Many christians lack the
courage–or the conviction-to testify to their faith. But the power of
the Holy Spirit helps us to speak up.
As I go out into the world, presenting the gospel on
television and radio talk shows or exalting Jesus from secular and
religious platforms, I am treated with respect—most of the time. But
reviews of my engagements are not always as gracious as my live hosts
They sometimes describe me as a middle-aged woman parading a
worn-out, old-time message that has no relevance in our century—simply
because I lift up the cross.
I have been accused of trying to ride my father’s
coattails and make a name for myself because I have walked through
doors of opportunity that have been opened for me to proclaim God’s
Word. I have been attacked as a Jezebel who is leading women within the
church into sin by my own example of ministry leadership. I have been
labeled unloving, intolerant, exclusive, narrow-minded, fundamentalist,
naive—and more. I have been excluded from social functions, platforms,
seminars—and even from some churches.
When I look at John 15:17-27, which records Jesus’ words
the evening before His crucifixion, I see that Jesus prepared His
disciples—and those like you and me who would follow them—for the kind
of treatment they could expect from the world around them—a treatment
that would require deep convictions and the courage to live by them.
Courage to Stand Out
Jesus began His challenge to stand out for Him in the
world with the command “‘Love each other’” (John 15:17, NIV). He showed
the disciples how they would find the courage to not only live their
lives for Him on a daily basis after Jesus was gone but also give their
lives for Him on a final basis in death.
Knowing how difficult it was going to be to live for Him
in the midst of the world, Jesus reminded His disciples: “‘Remember the
words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they
persecuted Me, they will persecute you also’” (v. 20).
They didn’t just persecute Jesus; they crucified Him! Why do you and I think we will be treated any better?
Jesus gave five reasons for the world’s persecution of
Christians. These reasons have remained valid in the lives of believers
down through the centuries:
The first reason Jesus gave is our identification with
Him, whom the world hates: “‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that
it hated Me first’” (v. 18).
Hate Jesus? What evidence do you and I see of hatred toward Him today?
Is there an underlying hatred of Christ when His name is
invoked in profanity, rather than the name of Buddha or Allah or
Mohammed? At the very least, profanity reveals that deep within the
human spirit there is no neutrality toward Him.
Recently on “The View,” a television talk show that
involves a round-table-type conversation among several women, Joy Behar
remarked that she had successfully lost weight on her diet. She then
exclaimed “Praise Jesus!” When the show was aired on the West Coast,
the name Jesus was bleeped out! The same network that peppers its
programs with God’s name used in profanity found it offensive when His
Son’s name was used in sincerity!
The second reason we may be persecuted as Christians is
our mandated separation from the world, which causes the world to
resent us as non-conformists: “‘I have chosen you out of the world.
That is why the world hates you’” (v. 19).
When was the last time you refused to join in gossip? Or
refused to lie for your friend? Or refused to go along to a movie
filled with profanity and adultery?
Did such refusals cause you to be honored and loved and respected? If not, then you’re getting the picture.
Third, we may encounter persecution because of the
world’s rejection of the truth that Jesus is God’s only Son and the
exclusive way to God: “‘They will treat you this way because of My
name, for they do not know the One who sent Me’” (v. 21).
In an article in the December 2001 issue of the Christian
newsmagazine World, Gene Edward Veith warned, “The enemy, we are told,
is not Islam but intolerance. It is that narrow-minded, restrictive
view of religion that is to blame for the terrorist attacks and the
Taliban oppression. People who think ‘theirs is the only true religion’
are the real enemy, a charge, of course, that sticks not just to the
Taliban but to orthodox Christians.”
Fourth, persecution may be directed toward us because of
the world’s conviction of sin, which the truth reveals: “‘If I had not
come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however,
they have no excuse for their sin’” (v. 22).
Recently I found myself in a situation similar to one
I’ve been in many times. The driver of a cab I was riding in was lively
and talkative, and his conversation was peppered with bad language.
When he was getting my bag out of the trunk, one of the people who had
come to greet me told him that I am Billy Graham’s daughter and a
Christian speaker. His immediate reaction was, “If I had known, I would
have cleaned up my language.”
I had not said a word to him about his language. But
sometimes just our presence reveals the darkness of sin in the lives of
others, and those who are convicted of their own sin by our separation
from it resent us.
The fifth and last reason Jesus gave for persecution of
His followers is the demonstration of God’s power in individual lives:
“‘If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be
guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have
hated both Me and my Father’” (v. 24).
If you and I are not being persecuted, could it be that
no one has seen any real change or evidence of God’s power in our
lives? Have we so watered down and compromised our witness that the
world around us doesn’t see any reason to persecute us?
What miracle that demonstrates God’s power can someone
else see in your life? Is it when God set you free from alcoholism?
When He reconciled you with your spouse—or your in-laws? When you
experienced peace in the midst of turmoil, or hope in the midst of