Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Day 90: Mark 13:1-13 & Psalm 91 - How Can We Be Ready for Persecution?

Today's Reading: Mark 13:1-13 & Psalm 91

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How Can We Be Ready for Persecution?

"But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them." - Mark 13:9

Jesus clearly taught His followers to expect persecution. Persecution comes in different forms, from teasing and labeling to prison and death. The disciples themselves who heard this teaching from Jesus would face intense persecution themselves. Most of the 12 disciples of Jesus died for their testimony, and John ended up exiled to the Island of Patmos. They were ready for what was coming. Are we? How can we be?

1. Don't be led astray by false Christs and false Gospels. Jesus warned us that many would come claiming to be the Savior. Over the centuries, many false prophets and many false Christs have arisen, including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Mormonism), Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah's Witnesses), Sun Myong Moon (Unification Church), David Koresh (Branch Davidians) and many others. But Christians are also led astray by false Gospels promising a salvation that Jesus never promised, such a health and wealth or the power to shape reality by your words. Others have sought to undermine confidence in Scripture and biblical truth. The first step to being ready for persecution is not to be led astray.

2. Be on your guard. If we're expecting persecution, we won't be alarms or troubled when it comes. One key way to be on our guard, according to Scripture, is to have the full armor of God in place (Eph. 6:10-20). This means to know who we are in Christ and to make full use of the Gospel benefits He gives - truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, faith and the word of God. 

3. Spread the Gospel. Jesus said that the Gospel would be proclaimed throughout all the earth before He would return and end all evil. One of the most stinging indictments against the church is that Jesus has been gone for almost 2,000 years and we still have not taken to the Gospel to every people group on the earth. We need to take the Gospel to the nations and to our neighbors, as part of standing firm in Christ. It also helps us get ready for persecution because we know better why we're being persecuted and why it's worth it to suffer for Christ.

4. Trust in the Holy Spirit. "And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit." Jesus is not telling us not to study Scripture or study apologetics, but He is telling us not to be anxious. We do not need to worry about how we're going to defend ourselves. God is our shield and our defender. We do not need to worry about how we will defend the Lord; He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the King of kings and Lord of lords. We need to trust and be prepared to speak faithfully, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Persecution comes in some form or other to every faithful Christian. "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." - 1 Timothy 3:12, ESV. This is not cause to fear but reason to rejoice that we bear His name and are given the opportunity to share in His sufferings. But to be ready, we need to remember to stay faithful, not to be led astray, to be on our guard, to spread the Gospel and to trust in the Holy Spirit.

Prayer Based on Psalm 91:

Heavenly Father, by Your grace, You are my shelter and I dwell in the shadow of Your wings. You keep me and guard me in all of my ways. Your son, Jesus, trusted in You and You delivered Him from the snare of death. Because I belong to Jesus, I, too, am secure in Your loving care for me. 

Father, we are Your people and we live in a hostile world. We live in a land where Satan prowls and people fall prey to His attacks daily. Keep us safe in Your hands. Guide us by Your Holy Spirit. Glorify Your name and exalt Your Son in our churches, in our worship, in our families and in our lives. Deliver us and protect us, for we love You and hold fast to Your name.

In Jesus' precious name, Amen!    

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