When Trials Come, Take Heart {John 16}

12:00 AM

By Becky Bramlett Austin

We live in America, land of the free.  There is a church on almost every corner and we don't have to be afraid to declare our belief in Christ, read our Bibles or pray openly for one another.  We can freely meet together in church buildings, in each other's homes and even wear T- shirts, etc. that have printed scriptures on them or Christian symbols. We don't really know true persecution in this country for being a Christian, but that could change. In fact, Jesus put a lot of emphasis on warning the disciples that they could expect persecution because they believed in him.  As a believer in Christ, we must be prepared to face persecution too. The Bible portrays this persecution but it also portrays that we have God's help should we have to endure such trying circumstances.

Jesus reveals the source of persecution.  In Bible times, there would be rejection from the spiritual leaders who were zealous in their actions because they believed their hate was justified. Their hate, however,  would be a hate toward Jesus fueled by Satan and his deceptions.  They would in essence reject the love of God and fail to recognize their need of Jesus to save them from their sins.  Without the love of God in their hearts, their hatred toward the followers of Christ would be just as vindictive. 

“They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.”  (V2-3) It's sad that they think they serve God ( characterized by love) but in reality they are serving the Prince of Darkness ( characterized by hate).  No wonder Jesus pitied them.
So, the source of the persecution is in the spiritual realm, fueled by the "Prince of Darkness", the source of lies and hate. But, Jesus reveals that his followers will have spiritual help to endure this persecution. Jesus returns to the Father but the Holy Spirit is sent to Earth to indwell and empower us. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (V7) 

The Holy Spirit has an important role. “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” (v8) This Spirit, in opposition to the spirit of darkness will be a spirit of light and truth, teaching and equipping us for spiritual battle. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (V13-14)

It amazes me to study about the changes in the disciples when the Holy Spirit came. In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  What an amazing transformation from timid, fearful men in hiding to bold proclaimers of the gospel in spite of persecution.  Many of these disciples as well as other Christians in the Bible died as martyrs. 

It's not pleasant to deal with living in a world of evil and persecution but it's a reality that Jesus said we have to face and something he wants us to keep a spiritual view of. Interestingly, Jesus even placed a positive  perspective on persecution when he included it in the Beatitudes: BLESSED are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12) And in our reading today, he encouraged his disciples to focus on his return and a time when there would  be no more suffering or hatred but an abundant, never ending grace  He encouraged us all to remember that he has already overcome evil and to find comfort and hope in him.  

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”” (V33)

Honestly, persecution is not something I want to know.  But, I hope that if that circumstance comes my way, that I will embrace it with the same spiritual power and fortitude that the disciples had. I hope that I will keep an eternal perspective and not compromise my faith in a loving, all powerful God.  Oh, how this topic stirs within me a deep burning desire to be more consistent in my prayers for this country and the freedoms we so richly enjoy.

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