The Fruit of Persecution
Updated: Nov 3, 2019
The church father Tertullian said, "The blood of the martyrs is a seed of the church." Persecution is often perceived as detrimental to the Kingdom by many Westerners who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon. In reality, persecution both strengthens the church and promotes growth- both inward and outward, spiritually and numerically.
Not only did Jesus promise us persecution several times in scripture, but the Bible also alludes to the power of this ultimate sacrifice for the Kingdom. Revelation 12:11 states, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." So we know that a major part of the church's ultimate victory over the evil one is the willingness to lay down our lives. Jesus makes this painfully clear in Mark 8:35 when He says, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it." While there is obviously a figurative layer to this passage in that we must die to self, we mustn't ignore the very real literal meaning here as well.
When Jesus sent out the disciples in Acts chapter 1, verse 8 says, "When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth." The Greek word 'witnesses' however is 'martus'- which was a judicial term used for someone who bore witness or testimony in court. In that judicial system, the penalty for perjury was death, which is why this Greek word is where we get our English word 'martyr' from. Jesus was literally telling His disciples they would be his martyrs in all the world- and history bears witness to that fact. All of the disciples, save John, died a martyr's death and even John spent most of his life in prison. Early church history is replete with Christian martyrs as well- as is most of world history and even current events.
A recent headline reads, ISIS Fighter Who 'Enjoyed' Killing Christians Wants to Follow Jesus After Dreaming of Man in White Who Told Him 'You Are Killing My People'. The Jihadist-turned-believer was given a Bible by one of the men he martyred and began reading it. Then, like so many others, Jesus visited him in a dream which sealed the deal for him. Interestingly, it was some of my fellow YWAM missionaries who reported this particular story.
As the world continues to plunge into chaos, it is critical that Western believers re-embrace the theology of suffering that is clearly taught in scripture and has been orthodoxy throughout church history. There will come a time when it will no longer be possible to interpret picking up your cross and following Jesus metaphorically. Will you rejoice in your sufferings as scripture instructs (1Pe 4:13) or will you become bitter toward a loving Father, who is concerned for your soul, because He did not save your flesh (Mat 10:28)?
I recently spoke on suffering at Living Grace church in Las Vegas in a message titled, "Life as a Drink Offering." If your spirit is curious (I assure you, your flesh is not), you can listen to that message here.
"There are two things that purify the church and keep her on the radical edge- missions and persecution." -Unknown