persecution

1 Kings 17, Ezekiel 47

Today’s scheduled Bible readings are 1 Kings 17 and Ezekiel 47.

Yesterday in 1 Kings 16 we saw that Ahab was sold out to evil like no king Israel ever had before (1 Ki 16:30). Based on that description of Ahab, we might expect that Ahab’s reign in Israel was a dark time for the Northern Kingdom spiritually and morally. Our expectation is correct; the Northern Kingdom was always far from God both spiritually and morally. It was born in rebellion to God’s Davidic king, worshipped idols from the very beginning of its separation from Judah, and was led by 20 kings who all did evil in the sight of God. In response to Israel’s sinful ways—particularly the evil leadership of king Ahab, God sent his prophet Elijah to proclaim judgment on Israel. Verse 1 told us that Elijah’s message was, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” This drought would naturally lead to famine which would ravage Israel’s farm-based economy and cause many people to suffer and die.

What’s interesting about today’s passage is that the focus is not on the devastation God brought on Israel, but on the provision God brought to his servant Elijah. At a time when food and water were scarce, Elijah just had to hang out near a water source and God miraculously brought him food carried by ravens (vv. 2-6). Then, when the drought caused the brook he depended on for water to dry up, God sent him to a person who could take care of him. But she was a very unlikely caretaker. Instead of sending him to a godly man of wealthy means, God sent him to a widow. This widow lived outside the land of Israel; verse 9 told us that he was sent to “Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” This town was located near the Mediterranean Sea and was a good distance north of the most northern tribes of Israel. Widows, typically, struggled to survive themselves, having no husband to work and provide for the family in an age and economy where everyone in the family had to work hard for the family merely to survive. God told Elijah, “I have directed a widow there to supply you with food” (v. 9b) which suggests that she knew Elijah was coming beforehand. Yet when he arrived and asked her for food, she said, “As surely as the Lord your God lives… I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die” (v. 12). Not exactly an ancient version of Costco, was she? Yet Elijah believed the Lord’s word; he comforted her by telling her not to be afraid (v. 13a) but to do trust the Lord’s provision by making food for Elijah first, then for herself and her son (v. 13b-c). This command was based on God’s promise in verse 14: “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” Amazingly, she believed the Lord’s promise and God provided for her, her son, AND Elijah day after day after day (vv. 15-16).

Then, as if her daily test of faith were not enough, it was tested again when her son died (vv. 17-19). She reacted as anyone would in this kind of tragedy. Why would God keep her son alive day after day from starvation only to see him die prematurely from illness? But God listened to Elijah’s prayer and restored his life (vv. 20-23). The purpose of these miracles was to authenticate the message of Elijah: “Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’” The point of this story was to show how God provided for those who trusted in him, even in a dark time spiritually for the nation of Israel. His provision required constant faith, but he never failed to live up to his promise. And, like he did with Elijah, God calls us to trust him and live according to his word and his promises even when times look bleak spiritually and economically.

Every time we elect a new president here in the United States, the side that loses believes that the end is near. Let’s consider that: What if someday we elect the most ungodly person to ever occupy the oval office, someone determined to stamp out biblical Christianity? Can God provide for us if we are ruled and even persecuted by unsaved and ungodly people? Of course he can but we have to look to him in faith. Think about the possible anxiety Elijah might have faced. What if the ravens don’t show up with any food today? What if this is the day that the widow’s flour and oil run out? Each day was a test of faith for these people, but God was faithful. May we have the grace to trust him no matter what kind of trial of faith we face in the days ahead.

Joshua 22, Jeremiah 11

Today we’re reading Joshua 22 and Jeremiah 11.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 11.

The first seventeen verses of this chapter continued Jeremiah’s prophecy against Judah but then verses 18-23 interrupted that prophecy abruptly. Some of God’s people were tired of hearing about his anger and coming wrath. Instead of heeding the message, they decided to kill the messenger (v. 19b). Jeremiah was completely unaware that there was a plot afoot against him (v. 19a) but God supernaturally revealed it to him (v. 18).

Jeremiah responded to this plot not by running away to some distant land. Instead, he called on God to deal with his enemies justly. He appealed to God’s righteousness and his knowledge of everyone’s hearts and minds (v. 20a-b). Then he requested in verse 20c-d that God bring his wrath on those who sought to kill him. God answered Jeremiah’s prayer and promised to “bring disaster” on his enemies (v. 23b). But that disaster would happen in God’s time--“in the year of their punishment” (v. 23b).

