There is a high cost to following Christ. All of us pay it to one degree or another.
Some believers are blessed to live in lands where religious freedom is the norm but many, perhaps the majority, do not. The people who listened to Jesus and decided to follow Him certainly would do so at the risk of their lives. It was part of the compassion of Christ to tell them this. Yes, there was forgiveness of sins and power over evil spirits and health beyond the reach of disease but there was also opposition from powerful and wicked human forces. Traditions were not going to throw open their long-secure doors to the followers of Jesus. Governments and their armed officials were never going to welcome those who followed someone who claimed to be the King of kings. What people found in Jesus was going to have to be enough to sustain them through violent and unrelenting persecutions. It was more than enough.
Sheep, Wolves, Serpents, and Doves
Jesus used representatives of the animal kingdom to illustrate the future of those who followed Him.
- Their opponents are wolves, stalking in silence or howling in the darkness. Their cunning minds, sharp teeth, and powerful jaws were ever present dangers.
- Believers are among them like sheep, feeding in pastures protected by the Good Shepherd and finding safety in numbers, innocent and precious from generation to generation.
- Believers are also doves, peaceful birds threatening no one, dealing in truth and beauty.
- Their sworn enemies are snakes, evil ones lying in wait, seeking opportunity to strike the innocent, hissing lies and rattling fear with cold poison in their every nest.
This fallen creation is not a friendly place to those who would answer the call of Jesus, “Follow me.”
Two Big Differences
Two huge factors in this hostile environment give the Christ-follower hope for a blessed life.
- We are not alone in these persecutions; Jesus is with us. Jesus made an all-purpose promise to be with us, to never leave us or forsake us, in good times or in terrible times.
- When the enemy has done his worst, the best for us is just beginning. In moments of public torture and testing, the Holy Spirit will fill our mouths with the truth of God. When the moment of death comes for the Christ-follower, we will go immediately into the heavenly presence of Jesus, all pain relieved, all danger past.
The Ancient Church
Those who chose to follow Christ when He walked this earth were privileged to see and hear Him, something we can only dream about. They would witness or learn of His atoning death and would experience the Good News of His resurrection. They would become the New Testament Church, full of the Holy Spirit. These believers and those who came to know the Lord through their witness, would face three centuries of persecution. The spiritual engine that powered the early church was the constant threat of martyrdom. Yet the Lord was with them and the hope of heaven sustained them as the church grew in every part of the Roman Empire until becoming legal in 312 with the conversion of Constantine.
Jesus was with them.
The Holy Spirit empowered them. No power in or out of hell could withstand those who endured these persecutions. It is still true today for our brothers and sisters in repressive lands. Their governments, cultures, and families persecute them and still they believe and serve and witness. We must pray for them and make our outstanding freedoms count in the Kingdom.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
Lord Jesus, I know that whatever tomorrow brings, You will be with me. You will be with me as a live and when death comes to me, You will be with me even then. Then, for all eternity we will be together. Help me be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove. May I stay in the flock where You are the Good Shepherd. Lord, I pray for my brothers and in others lands who serve You at the risk of their lives. Strengthen them and let Your presence be known to them. Make each one a flame of fire for the honor of Your name. Help Your church do everything possible to bring Your Kingdom to every land. Amen and Amen.
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
Words and Music: H. Ernest Nichole
1. We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.
2. We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword.
3. We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.
4. We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.