Christian Persecution –A Deliverance Exception
By Eric Gondwe
(Adapted from the book, Major Christian Deliverance Principles: Keys for Self-deliverance and Ministry)
One area where there is no freedom is Christian persecution. Others include trials of our faith that God allows us to experience. Christian persecution is where genuine marks of Christ come from. It’s the true furnace that the Lord uses to refine us. The Lord may free us from one form of persecution but only to allow another to take over at some point. How we respond to it depends on each of us and our walk with God. The scriptures are more than clear about persecution in more passages than many other topics. We would only be deceiving ourselves if we think we’ll receive medals of approval from both God and the fallen world. “Everyone (not some or a few) who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” 2 Timothy3:12-13.
Nature of Persecution
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology says the meaning of persecution includes “pursuing or pressing on, to oppress, harass (Deut 30:7; Job 19:22; Acts 8:1), and also to bring to judgment or punishment (Jer 29:18; Lam 3:43; Matt 5:11-12; Luke 11:49).”
On the nature of persecution it says, “Both the Old Testament and New Testament give examples of physical, social, mental, and spiritual persecution. Physical persecution includes taking another’s life (Gen 4, Cain murdering Abel) or maiming the body (Exodus 22, 23). Social persecution (sometimes called discrimination) consists of making individuals or a group outcasts. An example of extreme mental and spiritual persecution is seen when Peter and John were threatened not to preach the gospel (Acts 5:28,40).”
In its reference to Christians persecution is therefore suffering inflicted on us by other people because of our beliefs. It comes directly from people not spirit beings. Satan who is said to be prince of this fallen world (John 16:11) influences people to persecute us, though only to the extent God allows. It can even go the extent of our lives being taken, as was the case with many prophets in the Old Testament and the early church apostles.
Persecution is highest in regions were Christianity is most hated. In many parts of Asia including the Middle East and North Africa Christians have been facing severe attacks from people including governments. To this day some are imprisoned and killed for their refusal to compromise their beliefs. In the western world, a new era of oppression against Christians is growing. The freedom of worship and expression has been decreasing as people have attacked Christianity to be offensive against modern day lifestyles. These include pro-abortion groups, homosexuals and other extreme left-wing liberal groups. “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:3
For instance, in November 2003 a Chief Justice, Roy Moore, was dismissed for his refusal to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama state courthouse in America. Moore was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. They argued that references to God on a monument was a threat to the establishment of the official Alabama state religion, atheism. Similar arguments have led to the removal of bibles in public schools, abolition of prayer in public schools and so on.
To God persecution has its blessings. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” Matthew 5:11-12.
Persecution does not include the strange experiences we face individually, in a family, among friends or in the church that come from being involved in the “spiritual warfare.” This tells us that there is something wrong with the “spiritual warfare” that invites the enemy to come and “steal and kill and destroy,” John 10:10. If we cannot learn from the scriptures we are at least enabled to learn from the experiences it brings. The experiences are mere acts of destruction that come upon us because we have gone outside our area of authority. It is wrong for instance, to attribute severe illnesses, accidents, tormenting experiences, strange church problems or worse still the death of a loved one as persecution from the devil. Persecution comes from people not unpleasant circumstances and experiences.
Fruits of Persecution on us and Consequences on Persecutors
Persecution exposes how much treasure we have invested on earth in our egos or personal interests and how much is in heaven. If we have invested more in loving ourselves and in being loved by others than being loved by God we will be bothered when that investment is threatened. Anything that appears to endanger or threaten that area of self will induce fear, anxiety, anger or hurt. Why? Because, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Luke 12:34, Matthew 6:21).
Our Lord Jesus invested all his treasures in heaven and his heart naturally followed where his treasure was. He was not therefore moved when his character was threatened among people. Neither was he looking for any approval from them. Even the Pharisees who hated him acknowledge it. They said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You are not swayed by men because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth,” (Mark 12:14). He didn’t worry about what others thought of him. All he cared for was his heavenly agenda that concerned fulfilling God’s will and obeying his voice even if it brought opposition.
As Jesus’ followers we are called to be like him. Our Lord endured the cross by denying himself at all costs against himself for the sake of others. The persecution he endured shows us how little he cared about his ego needs. For us his followers persecution is meant to remove the self in us and replace it with his selfless nature. He rebuked Peter for trying to restrain him from going through what God ordained – the cross. He said to him, “Get behind Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men,” (Matthew 16:23). Then he turned to the rest of his the disciples saying: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
As we mature spiritually we come to accept that a lot of God’s leading involves self-denial. He leads us in areas that can kill the self. The self-centered and self-led part of us is a stumbling block to his leading and lordship over us.
With natural strength, defeat is inevitable in situations were our self-interests are threatened. But as we keep drawing strength from God - in prayer and his word we’re able to deny ourselves and put the interests of others ahead of us. We’re able to accept that our opposition is not people or circumstances but Satan. And God only allows certain acts of the enemy’s attacks for the purpose of refining our motives, interests and commitment in carrying the cross of self-denial.
