How Can We Go Forward In The Face Of Persecution?

We can go forward in the face of persecution if we are “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”—which is a simple command for us to act properly when in hostile environments. Also, we must be committed to ceaselessly preaching the gospel. Finally, we have to be willing to go forward doing right regardless of what happens. Thus, as a result and in the midst of persecution we will glorify God and fulfill His purposes and mission.

Go Forward In Wisdom And Harmlessness

  • Jesus sent His disciples forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. In this scenario the sheep is the one in danger—meaning that the persecution was imminent for the disciples. Jesus knew that persecution was going to be a reality if they obeyed His command to go and preach the Kingdom and He sent them anyway. Thus, the advice He is going to give them wouldn’t mean they were to suspend their mission if they were persecuted or even at the “chance” of being persecution. Ceasing to preach or speak in the face of persecution was never intended, but His intention was to encourage them to “go forward,” but as they did, they were to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”.
    Matthew 10:16; (Context: Matthew 10:1-42)
    • “Wise as serpents”—in scripture, serpents are used both in a bad and good way. Here we are told to have this good characteristic: wisdom. Snakes have to be wise because they often live in hostile environments (not many people like them). The first aspect of this wisdom is being shrewd and having a sharp sense of judgement. They pay attention, are watchful and careful. The second aspect of this “wisdom” it to cause the disciples to keep from becoming “slothful” out of the timid, cautious and circumspect characteristics that come when facing danger. Thus, in the same way, we need to have this sense of wisdom as we face persecution.
      (Compare to prudence: Proverbs 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 15:5; 16:21; 18:15; 22:3; 27:12)
    • “Harmless as doves”—doves have no real defense or offense. They don’t fight back when attacked. They aren’t seeking to hurt others, take advantage of others, nor are they attacking others. They easily put themselves in danger so that is seems silly or stupid. A dove is vulnerable. It isn’t fearful nor does it hide. As a messenger of the gospel “harm” shouldn’t be characteristic of who we are. Though people will mock, hate and hurt us because of the gospel, we shouldn’t fight back. They might harm us, but we don’t harm them. To apply this to our lives we have to understand that God uses suffering for the advancement of the gospel. Our suffering is a testimony to the grace of God.

Go Forward Ceaselessly Proclaiming The Gospel

  • Go forward speaking the gospel and do not be silent. As believers we are sent forth preaching the gospel and when we are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, we should continue being witnesses to them. In the face of persecution we should always be proclaiming the gospel message, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us. Jesus said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace”. Also, after Paul was arrested He used this opportunity to preach the gospel. Never cease preaching.
    Matthew 10:18-20; Acts 18:9-11; 21:27-26:32
  • Go forward speaking the gospel and if needed flee to another location. Jesus tells His disciples that when people persecute them in a certain city they were allowed to flee to another city. We should be aware and alert to the danger that could happen and if needed move to another location as long as we keep on preaching the gospel. We are permitted to leave a city because of persecution but we shouldn’t stop preaching the gospel. Thus, the task is more important than the location—even if the location can’t be changed.
    Matthew 10:23
  • Go forward speaking the gospel and if persecuted keep speaking the gospel. Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city and left there supposing he was dead. But when the disciples stood round about him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe and preached the gospel there. Even after being stoned and left for dead, Paul was faithful to preaching the gospel.
    Acts 14:19-23

Go Forward Doing Right Regardless Of What Happens
1 Peter 4:1-2

  • Go forward obeying God even if persecution is inevitable. Paul was told by a prophet that the Jews at Jerusalem would bind him and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles when He went up to Jerusalem. When the believers heard this, they pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. But he would not be persuaded by them, saying, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Finally, they said, “The will of the Lord be done.” Paul was willing to go forward knowing that persecution was inevitable.
    Acts 21:10-14
  • Go forward serving God even if it is against the law. When Daniel knew that the writing was signed (that said if anyone prayed to any god or man, except the king, during the next thirty days they would be thrown into the lion’s den) he went into his house and prayed just as he had done before the law was passed. He did what He had always done: he prayed with his windows open toward Jerusalem in his upper room; he did this three times each day—kneeling, praying and giving thanks before his God. He didn’t allow fear to keep Him from obeying God even though it had become illegal.
    Daniel 6:10; (Daniel’s obedience to prayer: 1 Kings 8:35-36; 44-50; Psalms 55:16-17)
  • Go forward by faith and not fear. After spying out the land, Caleb stilled the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and posses it; for we are well able to overcome it”. Then the other men that went up with Caleb to spy out the land disagreed with him and said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we”. The other men were focused on the facts and looking at all the reasons why it couldn’t be done. They had a list of fearful reasons. This caused them to fear and caused the children of Israel to fear and doubt the promises of God. But Caleb had a mindset of faith. His report wasn’t focused on the giants but on God. All the same conditions were true, all the same giants were in the land just as the other men reported, but Caleb had faith that God was going to bring the victory.
    Numbers 13:30-31; 14:7-9, 14, 24; Examples of faith: Hebrews 11:23-28, 32-40
  • Go forward assembling together with the local church and not forsaking it. Some of the Hebrews were habitually abandoning and neglecting the local gathering of the church. This was wrong. The reasons why some stopped assembling together isn’t given, but whether it was because of persecution and the fear of gathering publicly and being identified with Jesus and His church or another reason, they risked abandoning the faith over time by not assembling. We assemble because we need to exhort (encourage) one another—especially to: draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith; hold fast the profession of our faith (hope) without wavering; and consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Thus if we need this at normal times, how much more in times of persecution and as we are living out His mission in this world. This is a nonnegotiable.
    Hebrews 10:19-25; Matthew 12:30; Acts 2:42; 14:19-23 (Persecution in Hebrews 10:32-34; 12:3-4, 12-14; 13:3)

Review Questions

  • What was the environment like that Jesus was sending His disciples into?
  • What does being “wise as serpents” mean?
  • What does being “harmless as doves” mean?
  • What does ceaselessly preaching the gospel mean?
  • What are some principles of doing right regardless of what happens?

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