"If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." John 15:20
This week I've been reading A Time to Speak
by David Waite. It includes many accounts of how Christians in Britain have suffered for their faith. I can't say any of them surprised me as they reflect stories I've heard elsewhere. What is concerning is that over the past decade the number of such stories have been increasing year by year, but the church still seems to be holding on to the naive idea that such things are rare.
In recent years my preaching has focused on the need for each individual Christian to develop and strengthen their own personal spiritual lives. We gain strength and comfort from being part of a worshipping community, but that is not enough. If we are depending on our pastors, our daily reading notes, or Christian television to feed us, we will be very vulnerable when we experience our own persecution.
Note that I say when, not if. The Bible is clear that if we follow Jesus we will experience persecution. When that happens the only person we can guarantee will be at our side is Jesus. His may be the only words of comfort we hear. We need to have firmly established our relationship with Him before we reach that point.
That means we need to work on it now. When you're in that challenging situation you won't be wishing you'd spent more time in front of the TV, but you might be wishing you'd spent more time learning verses from the Bible. You won't be thinking you should have spent more time at work, you might be thinking you're time could have been better spent listening to the voice of God.
The rewards of spending "much time in secret with Jesus alone," to use the words of the old hymn, will not only be seen in the testing times. Paul talked about "the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ," in comparison with which everything else is rubbish (Phil 3:8).
Imagine how that would be, to feel as though anything other than knowing Jesus is an utter waste of time & energy, that the only reason for doing anything is to please Him. Imagine preferring to spend time in prayer than go to see the latest film, or spending money on building His kingdom rather than buying yourself new clothes.
Prayer College Assignment
Take some time to reflect on your priorities. Be honest with yourself, where does the Lord Jesus come on your list, what are the things you'd resist sacrificing for His sake? Are there changes which need to be made? Don't try to make them in your own strength. Ask Him to change your heart so that His desires become yours.