‘Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.’ – Revelation 2:10
Zakaria Botros, an Egyptian Coptic priest, born in Egypt in 1934, who was declared by the Arabic newspaper al Insan al Jadeed to be Islamic public enemy number one, has a $60 million bounty on his head from Al Qaeda. Botros, who was named World Magazine’s ‘Daniel of the Year’ winner in 2008, has had an extensive television ministry in the Middle East since 2003. An estimated fifty million Muslims per week listen to and watch the preaching of Botros which exposes the fallacies of Islam and exalts the person and work of Jesus Christ. There have been numerous death threats on Botros’ life and in 2009 authorities in Egypt asked the Egyptian government to strip him of his Egyptian citizenship. Others within Egypt have called for Botros’ arrest for high treason against the Egyptian government for his anti-Muslim rhetoric. An estimated tens of thousands of Muslims have come to saving faith in Christ through the courageous preaching of Zakaria Botros.1 When asked what price he has had to pay for his bold proclamation of the gospel of Christ Jesus, Botros said, ‘Whatever price I have had to pay is cheap in comparison to what Jesus Christ has done for me in shedding His blood for us.’2 His brother, also a preacher, was apprehended by Jihadists in Egypt and had his tongue cut out and a stake put through his head.
Jesus told the church at Smyrna, one which had suffered terribly through persecution and poverty, that testing was coming upon them, that they would have tribulation for ten days (a relatively brief period of persecution). As a result of the suffering and persecution, Jesus was telling them to be faithful, to not turn away from Him, whether to the left or to the right, until the very end of their lives. He told the believers they would gain a great reward-the crown of life.
Believers, living in a hostile world, whether in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, or the United States, can expect persecution from the world. Just hours before Jesus was betrayed, while with His disciples, He said, ‘In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world,’ (John 16:33). Paul the apostle, in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, said, ‘. . . serving the Lord will all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews . . . the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God,’ (Acts 20:19-24).
Here’s the big question-are you receiving persecution of some kind from anyone? Now, if you receive pushback or opposition from people because of your politics, personality quirks, or proclivity toward rudeness; then none of these count as Biblical persecution. God is not pleased and will not bless your negative personality traits or the preponderance of harsh words you throw at your spouse, children, or neighbors. He does, however, promise to reward those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness (Matthew 5:10,11,12). He says that they are to rejoice and be glad for their reward in heaven is great.
Jesus says, ‘Blessed are you when men persecute you, revile you, and say all manner of evil things against you on account of Me.’ The persecution from which Jesus is promising a great blessing, the one from which He is urging the Christians at Smyrna to be faithful until death, is one stemming from faithfulness to Him. If you are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for seeking to move forward the glorious work of the Great Commission, in your community, nation, and world, then you are to rejoice. Your reward in heaven is great. So, if you are persecuted in like manner then those persecuting you are doing you a huge favor. They are guaranteeing you a wonderful reward on the day when you meet your Savior face to face.
Jesus also said, ‘Woe to you if all men speak well of you, for so they spoke about the false prophets,’ ( Luke 6:26). Paul put the same idea another way, ‘Those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’ (2 Timothy 3:12).
Is there any indication in your life that anyone is upset with you because you are a follower of Christ? Jesus said, ‘If anyone wishes to save his life, he will lose it. If anyone loses his life for my sake, he will save it,’ (Luke 9:24).
You may be suffering persecution for the sake of Christ and His kingdom if:
– you are mocked for seeking to speak to people about the person and work of Jesus
– your friends, in your days before your conversion, no longer include you in their social plans, realizing that you kind of blow up their party with your desire to get Jesus on the scoreboard in your conversations
– you lose a few clients because they now realize you actually believe same sex marriage is an abomination and perversion
– family members avoid you like the plague at Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations
– family members and neighbors go off on you for claiming the exclusivity of Christ, that He is not merely one of many roads leading up to heaven, that in fact He is the only road leading there.
I could go on but you no doubt get the point. You are not to look for trouble. You are not to provoke people to anger or hostility. You are to heed Paul’s admonition to let your speech be with grace, seasoned as it were by salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person (Colossians 4:6). If possible, as far as it depends on you, you are to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18).
The cross of Christ, however, divides. It humbles. It convicts. It draws people to Christ in repentance or it drives them away as they gnash their teeth at the God who so audaciously calls men everywhere to repent.
- When a Nation Forgets God: Seven Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany, Erwin Lutzer page 122.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.