(First published in newsletter # 16 in 1996)
“A certain amount of opposition is a great help to man. Kites rise against and not with the wind. Even a head wind is better than none. No man ever worked his passage anywhere in a dead calm. Let no man wax pale, therefore, because of opposition.” -John Neal, 1800’s.
What do we do when false rumors and stories are circulated about us? It is human nature to want to lash out and prove our innocence of whatever lie is being told. But is that what we are to do?
How we react to persecution and our treatment of those who persecute us is a subject we feel is of extreme importance. Especially now…
Down through the ages, those who have done the Lord’s work have had to endure heavy trials and persecutions. Many have paid for their faith and obedience to Him with their lives. From the very beginning of this earth’s history, there was fierce opposition between “good” and “evil”-
GEN 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
In yielding to temptation, Adam exalted himself above God by thinking himself wise enough to make his own decision, EVEN though it opposed the will of God. In doing so, he gained a knowledge of evil, and because of his disloyalty to God, he opened the “door” which flooded the earth with unspeakable woe. Satan thus obtained temporary rulership of this planet:
2CO 4:4 …the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
There is no “middle ground”- every human being is either “of God” or “of Satan”:
EPH 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience;…
Those who love Christ with all their heart and soul and seek to be like Him are the great enemies of Satan. They, like Abraham, are temporarily “strangers in a land that is not theirs.” Though they must dwell on this earth for now, they have not given their allegiance to its temporary “prince”- they have instead pledged their obedience to the True King:
HEB 11:16 … they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
EPH 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
These are those whom “the prince of this world” hates the most, and are those whom he has sought to destroy from the very beginning. His greatest desire is to extinguish the faith of the saints, that they will lose their eternal life and be ultimately destroyed along with him and his fallen angels; but if he sees that he cannot do that, he does all within his power to physically destroy them and hinder their work of spreading the Gospel of Salvation.
Those who are Christ’s are NOT to expect a life of ease, abundance and freedom from care. In fact, we are told by Christ, Himself, it will be just the opposite:
JOH 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
Christ didn’t say, “they MAY persecute you”, He said “THEY WILL”. And especially today, as we near the return of Christ, Satan is full of “great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time”. (Rev. 12:12). There remains the finishing of God’s work before He comes again, and we MUST be aware of the work of the evil one. We must understand what is going on around us.
I am reminded of the words of one faithful worker who, over 100 years ago, wrote, “I should doubt whether I were a child of God, if the world, or even all professed Christians, spoke well of me. Those who are in earnest to win the crown of eternal life need not be surprised or disheartened because at every step toward the heavenly Canaan they meet with obstacles and encounter trials. The opposition which Christ received came from his own nation,…”
Because Satan knows God’s Truth carries it’s own power, he and his evil angels use unconsecrated minds to bring attacks against the messengers of God’s Truth. “If you can’t discredit the message, discredit the messenger”:
MAT 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
There are many people who present the appearance of “good” in their speech and the “gospel” they profess; but in reality it is the “prince of darkness” who is behind their facade of “righteousness”. The enemy who wears his true uniform is easy to spot- but the enemy who looks and professes to be “one of us” is the most insidious and dangerous:
2CO 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
These “ministers of righteousness” are foremost among the ones who point to those doing God’s work and proclaim it to be lies, while claiming that THEY are God’s true workers- “Listen to me!” Especially when the Truth cannot be repudiated do they formulate false accusations and repeat slanderous remarks. This will not change while we live on this present earth.
But how is the Christian to react when faced with blatantly false accusations and severe persecution? Look at the life of Joseph, who was sold as a slave by his own brothers, then falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of a terrible deed and imprisoned. Even under these horrendous circumstances, he forgave his brothers. While in prison, Joseph’s virtue and righteousness was so apparent that he came into such great favor with, first, the “keeper of the prison” and then, the king of Egypt, that the pharaoh declared unto Joseph:
GEN 41:39 … there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: 40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. 41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
Satan knows how to cleverly design the lies and accusations against the saints. In Joseph’s case, he had no way to prove his innocence. It was his word against that of Potiphar’s wife. And who would Potiphar believe- his wife, or Joseph? Human nature leads men to take the word of those in “high positions” over the word of the lowly, common man. And Joseph was a slave.
Joseph’s life was a lesson for mankind all through the ages- he placed his reputation in the hands of the only Judge Who can truly know the heart. And for a season, it must have seemed bleak for him, locked up in that prison. But he never wavered in his faith and because of his righteous character, God was able to use him to provide a temporary safe haven for the nation of Israel to grow and thrive in. They were given the “best of the land, the land of Rameses”, or “the land of Goshen” (Gen. 46:6, 11) all because of the favor given Joseph by the Pharaoh.
But our ultimate example is always Christ. Harsh words and thoughts of revenge against those who malign us bear no likeness to the character of Christ.
1PE 2:21 … because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
Slander against one’s character is seldom vindicated by indignant words and protestations of innocence. It is overcome by simple Truth. No one ever suffered as much contempt, slander and abuse as did our Saviour; yet in the face of all of this, we have no record in the Scriptures of His protests of innocence. He instead preached the Words of Life, not allowing anything to distract Him from that work. His life, His example overcame all the lies and slander.
Let us read of His words when He was crucified:
LUK 23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. 34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do….
