When we see the news of churches being burned or believers being martyred around the world, we often feel a strong pulse throughout our veins. Paralyzing fear and the question of whether we would be able to withstand such persecution race through our mind.
It is easy to view physical torture or abandonment as the worst thing that could happen to us or our loved ones. But the Scriptures make it so clear that this should not be so:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” [2 Cor. 4:16-17]
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” [1 Peter 1:6-7]
If you have ever read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, we see this fleshed out in his catalog of hundreds of lives that were taken for the Name of Jesus. In one excerpt identifying the lives of Jerome Russell and Alexander Kenney, two Protestants who were arrested and imprisoned for their faith, we see their testimony of dependence and joy in the Lord even unto the point of death. When Kennedy began to display signs of fear, Russell encouraged him in these truths:
Brother, fear not; greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. The pain that we are to suffer is short, and shall be light; but our joy and consolation shall never have an end. Let us, therefore, strive to enter into our Master and Savior’s joy, by the same straight way which He hath taken before us. Death cannot hurt us, for it is already destroyed by Him, for whose sake we are now going to suffer.
We know that affliction is temporary, but our holiness and salvation are eternal! God preserves what can never be taken from us. Jesus has already conquered death and He calls us to not fear it. He calls us to fear Him. He calls us to abandon fear of the world (see Isaiah 41:10) and turn to Him in holy fear.
This fear of God brings joy, rest and life: Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! [Psalm 112:1] The fear of God causes us to see Him supreme in our lives, following His Lordship to whatever He calls us to.
John Piper describes his understanding of the fear of God in this powerful way: “The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. . . . Oh, the thrill of being here in the center of the awful power of God, yet protected by God himself!”
May we press on to remember what cannot be shaken, and hold tight to what is eternally satisfying. Join us to pray for persecuted Christians to hold fast to this hope today.