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How to Thrive During Persecution and Suffering
In the book of Acts, we see the early church repeatedly being attacked, both internally and externally. And in each of these attacks, the enemies of God up their game. Their threats turn into beatings. And the beatings into death and, ultimately, banishment. Yet in all of this, the church grew and became stronger and never lost the vision of their divine calling.
External Attack: Peter and John threatened by the Jewish authorities (Acts 4:18).
Response: The church remained unified and spoke the Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:24-31). And God moved in miraculous ways that only He can (Acts 5:12-16).
Attacks from the outside only made the church stronger. So the next attack was from within.
Internal Attack: Ananias and Sapphira who lied about their gift (Acts 5:1-11).
Response: God quickly judged those who were threatening the unity and trust of the church (Acts 5:5, 10).
Great fear came upon (1) all the church and upon (2) all those who heard these things (lost and saved) – Acts 5:11.
Now, threats and beatings.
External Attack: Apostles threatened with death and beaten for speaking in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:17-18, 33, 40).
Response: God miraculously delivered them, and they spoke with even more boldness (Acts 5:41-42).
So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ – Acts 5:41-42.
Next, another attack on unity and trust of the believers.
Internal Attack: Church unity and trust threatened by factions, prejudice, and selfishness (Acts 6:1).
Response: Greater church responsibility and structure to ensure unity, transparency, and trust (Acts 6:3-6). And the church continued to grow.
Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith – Acts 6:7.
Then, threats and beatings graduated into the mob murder of Stephen and mass persecution by Saul.
External Attack: An angry mob killed Stephen (Acts 6:8-7:60). And Saul persecuted the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).
Response: The church continued to grow as they were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, preaching the Word wherever they went (Acts 8:1, 4).
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word – Acts 8:4.
So who were these guys? How did they thrive under constant persecution? And what can we learn from them as we prepare for our own sanctioned persecution?
What it Means to be a Child of God
The key to boldness the early church possessed was a clear understanding of the God they served and their relationship to Him. They knew He was a King, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). They recognized the King chose them, not by any merit of their own, but by His grace, and the “good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5).
The early church was encouraged by the sovereignty of their King. They knew nothing was beyond His grasp and whatever they were experiencing, both times of blessing or great turmoil, their King was still sovereign and could do anything He wanted at anytime. And no one could stay His hand (Ps. 115:3).
The church functioned in the confidence of knowing how much their King loved them. And they lived in the light of the blessed knowledge that nothing, not even their sin and failure, could separate them from the love of their King (Rom. 8:31-35).
And finally, their King was not some distant monarch. He was their Father, and they were His children, members of His family. In effect, they were royalty, children of the great sovereign King.
• So what does all this mean for you, a child of royalty, right now in your present situation?
• What confidence do you have knowing you are a child of God, and as such, a joint-heir with Jesus? (Rom. 8:16-17).
• And how does it make you feel when you fully understand the fact that nothing, not even your sins, transgressions, failures, or shortcomings, can separate you from the love of your Father, the King?
To find out more about this wonderful relationship we have with our Father, the King, keep listening.