Needless to say that some that persecute us receive instant judgment from God. Much to our amazement that the Lord can be so angry against some that trouble his children. Especially his children in front-line ministry (pastors, deacons, elders, intercessors, music artists and so on). “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you,” Genesis 12:3.
Notice on the cursing role that it is God that does it not us. We are only permitted to bless while leaving the cursing and vengeance for him to take care of. Our role is to pray for those cursing and persecuting us. God may choose to use the cursing (unpleasant) experiences he brings upon them to draw them to himself. Others may receive instant Mercy without going through unpleasant experiences.
Those who persecute us indirectly persecute Jesus. When Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus he asked Paul why he was persecuting him. He said, “‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied,” Acts 9:4-5. Fortunately enough, Paul received salvation, not judgment from Christ.
However Paul suffered the most among all the apostles in proclaiming the gospel. “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name,” Acts 9:15-16. Many found salvation through his sufferings. His salvation opened doors to the greatest outreach among the early apostles.
Others persecuting us therefore find salvation, thus receiving God’s mercy. We can only pray they all receive God’s mercy instead of his wrath. It’s Satan fighting against us as he works through their fallen nature. That’s why the Bible says, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 6:12.
Scripture also says we’re to walk in forgiveness. We forgive our persecutors and count their acts as being done out of not knowing what they’re doing. Forgiveness obtains blessings for us and for those who wrong us. After Job prayed for his friends who kept judging him God restored twice all that he previously lost (Job 42:10). When Stephen forgave those stoning him Paul received God’s mercy that later brought his salvation. Meanwhile Stephen received a hero’s welcome in heaven.
Scripture says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing,” 1 Peter 3:9. Forgiveness enables us to inherit the blessing God has for us in every area we’re being challenged to forgive. One of the great blessings is being forgiven by him. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” Matthew 6:12-13. Praying for persecutors is a way of forgiving their debts and trespasses against us. These may include some family members, relatives, friends, workmates, other acquaintances, strangers, those who persecuted or currently persecute you and even people that seem not to deserve forgiveness like thieves, criminals and so on.
Praying for Persecutors
You may wish to include the following prayer in praying for those persecuting you or persecuting others you’re interceding for.
Our heavenly Father, I present to you, in the name of Jesus, the people who are persecuting me. Lord the condition these individuals have yoked themselves in through the schemes of Satan is something I cannot ignore. The yoke is in many dimensions:
1) their salvation is at stake,
2) they stand to reap in multiples the negative seeds they are nursing in their hearts,
3) Their behavior separates them from your hearing as 1 Peter 3:12 says, “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,”
4) their problems that they desire you to solve will therefore continue as Isaiah 57:21 says, “There is no peace for the wicked,” irrespective of the size of wickedness,
5) they risk not being forgiven by you as our Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6:15: “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins,”
6) they risk procuring a curse from you as your word says in Proverbs 3:33 “The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous,”
7) They are away from your refuge and therefore can easily be opposed by Satan to whatever degree their sins give him the legal grounds to interfere with their lives,
8) Their sins will harm their children in one way or another as Isaiah 14:20-21 and Leviticus 26:39 say,
All this is working to the advantage of the devil whose ministry is to destroy people’s lives. It profits you nothing for them to remain in such a hopeless state. Your word says in 2 Peter 3:9 that you do not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Neither does it profit me anything to see them sawing seeds of bondage against themselves unknowingly. This leads me to my second petition.
Therefore my second petition, in the name of Jesus, is that you answer my petition to pardon their sin and therefore free them from paying their sins in the multiple ways mentioned above and any other ways. I forgive them for their sinful attitude towards me and I hold nothing in my heart against them. The Lord Jesus said to us his disciples: “if you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven,” John 20:23.
Thank you that the enemy has been robbed of what he had wanted to destroy on my side and the side of those persecuting me. (If prayed among two or more: Thank you that you have considered my petition as binding just as Jesus said in Matthew 16:19 “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” Thank you that the enemy cannot unbind it since you who is mightier than him have bound it in heaven.)
Thirdly, I ask in the name of Jesus, that you cause these individuals to repent. Lord of the great harvest, open their mental and spiritual eyes so that they see their sins. Satan who is the god of this age has blinded their minds from knowing your truth. Your word says “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” 2 Corinthians 4:4. Verse 6 says it is you who healed the blindness of the minds and hearts of those of us who now can see: “For God, who said let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine on our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Heavenly Father, I ask you to let your Holy Spirit to heal the hearts of these individuals. May your Spirit open their eyes and shine his light in their hearts to give them the light of the knowledge of your ways. Some of these individuals are believers who already have the seal of your Holy Spirit in them. However, they’re grieving your Spirit by their sinful behavior and thereby hindering or limiting what you’ve purposed to fulfill in through them. Please allow your Spirit to convict both the believers and the unbelievers of their sins so that they can live lives worthy of your callings.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.