…1 Peter 4:1,5 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
It was during my second posting that I became a follower of Jesus. Circumstances in my life had become dire. Work was suffering, relationships were suffering, and financial challenges were overwhelming. I came to the end of myself. Christ stepped in front of me and figuratively held out His hand. I was a broken man, my pride was gone, so I grabbed hold, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and He began His work in me to transform me, my life and my mission to being that of a servant, a Disciple-maker.
The joy and the peace I experienced as a result of my re-birth was extraordinary and, being a person who likes to share experiences, I shared my new found faith with my spouse, my friends and co-workers. Oddly, they weren’t as excited as I was about my experience with Jesus. Some were polite, some less so. For a short while I enjoyed a type of honeymoon with Jesus. When I read His word I understood, when I spent time with other Christ-followers I was inexplicably encouraged and when I worshiped with others, hearing His word preached and singing songs that praised Jesus I was filled with that crazy consuming joy. I know that at times I was irritatingly joyful, but it was uncontrollable.
Soon, my friends and colleagues began to push back. On occasion they would avoid me, sometimes walk away, and sometimes maliciously attack me. I began to learn to temper my enthusiasm. However, the push back began to turn into efforts to get me to compromise the rule that I had chosen to follow. When I did not compromise, then ridicule followed. It followed me into the work place and it followed me into social settings and I began to withdraw.
The description given in 1 Peter 4 of what a follower of Jesus will experience is real. It will be different for each of us depending on our life circumstances, but the effects will be very similar.
I came to a point where I had to make a decision between three options: blend in, go along to get along, so that the persecution would stop; continue to withdraw and isolate myself so that I could minimized the frequency and intensity of the attacks; or I could resume my willingness to be transparent about my love for Jesus regardless of the reaction. After a few weeks of discussions with God, my pastor and my fellow believers, I chose option three. I admit that the experience did temper my enthusiasm somewhat, and I was not as bubbly with some people as I was before, but I lived my faith openly.
The efforts of others to get me to compromise resumed with intensity, but my temporary retreat seemed to steel my will to follow Jesus. Instead of withdrawing, I placed the names of my persecutors on a piece of paper and prayed for them daily. I asked God to help me remain faithful, to love those who sought to cause me harm, and to give me opportunities to serve them. Those opportunities came and I served. Eventually, the attacks diminished and became infrequent, and some began to ask questions about this Jesus, even going to church to check Him out and some, even becoming Christ-followers themselves.
Jesus tells us that the struggles that Christians face are many times the result of the spiritual forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12), who use people and circumstances to persecute Christians, but we also are told that those forces are no match for the power of the Living God who lives in the Christ-follower in the form of His Spirit (1 John 4:4-5). “Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.”
I have been walking with Jesus for 33 years now. My circle of friends and colleagues still contains many more non-believers than believers. The joy I have in Christ continues unabated as does the persecutions, albeit they are more sophisticate and subtle now, yet I know I still fight the same enemy and I still use the same weapons and in Christ I still win. I am grateful for Jesus and His love for me, I am grateful that He still gives me opportunity to serve in His mission, to be in the fight.
How about you? How goes the fight? We are in this together, and though it might seem at times that the darkness has the edge, it has already lost.