Note that Jeremiah’s request for God’s justice was based on truth. He mentioned that God is one who will “test the heart and the mind” (v. 20b). This shows that Jeremiah was not seeking an unfair punishment just because he was disliked by “the people of Anathoth” (v. 21a). He was not asking God to carry out his personal vendetta but was asking God to do the right thing as a perfectly righteous judge.

Although God divinely protected Jeremiah in this instance, he did allow Jeremiah to experience persecution at other times in his life as we will read about in future devotionals. God also allowed other faithful prophets of his to be killed. So God does not always promise or provide absolute protection for his people or even for those who are serving him in difficult circumstances. What God does provide is protection within his will and just punishment in his timing.

This should give us comfort when we hear of persecution of other brothers and sisters of ours in Christ and if or when we experience persecution for Christ. God is watching over your life and he will hear and answer your requests for help. But, as his servants, we must believe that he knows best about when and how to administer his justice.

It is also important to remember that God may choose to have mercy on persecutors. The very people you would like to see experience God’s judgment might be ones God chooses to save. Think about Stephen, for a moment, the first Christian martyr. He was executed for preaching Christ (Acts 7) and could have justly called for God’s justice on his persecutors. Instead, with his dying breath, he called out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60b). One of those who persecuted him and for whom he prayed as Saul of Tarsus (8:1). God allowed Saul to continue persecuting God’s children for a while, but then he saved Saul and used him to bring the gospel to the Gentile world.

All of us were guilty before God and deserve his righteous wrath; those of us in Christ have received his mercy despite our sins. It is appropriate to pray for God’s justice when someone persecutes you but it is also Christlike to pray for God’s mercy.

Is someone making your life difficult because you are a believer in Christ? Have you prayed for God to have mercy on them or to bring justice to them in his time and according to his will? Instead of holding anger and resentment toward others, these are the righteous ways to deal with persecution. As Romans 12:18-21 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

1 Peter 4

Today we’re reading 1 Peter 4.

Suffering is a key theme in this book and in this chapter. The suffering that caused Peter to write was persecution (vv. 12-16). Peter knew, however, that what he taught about suffering applied to any kind of suffering caused by doing good, not just persecution (v. 4).

People who are doing good suffer and are persecuted for one reason--to silence them. Whenever we witness for Christ, we point out to unbelievers that they are sinners and accountable to God for their sins. Unless the Spirit moves to create repentance, that message of the gospel will be offensive to unbelievers.

It is not just our words of witness that cause conviction, guilt, and retaliation in unbelievers, however. The godly choices we make to live a sober, disciplined life are offensive to unbelievers as well. Verse 3 here in 1 Peter described how pagans live, “in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” Those who live this way due to unbelief “are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you” (v. 4). That last phrase, “they heap abuse on you,” shows how convicting a godly life is to the unsaved-ungodly. The “heap abuse” to try to silence us, to get us to conform to the undisciplined norm.

Peter discussed persecution at the beginning of this chapter (vv. 1-6) and at the end (vv. 12-18). In between those two paragraphs, he commanded us to serve each other within the church in various ways, reminding us that our service to each other is ultimately done by God through us, for God and for his glory (vv. 7-11). This section on service is not a digression, however. It is important to the teaching on suffering and persecution because the point of persecution (and any suffering brought on by Satan) is to shut down your witness for Christ and your service for him. If God’s enemies can discourage you, they can stop you from witnessing and from serving the body of Christ.

So what do you do if you feel discouraged by how people treat you as a Christian? Two things: First, remember that God’s enemies will be held accountable (vv. 5, 17-18). Second, have faith in God. As verse 19 put it, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” That last part, “continue to do good” is so important. Don’t let the insults and discouragements of others stop you from serving the Lord! Part living life by faith is to continue to do what is right even when you don’t want to. What kind of faith would you need if you only served and obeyed God when you felt like it? But if you commit yourself to him and keep serving him when you are discouraged, then you will be living by faith.

Are you feeling some sort of affliction? Let this passage encourage you not to give up--don’t give up trusting Christ, don’t give up serving him, don’t give up living a godly life, and don’t give up testifying of his grace. He is with you in this and whatever you are suffering is happening “according to God’s will” (v. 19). He allowed it and will use it to strengthen and grow you, so don’t give up!

Acts 21

Back to the book of Acts today, specifically Acts 21.

