THE STRENGTH OF PERSECUTION
Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:9-11
The conclusion of the message on the book of Esther from a house church pastor in China:
I wish the book of Esther ended before chapter nine, but it does not. The book ends with the Jews taking revenge on all their enemies everywhere. They arranged a kind of amnesty for terrorism. For a day, they were allowed to kill anyone who had oppressed them and not be prosecuted for it. Thousands probably died. It was a kind of rough justice, but what does rough justice solve? It just makes the relatives of those slain burn with hatred, and they train their children to seek more revenge, and the weary cycle of bloodletting is accelerated.
I would apply this to the suffering church this way. Surviving a persecution situation involves desperation, but that desperation can turn into harshness and heresy if one is not careful. The terrible superstitions that came into the church in venerating the bones of martyrs were a response to persecution. Persecution brings martyrs. To revere martyrs is one thing. But to worship their relics as if they are a special lever to move the hand of God with—that is terrible.
In China I remember once talking to a government official who said to me, “You know, Christians are the easiest religion to deal with, because you are all so good at stoning each other.” I was ashamed that Pastor Xu Yongze received as much, if not more, persecution from other house church leaders as he did from government leaders. This is sad. There is a shame we must confess. Persecution brings problems, too, which can distort our love and hold on the truth.
Why is the book of Esther in the Bible? Because it tells us that God helps His people. If this decree had gone through, then a holocaust would have taken place and the will of God for the world would have been lost. We would have had no Bible otherwise. God was not going to let that happen, and He stretched forth His mighty arm to prevent it. The good news of His gospel must be spread. So reading about how God intervened must have given great increase to a Jew’s faith, as it increases ours too. God intervenes to save and get His will done. And His will is that all come to know Him and love Him.
So persecution can strengthen our faith, as we see God delivering His people powerfully and getting His will done.
I stand before you now, a living witness to the strength of suffering. We come out stronger, not because of our faith, but because we see God deliver us in mighty ways. We have to; otherwise we would be dead and gone. Praise God for persecution, for building His church no matter what the opposition.
Let us have the courage of Esther, and say, “If I perish, I perish.” But let us remember that our courage is decisive only because God is mighty, and stretches out His arm to deliver us when we cry.
RESPONSE: Today I will focus on God’s deliverance and stand strong trusting Him for the future.
PRAYER: Pray today for the persecuted church. Pray they will find their strength only in the Lord.
STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM (SSTS) -A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks
© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission
“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” Proverbs 10:25
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