Friends, we are living in the last days.
That phrase sometimes has a hollow ring to it, since preachers have been proclaiming such for centuries. In fact, it has almost become a punch line to many folks. However, this pastor believes with all his heart that we ARE indeed living in the last days, and we had better be prepared.
In the second half of the first century in 2 Timothy, Paul the Apostle wrote to his young protégé’, Timothy. This is the Apostle’s last known letter.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty”. - 2 Tim. 3:1 (ESV)
In this letter he recounts times of persecution he had endured for the sake of the Name. In fact, Paul is imprisoned at the time of this writing, and is awaiting his execution. Yet he reminds his readers that in spite of the persecutions, Christ had “brought him through it all.” He then gives young Timothy (and us) these sobering words:
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” – 2 Tim. 3:12-13
The fact is that true Christ followers WILL suffer persecution! This is not something new that Paul had come up with. Jesus, Himself, had told His disciples:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. – John 15:18-20
Folks, we need to realize that following Christ puts a “mark” on us, and a target on our backs for the Evil one. Do not be deceived into thinking that being a Christian has anything to do with popularity. It does not. Study church history… read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs… read the daily headlines, and you will become increasingly aware of the persecuted church. Two recent examples at very different parts of the planet speak to this truth.
The first example, was overt violence toward Christians. It took place recently in Pakistan, with 81 Christians murdered by Muslim suicide bombers, and 130 injured as they gathered for worship in the city of Peshwar. Read the full story here A Baptist Missionary, whose name cannot be mentioned for security reasons, said this of the attack in Peshwar:
"This is not the first attack on a church, or on other places of worship, but it is the highest casualty count to date. The Christian response has been one of frustration and [it] adds to the sense that this is not a country where Christians or other minorities can survive."
We know from other secular news accounts that similar stories of death, destruction, and imprisonment of Christians abound in places like China, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, etc.
The second example, much less violent, and much more subtle, yet very real persecution in itself is the firing of FOX Sports commentator, Craig James, after only one sportscast. James says the reason for his firing was because of his Biblical views on marriage. This is most disturbing, since his views were not expressed in his work environment, but had been expressed months before in the course of running for political office in Texas. When contacted for a response by “The Dallas Morning News”, an unnamed FOX spokesman said: "We just asked ourselves how Craig's statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn't say those things here." Read the full story here.
Now, does the treatment of Craig James reach the level of assassinations, and physical torment? Of course not, but it is indicative of the subtle (for now) persecution that is taking place toward Christians right her in the good old USA. It is going on around us, and in the face of constitutional prohibitions. I say this just to remind us all that true, full blown persecution of Christ followers is coming – even here in America.
The question is “Are you prepared?” We have been warned. We should expect no less.
To be prepared, it will require a close walk with the Father. It will require the fullness of His Holy Spirit and the boldness of the Apostles. It will require a regular diet of His word and dependence upon it. Paul spelled that out for young Timothy in the following verses:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:14-17
This is serious business, folks. If you are a true follower of Christ, Be Prepared!