Posted by: Heather | November 13, 2008

A letter to a young man facing persecution

Do you ever wish someone who had faced persecution would write you a letter so you would know how to behave if it happened to you?

I have

I wonder what I would do? How do I prepare? What things are important?

Well, I think the book of 2 Timothy is the next best thing. Paul wrote this book as a personal letter to Timothy during Paul’s second and final imprisonment in Rome. Not long after this letter Paul was martyred. As you read the book you find that Paul knew the end was near. This is what He told Timothy:


2Ti 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus,
2Ti 1:2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
2Ti 1:3 I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers.
2Ti 1:4 As I remember your tears, I long night and day to see you, that I may be filled with joy.
2Ti 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lo’is and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.
2Ti 1:6 Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;
2Ti 1:7 for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.
2Ti 1:8 Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God,
2Ti 1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago,
2Ti 1:10 and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
2Ti 1:11 For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher,
2Ti 1:12 and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
2Ti 1:13 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus;
2Ti 1:14 guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
2Ti 1:15 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, and among them Phy’gelus and Hermog’enes.
2Ti 1:16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiph’orus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains,
2Ti 1:17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me–
2Ti 1:18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day–and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. (RSV)


Verse 7 is the one we have all heard about how God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The next verse is less well known, but it tells us what to do about that, or how that should affect our lives.

2Ti 1:8 Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God,

You see, verse 7 is the attitude we are to have when facing persecution.

But what would we fear? I know I fear what would happen to my family. I had a very vivid dream last week where the government came in and took one of my children. I was devastated! I cried out to God in my dream, “why her? How is she going to make it?” God came to me with tears in his eyes and put his arm around me. What he said next was one grieving father to another. Not a pat answer at all, but one from someone who knew from experience what he was saying. He said that he gave up a child once, too. He told me that he had my child, and that I needed to trust him. He said he wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t necessary. Friends, this was so vivid, I can still see the colors, smell the smells, feel the pain. I don’t know that this was prophetic or not. I believe God was in the process of changing my heart. I have been searching God about what it means to be a godly man, husband, and father. Specifically in the area of masculinity and protectiveness. What would my role be if the government came to take my family away? Do I fight? – that was the struggle in my mind before the dream. Still don’t have that one figured out, but God used the struggle to show me something of himself.

Verse 12 is the answer to our fear when facing persecution:

2Ti 1:12 and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

What ever I am fearful about is something I haven’t entrusted to God yet. I can put aside my fear when I remember in whom I am trusting.

What a sobering thought.

Craig

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Responses

  1. Whether prophetic or not (hopefully not) it is an excellent lesson to share. Reminds me of the dilemma Peter faced as he watched his wife cruicified because he would not denounce his faith. He told her “Remember the Lord” right before they killed her, then they hung him upside down. I get this feeling that the church as we know it is going to face some terrible persecution soon.

  2. I have always had vivid dreams. I dream in color, I can smell in my dreams, etc. While I wouldn’t definitely say it is NOT prophetic, I would tend to think it isn’t. I can’t think of one dream of mine that has come true, and I probably have 2 or 3 very vivid heart wrenching dreams a month. I have my whole life. They usually relate to something I have been laboring over at a heart level. I AM however convinced that God walks me through things in my dreams to teach me, and I do spend a lot of time contemplating them for that purpose. Not in a “mystical” sense. Just because they tell me things about who I am and what I think; what my reactions are, etc. I can’t put up any false pretenses in them. I am who I am when I dream. . . sometimes not very pleasant to be sure.I would encourage people to take their dreams to God in prayer. He can use them, too. As a result of this, I find myself praying in my dreams, too! I find myself repenting of underlying attitudes that come out in my dreams, though I didn’t actually do anything, I simply realized in my dream who I really am, and have the opportunity to repent in advance.I have found that I have to be careful what I share with others about my dreams, though, as some find them rather disturbing.CraigP.S. As to persecution, I wonder if the persecution we are going to face will be of a different kind. One by corporations and lawyers rather than a centralized government. (where freedom of speech is allowed by law, but “harrassment” is defined rather widely at work for instance, where we have to make decisions about our material things, rather than having guns to our heads. . . )


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