True Christians Defeat Persecution
FOR three and a half years Christ Jesus had served as Jehovah’s chief earthly representative. He had agreed at Jordan to do his Father’s will, and in spite of all the temptation and persecution that Satan and his agents could bring to bear against him Jesus did not swerve from his agreement one iota. On the last evening that he was with his disciples as a man he said to them: “In the world you will have tribulation, but cheer up! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33, NW) Cheer up while suffering persecution? Yes, because of the comforting and encouraging assurance that persecution can be defeated.
But why did Jehovah allow his beloved Son to suffer persecution? Yes, why should God allow any of his servants to be persecuted? Does he not love his servants? And is he not all-powerful? Then he must have some good reason. What is it? And since the facts indicate that many professed Christians have failed to defeat persecution, what does it take to defeat it?
God has given us the answers to these questions in his Word, the Bible, even as we should expect. Particularly to the point is the record found in the first two chapters of Job. Therein is recorded the conversation between Jehovah and Satan regarding God’s upright servant Job. True, Job was serving Jehovah, but what was his motive? God maintained that it was a love of righteousness; Satan maintained that it was a love of selfish gain. Take away the material rewards for right-doing, Satan contended, and Job would renounce God, yes, curse him to his face. Because this challenge involved Jehovah’s name and supremacy as well as the worthiness of his creatures to enjoy life, Jehovah accepted the challenge and gave Satan free rein with Job, short of taking his life. The outcome is well known to all familiar with the Scriptures. Though Job wondered time and again why God permitted him thus to suffer, at no time did Job charge God with wrong but, rather, expressed his supreme confidence in him: “Lo! he may slay me, yet for him will I wait.”—Job 13:15, Ro.
Not that Job was the first thus to keep integrity but, rather, that in his case we have the issue highlighted and pinpointed, as it were. The very fact that Jehovah called Job’s integrity-keeping course to Satan’s attention indicates that the issue had previously been raised; and so it had, in the garden of Eden when Satan succeeded in turning aside the first human pair. That success inspired Satan to think that he could turn aside all God’s intelligent creatures. To prove Satan false God permitted Satan to continue his nefarious course.
The apostles and early disciples of Jesus defeated persecution even as he had done. Their unequivocal stand was: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” With the stoning of Stephen violent persecution broke out against the Christian congregation at Jerusalem, scattering all save the apostles. But far from being overwhelmed by such persecution, “those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” Jesus had told them to rejoice if persecuted, and the record shows that they did just that.—Acts 5:29, 41; 8:1, 2, 4, NW; Matt. 5:11, 12.
And what violent persecution the apostle Paul defeated! He was repeatedly imprisoned, and “by Jews I five times received forty strokes less one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned,” and left for dead. In spite of it all he kept on preaching. (2 Cor. 11:23-25, NW) Nor have examples of true Christians defeating persecution been wanting down through the years. Whether forced underground by pagan emperors or by “Christian” swords of the Roman church they refused to compromise but held fast to their integrity, continuing to “preach the word.”—2 Tim. 4:2.
Jesus had forewarned, “in the world you will have tribulation,” and Paul, in his second letter to the young minister Timothy, wrote: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12, NW) What about our day? Are Christians in this mid-twentieth century suffering like persecution and, if so, are they defeating it? How? For answers to these questions see the next succeeding article.