It has been a while since we read Acts 20, so when Acts 21:1 said, “After we had torn ourselves away from them...” we need to be reminded that Paul had been speaking to the elders from the church in Ephesus at the end of Acts 20. He was completing his third missionary journey and was on his way to Jerusalem with money collected from the Gentile churches for the Jewish believers struggling in poverty in Jerusalem. Here in Acts 21, we read repeated warnings for Paul not to go to Jerusalem:

  • Verse 4 said that the disciples in Tyre told him not to go: “Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.”
  • Verses 10-11 told us that in Caesarea a prophet named Agabus “took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”’”
  • Verse 12 recounted how Luke, the other traveling companions of Paul, and the Caesarean believers begged Paul to change his mind. The verse said, “we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.”

This is a tough situation to interpret. All of these people were speaking to Paul “through the Spirit” (v. 4), so it would seem that Paul went to Jerusalem in spite of God’s revealed moral will. Yet back in chapter 20, when speaking to the Ephesian elders, Paul said, “...compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem” (20:22a). He also knew that the result of his going would be personally painful: “not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” (20:22b-23). So what caused him to keep going? Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” And here in Acts 21: “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” His motives for going were pure and righteous and to the glory of God. The warnings about suffering, then, must have been to prepare him and the churches so that they would not lose faith in God when Paul was arrested.

And, sure enough, he was arrested (v. 33). We’ll see in the chapters to come what the results of that arrest were. For now, though, we should reflect on the warnings in Scripture. The Bible tells us that the way of following Christ is a narrow way. It tells us that there are few who go that way, so we will be in an uncomfortable minority throughout life if we follow Christ. Other passages tell us that following Christ means dying to ourselves and that it will cost some disciples their families, their homes, their inheritance on earth, and even their lives. These warnings were not given to tell us not to follow Jesus; they were written to prepare us in advance for the costs of following him. So, don’t be surprised or unhappy with God when being a Christian costs you something. Instead, understand that you are on the right path because what is happening to you is exactly what God said would happen to his children. So trust him to do his will (v. 14b) in and with your life.

Acts 8

Today, read Acts 8.

When Stephen was martyred in Acts 7, two distinct--but related--things happened next. First, a man named Saul became part of the story of the New Testament church (v. 1). Second, “a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem.” The result of this persecution was that “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”

Now think about that phrase--“all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” and this verse from Acts 1:8b: “...you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Keeping those two verses in mind, remember how people who lived in other areas of Israel and even other countries stayed in Jerusalem because they were enjoying so much worship and teaching and fellowship and evangelism together. The incredible joy they had as the church was growing was keeping them from doing the mission Jesus sent them to do, so God allowed persecution to disperse the first church to “Judea and Samaria.”

And it worked because according to verse 4 here in Acts 8, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Persecution is the hostile response of unbelief toward the gospel. Sometimes God in his grace restrains unbelievers from persecuting His people and we enjoy seasons of peace; other times God allows persecution to come to purify us and to disperse us into the world to spread the good news in other places where it is needed.

On a smaller level, God works this way in our lives, too. When we get too comfortable, complacent even, in our faith, God allows trials into our lives to purify us and to re-focus our attention on him and his work. Don’t fear, then, trials or even persecutions that may come in your life sooner or later; use them as opportunities to grow in your faith and to bring you into new opportunities to share the Lord’s word.

1 Chronicles 11–12, Hebrews 13, Amos 7, Luke 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 11–12, Hebrews 13, Amos 7, Luke 2. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Amos 7.

Amos was an unsophisticated man, a redneck from the Southern Kingdom who tended sheep and cared for sycamore trees (v. 14) but the Lord sent him to prophesy to both Israel and Judah about his coming judgment. Those yankees in the Northern Kingdom objected to the message of that hillbilly from the south. One of Israel’s religious leaders, Amaziah a priest of the false religion that Jeroboam I established in Judah misconstrued his message in order to try to silence Amos. Amos had been prophesying exile to the Assyrians, but Amaziah told Jeroboam II that his message was “raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel” (v. 10b). Amaziah then ordered Amos to deport himself back to the south (v. 12). His reason? “...because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.” In other words, this is a safe space for king Jeroboam. He shouldn’t have to hear a troubling prophecy like this in his own backyard. 

Those who hate the Lord will eventually seek to silence his word. If they can threaten and intimidate us his messengers, as Amaziah tried to do, then we make it easy on them to avoid accountability and live the way they want. Faithfulness to the Lord, however, requires us to speak truth--lovingly, yes, calling people to repentance, but also firmly, directly, consistently (vv. 15-16). In our country, those who seek to silence God’s word may have lost access to the strong arm of government for the moment--we’ll see about that in the days ahead. But they still have unjust judges in the courts to try to punish us for speaking about our faith and, failing that, they have public pressure, threats, and intimidation. Amos was a brave man; what he may have lacked in urban sophistication was more than offset by his faith in God and determination to keep speaking his truth. Let’s follow his example and be clear and consistent in speaking for the Lord until he comes.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Kings 7, 1 Timothy 4, Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25–48

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 7, 1 Timothy 4, Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25–48. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 11.

