of God is not contained in one sector of human existence. The theological term for this is “omnipotent,” meaning God is all-powerful. In that unlimited power, the Holy Spirit can speak through secular content just as well as Christian media.
This is encouraging perchance Christian content is blocked or removed from the internet. Regardless of our access to intentionally edifying materials, we can be reminded of God’s truth through secular content as the Spirit inspires.
Deep down, we all—believer and nonbeliever—know the truth, we feel it in our bones (Romans 8:22-23). Like the truth that there is life beyond our years on earth (Ecclesiastes 3:11) or the invisible attributes of God (Romans 1:20), we know how things really are, it’s just that many directly or indirectly suppress that knowledge.
Still, the themes leak out, like how The Rise of Skywalker inspired me to overcome my sin nature, Endgame is a testimony of pure friendship, or Wonder Woman left me in tears regarding the love of our Savior. The Spirit can use non-Christian means to germinate Biblical truths.
I got this perspective from my mom. Growing up, she would follow every movie we watched with the same question: How did you see the gospel in the plot we just experienced? There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), so naturally, the greatest story ever told will reappear.
We can identify that, pulling biblical truths from secular movies and cultivating the goodness of them in our reviews. That way, if we ever lose access to content that is intentionally gospel-centric, we can still be encouraged by the media we consume.
#6 — Create a mental hymnal
Have you ever tried singing on the spot only to find your extensive catalog of music suddenly blank? This has often happened when I’m having a good time with friends and can easily be resolved by opening Spotify, but I think about Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in Acts 16:16-40.
They were being persecuted for their faith yet—at midnight, with their feet fastened in stocks—were singing hymns to God. I don’t want to be in that context and be unable to recall the myriads of songs I could easily pull up on my phone.
- This is a call for me to not just hit shuffle and play music in the background but to pay attention and listen to familiar lyrics with fresh ears.
- I can also get in the habit of not always playing music but recalling songs on my own and singing them a capella, by myself and with others.
Imagine what first-century Christians would think of the plethora of worship music we have at our fingertips today. Let’s not take that for granted.
Make a library of songs easily accessible for your tongue so, if you find yourself imprisoned for Christ’s sake, verbalization is the only thing in between you and singing.
#5 — Memorize the sound of congregational worship
The first time COVID-19 precautions led my church to solely live-stream their messages, our primary teaching pastor encouraged us to imagine quarantine as a fire drill for—God forbid—a day when gathering with a local church body is illegal.
Lord willing, we will still be gathering in small groups, meeting in homes, sitting under His Word, praying together, and encouraging one another, as we should. We would need to gather because thinking you’re alone is an idea that can tear you apart from the inside out.
Satan is always on the lookout for weak areas where he can seep in, but isolation can be one of the most lethal. Even when we can see our friends as often as we take the time, we still so easily fall into this trap of thinking we are facing life alone.
How much sooner would the Devil take advantage of our natural need for community if persecution isolated us from other believers? It is this thought that sometimes leads me to close my eyes during corporate worship and do my best to memorize the experience.
Hundreds of voices, all around, holding the same note for the same amount of time. The way they carry. The way they bounce off the walls. A symphony of people praising our Savior in unison. A little slice of heaven in my present reality.
If I am ever put in front of an opposing force and overwhelmed by life-threatening demands to deny my faith, I want to be able to broaden my perspective, to know that I am not the only one facing such charges, to put myself back amongst a body of believers lifting my Savior’s name until I can be with a greater choir in heaven.
#4 — Put scripture where no one can take it
If I had to escape a burning house and everyone else was safe, the one thing I would grab is my journaling Bible. With God’s Word and my notes as I’ve learned over the years, the Book is genuinely my most prized possession and I am afraid of losing it.
While it is good to treasure Scripture, it is possible that our copies might one day be taken from us or we from our copies, so (for that and several other reasons) the verses highlighted in our Bibles need to be written on our hearts.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”-Matthew 10:16
We should saturate ourselves with God’s word, becoming well-acquainted with how it applies to life so truth will naturally come to mind when we are facing trials.
While he who is in the world can remove tangible objects, that which is seared in our memory is safe.
#3 — Remember that Christ suffered first
When I was a senior in high school, I unintentionally memorized John 15:18-21 because I repeatedly read it so many times. The passage talks about being hated by the world, but I found it inexplicably comforting because of the concept quoted in the middle:
A servant is not greater than his master.
I don’t have to feel the pressure of any kind of oppression because Jesus took that on for me. Are you hated? Jesus was hated first, so of course, we are going to be persecuted for imitating Him.
If Jesus was not treated as He deserves, our case will most certainly not be any better (Matthew 10:25), but that is exactly why we can draw confidence amidst trials, because we are not alone. Jesus is with us.
“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”-Hebrews 12:13
As a believer, it is our lifelong pursuit to become more like Christ, so we can actually rejoice that we get to suffer like He did while simultaneously spreading His name (1 Peter 4:12-13).
We might not get to see how our trials fit into the bigger picture or pass after living a long and full life but, because we have Jesus, we lack nothing. As Matthew wrote in 10:25, “it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.”
#2 — Pray
Ultimately, God is the one who will provide any strength you portray in moments of trial, and He cares, so talk to Him about it. Let Him know you’re unfiltered thoughts and the fears you hide behind a tough face. When we put our cares in God’s hands, He puts His peace in our hearts.
“Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”-Matthew 10:19-20
Then pray for your enemies. There are several reasons why persecution is going to happen, but one is so believers can give one last testimony to this fallen world we are ambassadors in.
It’s not about us. We are here to carry on Jesus’ mission, to be arrows pointing back to the one true source of satisfaction. It is precisely when our lives seem to be at their lowest, at their worst on a human level that we have the greatest opportunity to proclaim the good news:
You are walking through depression. How can you say that God is good? You are in prison. How can you sing of the freedom you have in Christ? You are in the fire. How are you filled with joy?
Pray that your enemies see this logic-defying work of Jesus Christ in you.
#1 — Look to the end
After speaking about how persecution will come, Jesus encourages us to not be afraid because “nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Matthew 10:26-33).
Everything will eventually come to light, justice will be served, and—as many times as persecution is foretold—deliverance is promised.
- “For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.” -Psalm 91:1-16
- “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.” -1 Peter 3:14
- “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” -Psalm 50:15
- “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” -Matthew 10:22
Bear in mind that deliverance does not always look how we might imagine. It may release us back into the world to continue testifying, it may release us into heaven. Death is just a doorway after all.
It can be hard not to get tied up looking at the details when dealing with any less-than-pleasant scenario, so we must put twice as much effort into focussing on the bigger picture.
Regardless of how our story ends, we know how the greater story of the world concludes (spoiler alert): Christ eternally ruling and rightfully worshipped by all.
“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'”-Revelation 5:13
Essentially, prepare for persecution by taking in the materials and opportunities available today. Lord willing, they will be plentiful and easy to access for a long time coming, but let’s not take for granted the time and freedoms we have now.