People have said in my presence many times that we in America don’t know what persecution is. That very statement proves it – especially of the one speaking. What they are saying is we have not had our lives threatened by people wanting us to openly denounce our God. With that definition of persecution in mind, they are correct. We do not often see that in the USA, though, in recent days, we are seeing a rise in that type of attack. But that narrow definition of the parameters of persecution causes a failure to recognize that all face persecution in some way every day.
“How is that?” you may ask. To respond fully to the how, the question we have to answer is, what is persecution? What is its purpose? What is its underlying resource? One of the oldest texts in scripture answers all these questions and gives them definition through the more subtle attacks we see there, and in our land.
What is persecution and its resource?
We find this answered in Job 1, in the discourse between God and Satan. God points out Job, his righteous life and careful care of his relationship with God, seeking always to please God. Satan questions that loyalty, accusing God of having Job so protected and cared for that he only sought to please God for what it brought to his life. He goaded God, “Remove all his blessings from You and let me at him, and he will curse You” (Darlene’s paraphrase).
Persecution, whether that seen in the life of Job, or that intended when people say we, in America, do not truly know persecution, comes through the resource of Satan, who hates God. It is his attack against God, his attempt to destroy all that God holds dear. Some is the obvious persecution we recognize as we see those who refuse to deny God having their heads removed by those through whom Satan sends his attack.
Thus, in response to the third question, what is its purpose, we see that best defined by the words spoken through Job’s wife in chapter 2:10, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Satan’s whole desire is to get us to curse God, deny Him as God and Lord, and to enter the death that comes when we refuse to fully trust Him.
That brings us to the subtle aspects of persecution that we too often fail to recognize as that. The things Satan did to Job to try to get him to fall away from his “integrity” by cursing God and turning from faith in Him came in the following ways:
- The death of loved ones.
- The removal of wealth, bringing him to poverty.
- Assault against his health, threatening his life.
- The voice of a wife who fell, in her grief, to give voice to his persecutor, Satan, goading him to curse God too.
- The accusations of friends, convinced that some hidden sin and failure to repent was the cause of all his trouble, thus attempting to lead him to doubt his assurance in God.
Any of this sound familiar? I see it every day in our land. In fact, my thoughts today flow to this long understood truth, not only because of my husband’s battle with cancer, but also because of learning of a young, dearly loved woman who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. She is still raising her children, two of them young teens. Her battle against this unseen enemy that wants not only to steal her life, but hopes to steal her faith in God, is well under way. My prayer for her and for her family today is for faith to trust God more. As Job said to his wayward, grief stricken wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
Trusting God for me in my husband’s battle means trusting God’s hand of healing, whether it is experienced in this life or the next. It means trusting that God will continue to minister to my needs even if He takes my husband, who is our bread winner. It means trusting that He will help me face the days ahead with strength of faith and assurance of hope.
For my young friend, it means trusting that God has a purpose in all this. That He will help her face these days with courage and peace, joy and hope. That, if He takes her home, He will remain with her family to help them. That He will take up with her children where she leaves off, to help them be the men of God she desires. That He will help her husband stand firm of faith and be the daddy her kids need; and that God will meet him at his greatest needs.
We all hope healing in the here and now for her and for my husband. But true trust acknowledges that we cannot know all God sees in what He is doing and allowing. Trust knows that His purpose is eternal good, and His plan will succeed in accomplishing what is best for all concerned.
Our journey, whatever the struggle that comes, is made easier when faith stands firm on trust in God. That trust wins the battle against all the enemy can throw at us. That trust is what our loved ones need to see most of all, so whichever way God’s plan takes us, they are helped to have the resource of our example to help them carry on. May we be found faithfully trusting God.