(Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from the late Dr. Neihof's last book which you can order HERE)
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
The church of Jesus Christ is enduring suffering for the sake of His Name.
Estimates indicate that in the last 100 years, more people have died for their faith in Jesus than in the previous 1900 years combined. Christian Freedom International estimates that 200 million Christians in the global church are suffering because of their faith. African Christians are being raped, killed, and desecrated at the hands of Muslims, who are lost and without the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Chinese Christians are enduring government oppression. Christians in the Middle East are having their homes and businesses destroyed, undergoing displacement, and, in many cases, giving their lives for their faith.
The dominant North American eschatology over the past 100 years has described a belief in the second coming which insists that Jesus will rapture His church out of this world before or during the seven years of great tribulation. Whether or not this is an accurate assessment of the last things, it is looking more and more as if the remnant of Christ’s holy bride must face ever-increasing persecution for the sake of His name. Persecution has arrived for the church, both domestically and internationally.
Jesus told us that we would suffer for His name’s sake. Other Christians have. Who do we think we are to be exempt from the inevitable?
Persecution often seems to make no sense. But the early church father of the second and third centuries, Tertullian, rightly said, “The blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the church.”
Jesus promises that persecution brings His blessing to the suffering saint. Peter proclaimed that persecution only succeeds when we fear it. "Do not be afraid of their threats." Sanctifying the name of Jesus will call us to a cross of suffering where He will sanctify our hearts and embolden us to endure through the abiding presence of our Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
My Church History teacher in Bible college, Mrs. Hilma Bouck, once told the stories of the martyrs and then confessed that she lacked the grace for martyrdom. I was shocked! Hilma Bouck was one of the godliest, holiest people I knew. However, in her next breath, she said that she did not need grace for martyrdom at that moment, for she was not presently facing it. She reminded us that "God never wastes His grace." In the moment of need, God will grant grace to His faithful, trembling servants to suffer, even to die for the Name of Jesus.
As the culture turns ever against Christ and His bride, the church, our prayer must be that Jesus finds us faithful. We need not seek suffering. It will find us. But may God grant us courage to face our hour of persecution. May we be bold, and may our compelling and winsome testimony draw even our persecutors to faith in His Name.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (I Peter 3:14-17).