“In the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves… unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Mankind lives in the last days; so naturally, the people who are called by the Lord live in the same time period. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
Even though people read these Scriptures, many of them are disappointed when they experience hardships. They put down the weapons they have received from the Lord and forsake the calling, which God prepared for them even when their bones were not formed in their mother’s womb. Disappointment creates offense, criticism and gossips… and these things cast the person called by the Lord into a quagmire.
There is nothing more terrible than the life of a person who forsook their calling. No matter in which part of the world they live, either in wealth or poverty, hell dwells in their hearts. Anger, criticism and hatred gnaw their mind. This is because such a person has known the calling of the Lord. That person tried to enter their calling or even did it and started to serve and glorify the only God. However, challenges came; some people who were considered godly but had the image of this world, hindered that person with their actions, created obstacles, limited their ministry or simply wanted to remove them from their environment.
The tragedy is, the person who serves the Lord and glorifies Him, loses their ground under the attack, puts on the image of this world themselves and starts to act according to the Old Testament command, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Ex. 21:24). Sometimes, desiring to see their persecutors punished, such a person cries out in prayer like King David, “Break their teeth in their mouth, O God… Let them flow away as waters, which run continually… Like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun.” (Ps. 58:6-8).
My beloved, that was under the Old Covenant; not only it is invalid today, but it also destroys the person who prays that way, because it violates the commandment given under the New Covenant. Jesus Christ said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6.27-28). Here is the whole secret of entering into one’s calling and being established in it. When a person act this way, the All-seeing, Heart-searching, Just and Long-suffering God starts to act accordingly in the lives of both the persecutor and the persecuted. It is simply necessary to trust Him completely and to receive instructions from Him about how to act in every situation.
Jesus the Savior was persecuted as well. He was envied and slandered; they even tried to kill Him. But what did He do? Jesus spent time with His Father, told Him everything, and having received everything necessary from the Father, He continued to work according to His calling, for which He had been sent. He did nothing of Himself, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:30). This is also a way of having victory. In order to enter into their calling and be established in it, a persecuted person shall ALWAYS be led by the Holy Spirit.
King David suffered unthinkable persecutions as well, but every step he took was led by a word from the Lord. “When David knew that Saul plotted evil against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod here.’ Then David said, ‘O Lord God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O Lord God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.’ And the Lord said, ‘He will come down.’ Then David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ And the Lord said, ‘They will deliver you.’ So David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed…” (1 Sam. 23:9-13).
Persecutions can have different reasons and occur in different ways.
Nehemiah was persecuted, because his enemies tried to prevent him from building the walls of Jerusalem, out of envy and fear. They hated him and the whole Jewish nation, and feared that he would rise in power. Nehemiah looked to the leading of God and acted only according to His directives; otherwise he would fall into the enemy’s trap. “…[they] sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together…’ But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down…’” (Neh. 6.2-3). Nehemiah had a vision from the Lord and was completely focused on its fulfilment, and not on falling into the traps of the devil, getting blows from him, diving into a quagmire of self-pity or judging his persecutors.
Those who persecute can have another motive: they think they know God and His desires better concerning a certain work or person. That is why they create hindrances, unaware that by their actions, they go against the will of God. Such was the situation of Saul (who later became Paul the Apostle), when he persecuted followers of Jesus Christ. “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him… that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9.1-2).
The Lord is well aware that the devil uses different people, both worldly ones and churchgoers, who have the image of this world, to create hindrances in the life of a godly person. That is why He said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31), and “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (1 Jn. 5:4). This victory is born, matured and manifested in the physical world only, when the persecuted person, by trusting God and believing in His Word, moves forward, only forward, not two steps forward and three steps backward. Accepting an offence or judging a persecutor means to take a step backward. It leads to failure and destroys the victory, vision and calling received from the Lord.
Some persecutions are even useful, as while resisting them, the fruit of the Spirit is formed in a person’s life: “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). It is the persecution that puts a person before a choice, whether to give in to the desire of the flesh and the soul and to back down, or to be steadfast and continue doing the will of God with the help of the Lord and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, there are also unnecessary persecutions that shall be avoided through following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The devil is the ruler of this world. Jesus the Savior said. “…the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (Jn. 14:30). The devil spares no effort so that hatred and enmity can rule in people’s relationships, both in Church, and in other parts of the society. Only those who remain in the Word and are always led by the Holy Spirit will overcome. Sometimes such people stumble or sin as well, but they do not stop looking at the All-merciful God; they repent and, by His mercy, get on their feet.
It is hardly possible to find a person on this earth who has entered into God’s calling without persecutions or hindrances on their way. And ultimately, the most important thing is not to overcome, but to display godly character in the victory and to prepare the way of the second coming of Jesus the Savior.
Each person decides themselves, whether they will continue to live in criticism, blaming and “stoning” people, while going further from their calling, or they will gather the “stones” they have “cast”, as it is written, “To everything there is a season… A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones” (Eccl. 3:1, 5). Will they repent of forsaking the Word of God and leaving their calling? Will they draw near to the Lord of lords, Who is loving and patient? Will they believe the One Who says, “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29)? Will they desire to be such a person who, after passing through storms, will say like Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)?