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holding a child's hand December 19 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: 1Peter 2:13- 5:14

Persecution and How to Respond to It

Many times Christians suffer in this world. In fact, Christian radio stations often make pleas for prayer because it is reported that more Christians are being persecuted for their faith now than at any time in world history. Good Christian citizens suffer false arrests, imprisonment, or even death; Christian employees are falsely accused; and even in the home family members are berated, mocked, and disowned for their faith. Sometimes we can do nothing about it, but the Apostle Peter’s instructions to suffering Jewish believers in eastern Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) will help us to properly deal with persecution.

In 1Peter 1:1- 2:12 (our last Bible study), Peter encouraged the suffering Jewish believers to focus on the grace they had received in Christ, and to bear their suffering on his behalf. Instead of isolating themselves to avoid all suffering, they were to be testimonies of lives changed by the grace of God. We should do the same thing. In today’s study we are focusing on how to properly respond to persecution and how to reduce the incidents of suffering when they come.

First of all, to reduce possible civil injustice, Peter instructs his readers to

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king, (1 Peter 2:13-17, NIV).

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” Peter asks (1Peter 3:13, NIV). If we live honest, respectable lives and are eager to do what is right, there will be “nothing [no accusation] to hang a hat on.” Submitting to authority, being respectful, and doing good deeds usually reduces or eliminates the incidents of civil injustice.

However, you may say that sometimes Christians still suffer abuse. Yes, that is true. What should they do? Our second principle is that if the injustice is an unlawful incident of abuse, those offended should seek justice from the police or through the courts, if possible. An important part of the reason governing authorities exist is to punish those who do wrong (see the above verses). Certainly, we would not suggest that if justice could be attained through appeals to civil authorities we should not seek help. However, if we suffer as a result of our Christianity and there is no lawful recourse, we should entrust ourselves to God. “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God,” (1Peter 2:20, NIV). Christ also died as the Just One for the unjust ones (us). He was nailed to a cross though “he committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth,” (1Peter 2:22, NIV). Christ entrusted himself to God and we should do the same. God will see how we have been mistreated and reward us for our faithfulness. Perhaps he will even provide a way out of the suffering or at least help us bear it.

Third, though we may never understand it, perhaps the suffering has a purpose. Peter said of Christ,

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls, (1Peter 2:24-25, NIV).

Would we be willing to suffer if, by our example of steadfast faithfulness in persecution, other people were attracted to Christ or strengthened in their faith? We may never know what a faithful testimony will do. The Bible tells us to “be faithful unto death and you will receive a crown of life,” (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).

What do we do if we have an unbelieving spouse? How can we reduce the mocking and berating of our faith? Peter instructs wives

to be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives, (1 Peter 3:1-2, NIV).
That is sometimes a difficult assignment, but it is the only way he will be won. Peter then instructs husbands “to be considerate of your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers,” (1Peter 3:7, NIV). Every woman wants to be loved and cherished and treated as an equal partner. If a husband will be a godly man who lives in consideration of his wife, he will most likely witness her attraction to his faith in Christ.

Finally, Peter instructs all Christians to “live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing,” (1 Peter 3:8-9a, NIV). We need each other at all times but especially in times of persecution. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, NIV).

While we may be able to reduce incidents of suffering, the facts are that those who live for Christ should expect some suffering. We should “arm” ourselves spiritually for it (1Peter 4:1) and be “ready to give an answer for our faith with gentleness and respect,” (1Peter 3:15, NIV).

Suffering has a purging effect on us. Christians who suffer come to see what is really important in life. “As a result, he [who experiences suffering] does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God,” (1Peter 4:2, NIV).

How should persecuted Christians live? It would be tempting to lay low and just blend into our culture, but Peter leaves us with these instructions: “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good,” (1Peter 4:19, NIV).

1Peter 5 gives instruction to pastors on how they should administer their gifts. They should be eager to care for the sheep in their flock, and especially those who are suffering. “Each [believer] should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms,” (1Peter 4:10, NIV).

Above all, we should be alert to suffering. The devil is looking for believers to devour. We must resist him by standing strong in the faith regardless of personal consequences. Others are in the fight with us; we need to stand together.

Lessons to live by: (how to respond to persecution)

  • If you are suffering for your sins, do not blame others; blame yourself. There is forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life with Jesus (more...)
  • Submit to authorities, respecting everyone, including those in your own family, and do good deeds.
  • If the injustice is an unlawful incident of abuse, those offended should seek justice if possible. The authorities that are established are God’s agents to commend those who are doing right and punish those who do wrong (1Peter 2:14).
  • Entrust your souls to God when you do suffer unjustly for his sake.
  • Realize our suffering may have a higher purpose; it may glorify God for us to be an example for others or to purge us from sin so that we may live productive lives.
  • Be ready for persecution but continue to do good.

Today’s Bible memory verse: 1Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (NIV)

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