Finding Strength in Persecution and Affliction

Enduring Persecution and Affliction

afflictionPaul was concerned about Timothy because the Roman Emperor Nero was bringing persecution against the church, particularly the church leaders. Christian leaders began to disassociate themselves with the church to avoid persecution. Nero hated Christians. By historical accounts, Nero was a crazed emperor who was rumored to have set fire to Rome. In order to stop the rumor, Nero falsely charged Christians and punished them with the most heinous tortures. This created an overwhelming fear in the Christian leadership. While many Christian leaders were turning away from their faith, Paul was writing Timothy to encourage him to be strong and maintain his faith in the face of the worst of persecution. Paul gives Timothy reminders of living a godly life and the rewards that are associated with living a his life for Christ.

2 Timothy 2:1-2 (NKJV)

Be Strong in Grace

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

As we know grace means “unmerited favor.” It is what God has given us because of His love and we receive it not knowing we needed it. Our salvation is God’s desire and choice to send His Spirit into our hearts. And in the case of facing trials of one kind or another, Paul says there is yet another form of grace given us in Christ Jesus. This form of grace comes “in” Christ for it is only available to those who are Christ by faith. This grace enables the believer to stand strong against the temptation to be unfaithful. This form of God’s grace is an enabling power, but it does not guarantee a positive outcome. This is a form of unmerited favor in which we do something as well. Therefore, we must conclude that believers possess a God-given power to stand firm against temptations to flee persecution. We must make ourselves available of this grace in order to benefit from it. We must first decide to remain faithful rather than turning away from faith. It is then by God’s grace we will be strengthened by our decision to stand on our faith in times of persecution. This is what Paul means when he tells Timothy to be strong. He’s calling Timothy to use the strength God has made available by His grace.

But the decision to be strong depends on something else. A question to ask is why is one believer able to stand when another one doesn’t? The answer is what Paul tells us in Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The Bible’s answer is that believers must renew their minds. We must begin a process of obtaining the mind of Christ so that we will make different decisions in moments of crisis. Our old self-made decisions based on earthly values and fleshly desires in the past. But with God’s saving grace we are a new person and are called to make decisions based on the mind of Christ and the leading of His Spirit living in us. Therefore, we must start training our mind to think like Christ so that we might live like Him. The Bible calls this training process the renewing of our mind.

To renew or make new our minds is changing from the depraved ways we thought before our saving faith in Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. Paul tells us in Romans, we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind. This comes through the study of God’s word. By knowing God’s word we learn to know Christ and His thinking. As we gain more Knowledge of Christ’s word, we move away from the way the world thinks to thinking like the mind of Christ. In this transformation we begin to prove externally the will of God to the world by our new thinking and behavior to show what is good and acceptable and perfect to God.

Moreover, Paul says this transformation is a daily renewal internally which leads us to eternal glory. But do not lose hope, though the outer man (our flesh) is decaying, our inner man (our spirit) is being renewed daily. So for the moment we suffer temporary affliction producing an eternal glory far beyond the temporary persecution we deal with during our time on Earth. Our outer, sinful nature is decaying and fading even as we are renewing our inner person day by day.

This renewing of the inner person will be tested by momentary affliction. Testing gives us the opportunity for our new self (our renewed thinking) to be made visible as we live openly before the world. And as we endure worldly persecution, we gain the benefit of eternal glory far beyond comparison. And now we see how transforming our mind brings us to the point where we can count all suffering as joy.

By abiding in the counsel of scripture we gain the mind of Christ so we can come to see our trials the way Jesus saw His trials. We come to understand that our afflictions for the sake of Christ are the fertile ground where God plants seeds of opportunity. By using those opportunities to respond in faith, sacrificing earthly things to the glory of Christ for the potential of heavenly rewards. The grace of Christ working in us gives us the power to stand in the moment of our testing.

If we are to withstand the coming persecution successfully, then we must be prepared with proper teaching by the renewing of our minds. It is the necessary prerequisite to making the right choices. If we are prepared to make the right choice to remain faithful as Paul told Timothy and us, then the grace of God will give us the strength to follow through.

 

 

 

“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”

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