Persecution: ready or not

Realistic fire on a black background vector
During twentieth century America, our perception of Christian persecution limited the scope to foreign missionaries serving in communist countries. We read stories from Voice of the Martyrs that shivered our spines and made us thankful for our protective homeland. Paul’s admonition to Timothy “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” seemed awkwardly out-of-place in our respectfully tolerant society with freedom of religion guaranteed. Some warned that persecution loomed on the horizon—we were unconvinced.

Fast-forward to the twenty-first century. We’re no longer debating America’s persecution of Christians. The handwriting on the wall needs no interpretation. In unbelief, we’ve witnessed the Christian church cave to societal pressures to conform. New standards, once considered unthinkable, now prevail—even in many evangelical churches.

Christ-followers who speak up lose jobs, are publicly ostracized, investigated, and forced into sensitivity training. The land of the free and the home of the brave now bullies dissenters into silence and cowardice.

Can we just admit it? Persecution caught us unprepared—we weren’t ready.

The Scriptures provide an abundance of perspective and counsel for the times we live in. We have the words of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, Paul’s letters written during Nero’s persecution, and Jesus’ words,

“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).

And what advice can we find from our brothers and sisters around the world who have suffered persecution and martyrdom? How can we prepare to be a strong witness in such perilous times? And what will sustain us as the fire gets hotter? I answer for them without reservation, “Memorize Scripture, as much as you possibly can. It will prepare you, it will sustain you.”

If ever there was a time to memorize large chunks of God’s Word—it is now!

A few suggestions on specific books and passages that would be helpful to memorize:
Stephen’s defense: Acts 6:8 – 7:60
John chapters 13-17
1 Peter
2 Timothy

I’d love to hear from the community, which books and passages you would recommend specifically to prepare for persecution and to sustain us in persecution.

8 comments to Persecution: ready or not

  • Amy Calvetti

    James 1 has been the only chapter I have memorized. After reading what you wrote I think it is a good one for me to have. The motive I had to memorize this chapter is not the same one that makes me want to hold on to it. Times have changed a great deal even over the past 5 years, and not for the better. The tide has turned for Christians in America. Our faithfulness in God’s word is what will help us to continue to share the light of hope to others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Janet.

    • You’re right Amy, We need God’s Word now more than ever. It will give us wisdom how to live in this ever-changing world.

  • Janet, my most recent memorization project was 1 John 4. In this chapter I found so much peace concerning those that are hard to love, and those who persecute us for our faith. Starting with verse 4, where we learn He is greater in us than our enemies that are in the world, clear through to verses 17 and 18 where we see that our love, from Him, will give us boldness and cast out fear. We need to remember “…because as he is, so are we in this world.”

    • Thank you Vickie. Jesus loved those who persecuted him, and all of us, and surely we were hard to love. He can love through us.

  • Juliana

    Janet – Thank you for this article and the suggested passages for memorization. I apologize for this long response, but you’ve “triggered” three “sub-responses”: (1) I am still working on memorizing Ephesians and trust that it will help me (and others who might hear me share it) in the event of persecution. It is filled with amazing promises (e.g., 1:3-14) and powerful prayers (e.g., 1:17-21). A friend who helped me practice reciting Ephesians 1 made two comments – one that I seem to hear often (“I can’t memorize long passages”) and one that I had not heard from anyone before (“if persecution comes, I want to be in your home group” – so she could hear Scriptures shared if it became dangerous to carry a Bible). I tried to encourage her to review passages such as Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer, which she learned by heart as a child. They do come back! (2) I’ve read that Chinese Christians who receive Bibles will carefully separate the books and pass them around so they can copy them by hand, as there are not enough printed Bibles available for every believer to have one. When our Scripture memory group was talking about the possibility of Bible confiscation, we realized that careful word-for-word memorization would enable us to write down and share passages accurately and in good conscience, without fear of causing significant distortions. (3) Reverend Richard Wurmbrand (founder of Voice of the Martyrs) wrote that the Lord’s Prayer sustained him during a long period in solitary confinement. By the end of his confinement, all he could remember was “Father,” but that was enough.

    • Hi Juliana, I have been told that believers in North Korea memorize book by book and then they teach each other. They can’t be caught with a whole bible so they take one bible and pull the pages out to distribute to different people who will memorize that section. Amazing! Even if that doesn’t happen in our lifetime it may happen for our children or grandchildren. You already hear people say that the bible contains hate speech which is now against the law. There’s no downside to memorizing God’s Word. It is profitable in every way, and above all it helps us know Him, our Supreme and Magnificent Savior.

  • Carmen Cole

    Today you hit exactly what the Lord has been putting on my heart. Thank you so much! Can you recommend any parts of Revelation that would pertain to this?