On the edge of death, in excruciating pain, His thoughts were toward those who were lost- the very ones who were killing Him-, that they would still come to a knowledge of the Truth. And we have on record of several who did exactly that:
MAT 27:54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
Sometimes, it is the example of a person’s life and character that wins a soul to Christ as much as it is the hearing of words:
1PE 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Every soul, even those who attack us the most bitterly, is precious to Christ. When we loudly speak out against their attacks and protest that they are false accusations, we erect a barrier; that person is immediately on the defensive because we have counterclaimed that THEY are indeed the liar, not ourselves. And these very ones may, like Paul, honestly “think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2) by denouncing us. But they may simply still be in ignorance and know no better. They may not have yet rejected Truth and may yet be won to Christ.
We do not know who has and who has not rejected the last pleas of Mercy. We must not denounce our opponents nor treat them with a lack of respect. We must, as Joseph, place our confidence in God. We must have a care and consideration for those who are lost, no matter what they may have done to us, and pray for them as Christ did.
For many Christians, this may be the most difficult test they will ever face. For the last 1 ½ years we have had to sit back and watch helplessly as someone we love dearly was falsely accused of a terrible crime he did not commit; a crime which evidence has proven he did not commit but which evidence was not allowed to be heard in court. Forsaken by his church and friends, he now is in prison facing a long sentence. But through this horrible ordeal, he has continued to manifest his faith in his Savior and has won many souls to Christ behind those bleak prison walls. During our many conversations with him, not once have we heard him speak vicious remarks about the one who set him up and arranged evidence to make him appear guilty. I dare say that he will have many stars in his crown; many souls will be saved that may have never gotten a chance to hear the Words of Life if he had not suffered so greatly- and remained faithful in spite of the persecution he has faced.
Christ made sure His disciples didn’t think the opposition would one day cease. In fact, He made it clear that our greatest enemies would many times be those closest to us:
MAT 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
Satan is constantly working to discredit God’s Truth in whatever manner he can. But Truth carries a power with it and it will prevail. Maybe not in our “timing”, but in God’s perfect timing. For a while, Joseph suffered greatly from the false accusations made against him. But he was vindicated and his innocence made evident.
LUK 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.
Many, many will oppose the Truth and speak out vehemently against it. But the more the arguments against it, the more Truth shines. Some who may never have taken an interest in it before, have their curiosity aroused when they hear the controversy; they decide to investigate this subject which is causing such a turmoil. Those who have a sincere desire to know what is Truth, will know and understand. For others, no amount of evidence will suffice to change their minds, which brings to mind another consideration.
While in exile, Nehemiah, the cupbearer of the Persian king, heard that his people in Jerusalem were in great distress. Like Moses and all those before him, he was overwhelmed with sorrow for the plight of his people, and wept, fasted and prayed on their behalf. When he was granted the king’s permission to go to Jerusalem to organize the people and rebuild the wall, their heathen neighbors (who hated and mocked the Jews) were full of wrath. In their great hatred and jealousy of the Jews, they set out to put a stop to the work:
NEH 4:11 And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.
But Nehemiah, knowing of the plot to attack Jerusalem, set watchmen on the unfinished walls, along with the workmen:
NEH 4:16 And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons;…
They went about the work God had given them to do, even when faced with the prospect of open attack. Nehemiah knew that the Supreme God would strengthen them and he was not afraid of the opposition they faced. Satan has hoped to intimidate Nehemiah and the Jews; he hoped to put a stop to God’s work by using “fear”. But they refused to stop working on the wall- they knew their God was able to protect and preserve them:
NEH 4:20 ,… our God shall fight for us.
As the work progressed and the heathen neighbors saw that the work was almost finished (except for the doors of the gates), they resorted to a different method of attack. They sent messages to Nehemiah that all the surrounding nations believed the reason they were rebuilding the wall was so they could rebel against Persia and set up their own king. They threatened to go to the king of Persia with this accusation of revolt- a threat that could have caused serious consequences if carried out:
NEH 6:6 ,… It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. 7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.
The threat was a means to get Nehemiah to stop work and come meet with them, which was really a pretext to get him alone where they would kill him. But again, Nehemiah placed his faith in God and would not be intimidated nor distracted from the task at hand:
NEH 6:3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
When threatened openly by Sanballat that they would report them to the Persian king as traitors about to revolt, Nehemiah replied:
NEH 6:8 Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.
Nehemiah never once shrank from the work; threats, open persecution and false accusations were met not with protestations but with the simple statement of fact and the refusal to stop work and go discuss it with them or anyone else. His total dependence on the God of his fathers was his only reliance:
NEH 6:9 For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
Again, the Bible gives us plain instruction on how to handle opposition. In this case, Nehemiah faced treacherous dangers- had he been a man of weak faith who was intimidated into meeting with the heathen enemies, he would have surely been killed.
When threatened with being reported to the Persian king as a traitor, he knew the punishment was certain death. But he knew that God would protect them and strengthen them to finish the work as long as they were faithful to Him and put their complete reliance in Him. He never condescended to expend any precious time and energy in counsel or debate with the opposition. And the result? They finished the wall.
If we allow the opposition to intimidate us- stop us from the work we have been given to do in order to meet false accusations and try to work things out-, we will lose the battle.
2PE 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
We must go forward and have confidence that He can overcome all difficulties. We must learn to reflect the character of His Son when faced with persecution and false accusations, and not react with indignation.
ROM 5:3 …but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
HEB 10:35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
MAT 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
HEB 10:37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.