Aspects of Christian Living: Overcoming Persecution
Today a deeper look at one of the subjects touched on in last week’s post: persecution from others because of our faith.
Because I am a human being, I have as little desire to be persecuted as anyone else. A point that I would like to make right here at the beginning is that while yes, persecution is real and very painful for many Christians around the world, even unto death in many cases, AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE NOT HELPLESS IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION. Persecution for our faith is an expression of the aggressive spiritual warfare that occurs between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil. Persecution simply means that the devil is attacking us through other people, (or through institutions, laws etc). As Christians, we are fully empowered to fight back – never by retaliating against other people, but rather by praying, as fervently and as passionately as we can, or as the situation demands (which is usually…as fervently and as passionately as we can – or even more).
The Spiritual Realm
Jesus tell us that the things we bind in heaven will be bound on earth, and the things we loose in heaven will be loosed on earth. Matthew 18v18. By “heaven” I think it is clear that Jesus is here referring to the unseen but very real spiritual realm, rather than heaven in terms of paradise – why would anyone need to “bind” anything in terms of paradise?* From my reading and reflection upon the Bible, I believe that things that happen on earth, are often expressions of the things that happen in the spiritual realm. It’s a bit like saying that the condition of my skin will be determined by what happens inside my body as a result of what I eat, or the quality of a tree’s fruit will be determined by what happens inside the tree due to the nutrients that are absorbed by the tree. In all these cases, tangible, visible results on the outside are produced by hidden actions on the inside. So it is with the spiritual/earthly realms: the tangible visible results down here in the earthly realm – (that is, the physical world where we live and interact with other people) are reflections of what is happening in the hidden, invisible spiritual realm. Furthermore, even though we cannot see the spiritual realm, we can influence what happens within it by our prayers, as I can influence the condition of my skin by what I eat.
So then, when persecution occurs, it is a reflection of what is happening within the Spiritual Realm, even though it occurs through other people. It is all authored by the devil.
Two ways to break persecution: to leave, or to pray! Jesus actually tells us to leave: Matthew 10v23: “If they persecute you in one city, flee to the next”. If we can’t leave, then we have no choice but to pray. It is better to leave because it is easier to pray against a situation when we are not physically suffering under it. I believe this verse demonstrates that spiritual battles are often territorial. As Christians we do not face equal levels of persecution around the world or even within different cities within the same country because different areas have different levels of control by different spiritual forces.
Whether we leave or we stay, we have to pray!
I believe that the way the devil works is by steadily taking ground…little by little…day by day. This is how a country, such as the UK, with such a strong heritage of Christian faith, can be turned into a country that is almost aggressively anti-Christian. However, I believe that once the process of anti-Christianisation is complete, once all the evil territorial powers are in place, then the devil will start using the UK to actively persecute Christians in exactly the way he currently works in other countries. As Christians, if we want to claim back ground, we have to pray. We have to acknowledge what is happening, and stop the situation from getting worse. If we would open our eyes, we would see that every day, measures are being introduced to erode the Christian foundation of the UK and the West generally. If we leave, that does not in itself remove the problem. It just means that we remove ourselves from having to face the consequences of the persecution. If we would think about it, we would realise that the way the devil is working in the UK is exactly the same way he is working all around the world, so that gradually the whole world would become antagonistic towards Christians and we would reliably face persecution everywhere. The only way to combat that is through prayer. Trying to change things on a superficial level (literally a surface, or “skin” level) will not actually change things. So trying to campaign against various laws will in and of itself not make any difference, unless we first win these battles in the Spiritual Realm. As Christians we should not assume that we are safe just because we are in the West. We need to realise that persecution is coming and we need to get praying aggressively to avert it now. In fact, yesterday.
Similarly, we also need to pray for countries where anti-Christianisation has already been established, where Christians already face intense, regular persecution that is sometimes sponsored by each government itself. By our prayers, we can win these villages, towns, cities and even whole countries. We can do this by praying to unseat territorial powers in the spiritual, so that Christians will no longer face persecution. Once this threat has been removed, then Christians will be free to go in and share the Gospel of Christ. When we pray further, hearts can be turned around, and whole territories can be won for Christ.
I think the most effective way to pray is to work on a small scale, gradually getting larger. To start off with we could pray for our street or our village or our city or our workplace. Twin aims would be to unseat territorial powers and also to win actual hearts for Christ. It can be so easy to see the powers that control each territory. What is prevalent in the locality? Is there lots of alcohol abuse? Or drug use? Domestic violence? These are all spirits, and they all work in the spiritual to create “strongholds” on earth where they establish their dominance. Thankfully, the power of prayer can cut through all of this. However, to experience the power of prayer we actually have to pray.
So then, this blog post is a call to prayer. If we look around us, we would see that the need is desperate and urgent. As Christians we never have the luxury to sit back and do nothing – until we get to our heavenly paradise. While we are here on earth we are here to fight in prayer. Simple. If our cities around us are not visibly getting better and more filled with light then we are not winning the fight. Even if our own particular cities and countries are marching forward for Christ then we need only look to other countries to see how we need to pray for the work of Christ, so that as many people as possible can be won to God and to eternity with Jesus.
Let us always remember that God’s power is greater than that of the devil, and God’s power will triumph over that of the devil. For some Christians that will not happen here on earth. Some Christians will be persecuted right unto death. However, whether victory comes on earth or in heaven, victory is assured for Christians.
*Heaven in terms of paradise and heaven in terms of the spiritual realm are actually the same thing, Biblically speaking – when Christians die the body remains to decay on earth but the spirit is admitted into the spiritual realm to be with God in paradise. My point here is that in Bible use the word “Heaven” covers both meanings: whether we are specifically referring to the joyful paradise aspect of the spiritual realm or simply the whole spiritual realm itself. In Christian use the word Heaven would usually refer to joyful paradise. In this Matthew passage I believe that Jesus is referring to the whole spiritual realm itself rather than the specific aspect of paradise.
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