Every Christian knows there is great reward in following the Lord. Jesus told His disciples they could expect to "receive a hundredfold now in this lifetime, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions and in the age to come eternal life" (Mark 10:30).
What an interesting list of divine blessings: eternal life and hundredfold blessings in this life, including houses, land, family, and persecution. Persecution? Yes!
Instead of seeing persecution as something to be avoided, we need to see persecution as a gift from God (Acts 5:41). Tribulation and persecution are opportunities for us to experience God's deliverance. God always delivers His people in one of three ways.
- When persecution arises, sometimes God takes Christians out. Early in Paul's ministry he got in trouble with the Jews in Damascus. His friends helped him get out of town by lowering him in a basket over the city wall. Probably more times than we realize God has removed us from trouble, and we thank Him for it.
- When persecution arises, sometimes God takes Christians through. When Paul and Silas were unfairly beaten and imprisoned in Philippi they prayed and sang hymns to God. At midnight in the dungeon God gave them grace to courageously face their trial. Our testimonies are similar, as we have walked through dark valleys God has given us strength to endure.
- When persecution arises, sometimes God takes Christians up. According to church tradition, Paul was beheaded outside of Rome along the Ostian Way. In that moment, angels came and carried Paul heavenward where he met the Lord face to face and entered the city not made with hands. This is the ultimate deliverance, leaving this troubled world and moving into heavenly mansions.
I am convinced Paul was grateful for each of these experiences, because in each instance of persecution Paul received deliverance from God. And since we know God does not show partiality (Acts 10:34), we know that we too can expect the Lord to deliver us when we are persecuted. He may take us out, he may take us through, or He may take us up; but, one way or another, the Lord will deliver. Indeed, persecution is a gift from God whereby we get to experience God's deliverance.
"Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home."