When threatened with persecution

Injustice, suffering, and persecution are normal and will happen in this world.

That doesn’t mean persecution is right; but it does mean that nothing unusual has happened when someone is ostracized, condemned, persecuted, or even martyred for having faith in Christ.

To be a follower of Christ is to live with the expectation that one will suffer, be maligned, and be persecuted.  Jesus was persecuted.  His followers will be mistreated and persecuted (Jn. 15:18).

Scripture is full of teaching, reminders, and warnings of the reality of being persecuted:

  • Acts 5:41 — Peter and the apostles rejoiced that they were worthy of suffering shame for the sake of Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:5-7 — Suffering for Christ is abundant (frequent in occurrence and significant in pain), but the comfort of God is greater; and our suffering equips us to minister God’s comfort to others.
  • Philippians 1:29 — Suffering is a gift of God’s sovereign grace to us, just as our salvation is a gift from Him.
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:4 — Paul warned the Thessalonians of the reality of coming suffering, and it did indeed come (with the inference that it should have been expected). 
  • 1 Peter 2:19–23; 4:13; 5:10 — Peter’s letters are written to a suffering church (1:1) and are a reminder of the reality and normalcy of suffering, along with the benefits that are derived through it.

These are but a few of the affirmations of suffering in the Bible. What the writer of the Hebrews calls “ill-treatment” (Heb. 11:25) suggests the kind of suffering that often comes from being identified with God and Christ.

Hebrews 11 is also filled with accounts of many who suffered for their faith in God.  And of all those, notice two in particular:  Amram and Jochebed.

Though unnamed in Hebrews 11, Amram and Jochebed were Moses’ parents.  They were threatened with persecution by the dictate that their newborn son be put to death, as well as with the implied threat that they would suffer if they objected. 

But they were faithful to the Lord. They did not fear Pharaoh; they did fear the Lord.  So they hid the baby Moses in faith (Ex. 2:2-4), gave Moses over to Pharaoh’s daughter in faith (Ex. 2:10), and were graced by God’s provision.

Their actions as unnamed participants in this account is a reminder that one does not need to be extraordinary to have faith in God.  What is important in our faith is not the strength of our faith, but the object of our faith, the Triune God and Jesus Christ, our Savior.  What is common about the stories in Hebrews 11 and all those through history who have had faith, down to us, is the power of God to preserve them into Glory, even if they had to endure persecution along the way:

“By faith, Moses’ parents risked their lives to disobey Pharaoh to further God’s salvation, as by faith Elijah risked his life to condemn Ahab and challenge Jezebel; as by faith Daniel disobeyed Darius and was thrown to the lions; as by faith John the Baptist condemned Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife and was executed; as by faith Latimer and Ridley refused to say that Christ is on the table in the Lord’s Supper and were burned alive…”

“By faith, we can, like Moses’ parents and so many Christians since, trust God enough and care for people enough to challenge and, if necessary, defy laws that impose immorality, abuse power, require idolatry, or silence the gospel, because by faith our conviction is that Jesus is Lord over presidents and parliaments and prelates, and so we are not afraid of powerful human authorities. And by faith in his word, God’s Spirit will give us the courage we need to defy wicked employers and governments and denominations without being afraid of the consequences—because we are now living by faith in the King of kings, and Lord of lords! [Coekin, Faith for Life.]

The Martydom of Ridley and Latimer by Sir George Hayter 1855” by EHayter is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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