Today’s reading in Daniel 11 continued the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10. The speaker in this chapter is an angel who was sent to interpret Daniel’s vision. Daniel 10-12 is a remarkable passage that predicted in detail the future events that followed the Medo-Persian empire as well as some events that are still future to us. Sorting all this out and explaining it is beyond what I’m trying to accomplish with these devotionals. But there is something devotional for us to take away from this passage today. In verses 30b-31 we read, “He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation….” This all refers to a king from the Seleucid (Greek) Empire named Antiochus. The Jewish people were divided with some who worshipped the gods of the Greeks and others who worshipped the Lord. Verse 30 described him showing “favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.” These are the Jewish people who worshiped the false Greek gods. In verse 31, we were told that, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice.” This refers to the time when Antiochus outlawed the worship of the Lord and ended the sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. He actually went further than just ending the sacrifices commanded in Moses’ law. Antiochus had an altar to Zeus constructed in the Jewish temple and sacrificed a pig (a ceremonially unclean animal, unfit for worship in the Lord’s temple) on that altar to Zeus. Verse 32 told us that he would flatter the Jewish people who had forsaken the Lord for the gods of the Greeks, and then verse 32 concluded with this, “…but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” This prophesied the rise of the Maccabees, a group led by Judas Maccabaeus, who were faithful to Moses’ law and successfully battled Antiochus into withdrawing from Judea. The Maccabees then cleansed the temple and restored it to the covenant worship of the Lord. Notice from verse 32 that they key to this resistance was that it was led by “the people who know their God.” This phrase means that they were students of God’s word and believed it. They believed God’s covenant with Israel was true and that God’s laws were to be kept. Their faith in God led to their unexpected victory. God’s word taught them who God was and that empowered them to claim God’s  promises by faith and valiantly—and successfully—fight when the odds were against them.

This passage, then, in addition to providing a prophecy that was historically fulfilled also gives us a template for successful resistance in a world dominated by unbelief and that wants to suppress and even extinguish our faith. The way we combat the hostility to God around us is to know him through his word, believe his promises and live accordingly. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 21, 1 Thessalonians 4, Daniel 3, Psalm 107

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 21, 1 Thessalonians 4, Daniel 3, Psalm 107. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 3.

Jobs can be tough sometimes—the work is difficult, exhausting, and/or dirty or the boss and/or co-workers are hard to work with. Sometimes the people you work for or with are so difficult that you feel you have a “hostile workplace.” Daniel and his friends can certainly relate! First, they were in this “workplace” not by choice but because they had been taken captive by the Babylonians and shipped off to Babylon. Although they got to serve in the king’s palace, he tried to dictate what they ate and drank (Dan 1), tried to have them all killed when they couldn’t perform an impossible task (Dan 2), and now here in Daniel 3, they are told to worship the king’s statue or else.

This story only talks about Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Where was Daniel? We have no idea; it is impossible that he would be in the group who worshipped the idol so we assume was not there. Commentators believe that the image Nebuchadnezzar erected was similar to the one he saw in his dream from chapter 2, except it was covered with gold rather than just having a gold head. This seems like a reasonable interpretation of events. God speaks to Nebuchadnezzar, compares his kingdom to a gold head, then told him about what nations would be like in the future. Although Nebuchadnezzar honored the Lord and Daniel at the end of chapter 2 (see vv. 46-47), he couldn’t stop thinking about that statue and what a cool thing it would be to build one and make people worship it. When you are an absolute monarch with a massive empire behind you, you can do those kinds of things. So, that’s what he did and his actions presented yet another challenge to these Jewish men who wanted to remain faithful to the Lord in a hostile environment.

