Our Attitude towards Persecution.

International (VOM) — Editor’s Note: What follows
are the thoughts of Roy Stults, PhD, the Online
Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services
Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. In this
week’s VOM blog post, he examines the question
of persecution. We invite you to thoughtfully
consider your own response and responsibility.

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The Apostle Paul asked the
Thessalonian church to pray
that he, Silas, and Timothy be
delivered from wicked and evil
people (2 Thessalonians
3:2-3). Jesus prayed in John
17:18 that the Father not take
His followers from the world,
but that they be kept from the
evil one. How do we
harmonize Paul’s expectation
to be persecuted and even
Christ’s statements that all of
His followers will be
persecuted (John 15:20) with
the prayer to avoid
persecution?
What may be generally true is
not necessarily God’s will in
each instance. Paul, for
example, had a calling to work
in that particular case. The
key to understanding Paul is to
realize that foremost in his
mind was to do God’s will.
Paul would not intentionally
seek persecution, but if it
came his way in the course of
doing God’s will, he would
endure it if necessary. In
some cases, persecution
would be an unnecessary
distraction and delay,
sidetracking him from doing
the work he was supposed to
do. When he was healed, he
would resume the work. The
Ephesian Church begged him
not to go to Jerusalem
because he would be killed,
but Paul was determined to go
because he was sure that this
was God’s will. Jewish and
Roman authorities sent him
from Jerusalem to Rome
where he was martyred. In the
meantime he preached the
gospel to persons who could
not have had the opportunity
to hear the gospel had he not
gone there and been
martyred.
The point is that Paul single-
mindedly sought to do God’s
will, using discretion in areas
where caution was called for.
If he suffered, he was assured
that God had allowed it to
complement and supplement
his work. We do not recklessly
run toward persecution, nor do
we shy away from it when it
becomes evident that it has
been providentially ordained
for us at that particular time.
This would reflect Paul’s
method of work and mission.
The great Church Father,
Athanasius, had to defend his
decision to escape to
Alexandria, Egypt to avoid
persecution. The people who
called him a coward were the
ones who desired to kill him.
He felt no obligation to submit
to their demand and taunting to
come forth and be judged and
punished. He had important
work to do defending orthodox
teachings. He was forced into
exile numerous times because
of his orthodox belief in the
nature of Christ. Few today in
the Western world are
persecuted for believing in
doctrinal truth, but around the
world many are dying each
day because of their belief in
Jesus as Lord, which is an
important theological
statement. Some are able to
flee from persecution, but
some are caught up in the evil
schemes of men. In all cases,
the purpose is to do God’s will.
Persecution may be a
consequence of this work. It is
perfectly appropriate to pray to
escape persecution if that is
not God’s will for the
occasion.

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