Nebuchadnezzar must have anticipated resistance to the worship he mandated because he had that furnace built. When he learned that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not comply, he was upset (v. 13) but willing to give them another chance (vv. 14-15) but not before issuing the key challenge of the chapter: “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (v. 15c). Without flinching or taking their second chance, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stated their intentions to trust God and let him do what he wanted. We are well aware of the outcome and how God glorified himself by delivering Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (vv. 19-30) but don’t miss their words in verses 17-18: “God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods….” They knew that God was under no obligation to deliver them and that it might just be his will for them to suffer and die for their faith. Unfortunately, we have brothers and sisters around the world who face this same threat and do not experience a miraculous deliverance. Let’s resolve, then, not to be shy about our commitment to Christ even if it hurts our career or even costs us something in the future from our government. Let’s also remember to pray for other Christians around the world who are suffering and dying for their faith in Jesus. I didn’t set out to make this an advertisement, but I can’t ignore the opportunity: join us on Sunday evening, November 6 at 6 p.m. in the chapel for the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Followup to Luke 6:27-36

My message Sunday from Luke 6:27-36 probably left some unanswered questions. One person wrote on a Response Card: "So is it wrong to have security system on your home/property?" Questions like this one are tough to answer. Was Jesus teaching that the most loving way to live is completely exposed in every way to any way in which someone wants to take advantage of you? One commentator, Darrell Bock, wrestled with this question. I'll leave a lengthy quote here for you to consider:

Is Jesus speaking in hyperbole here when he refers to saints being taken advantage of in the context of religious persecution? Hyperbole is not, of course, an unusual rhetorical style for a prophetic declaration. Its recognition allows one to focus on the central and concrete application behind the rhetorically presented image. How then does one know when hyperbole is present? There are at least two keys to identifying this figure of speech: (1) Does the strict, literal application of the remark lead to an absurd result, and (2) do examples of application in the early church illustrate more concretely the intended application?
Let’s see how this applies. (1) When, for example, Jesus suggests that the one who takes a disciple’s cloak be allowed to take his tunic too, it seems clear that Jesus is not arguing a disciple should willingly be stripped literally down to their skin and go about naked! The point has to do with the risk taken in being totally exposed, even to the point of being totally taken advantage of. (2) We can note that even though Paul continually exposed himself to great danger for the sake of the gospel, there were occasions when the church sent him away from a dangerous area for his own protection (e.g., Acts 16:40; 17:10, 13–14). Thus, sometimes it was prudent to protect oneself from persecution by moving a ministry elsewhere. On the other hand, Stephen forgave his enemies who were putting him to death, just as Jesus had done on the cross (Acts 7:60). Sometimes God calls us to give even our lives.
We live in a world that is often hostile to the gospel today, so we share the ancient context with the disciples who turned to Jesus. Our suffering may or may not take the same form as it did in the time of Jesus, depending on where we live, but the call to love others with an exceptional love remains. God promises that those who respond with mercy will receive much from God’s hand—maybe not those things the world sees as valuable, but real blessings that come from God’s hand. To the one who pardons comes pardon; to the one who gives come gifts from God’s hand.
Quoted from Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 194–195.

Exodus 37, John 16, Proverbs 13, Ephesians 6

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 37, John 16, Proverbs 13, Ephesians 6. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read John 16.

This section in John continues the teaching of Jesus on his final day of freedom. John recorded the teachings Christ gave as he and his disciples walked from the upper room (where they ate the Passover & Christ’s began the Lord’s Supper, John 14:31) to the Garden of Gethsemane (where Judas would betray him, John 18:1). According to our passage today, John 16:1, these teachings were designed to fortify the disciples against rejecting him. Hard times would come to them for their faith in Jesus, including excommunication from their local synagogues (v. 2a). Christ gave the reason that people would persecute his disciples in 16:2b: “…anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” How foolish for anyone to think that the disciples were a threat to them. Jesus’ students did not wish to overthrow the government and they weren’t trying to take over Judaism either. Yet governments would imprison them and religious people would persecute them, even taking their lives, in God’s name. Why would they do this? Verse 3: “…because they have not known the Father or me.” Unbelief exacts a high price; not only does it damn one’s soul for eternity, it skew’s one’s moral compass in this life as well. This is why morality is constantly being re-defined (downward) and why the ungodly are celebrated and followed while the loving, righteous people of God are shunned and persecuted. Each person has the voice of conscience which points the right way toward morality but that voice can be rationalized away. The further we come toward the return of Christ, the farther our world moves away from what is right and good. This is why they hated Jesus and why they cannot tolerate his disciples.

Yet Christ told us about these things ahead of time for our good: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33). The peace Jesus promised in this verse is not the outer peace of an undisturbed, unpersecuted life. It is the inner peace that reassures us when things get rough on the outside that Christ is in control and will ultimately end this turmoil forever when his time comes. Lean on this promise as you encounter hostility and trouble in life due to your faith in Jesus. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.