PERHAPS, you are wondering if handling is the right word to use vis-à-vis persecution. Though I can think of alternate words like tackling and confronting, you and I know they don’t fit in this context of persecution. While tackling requires some bit of offensive action as in the case of tackling your opponent in a game of soccer, confronting is more than offensive. It is not only expecting trouble but being ready to go for the kill. However, neither stance is Biblical.
The reason why I think handling is more apt is here can be explained this way. Imagine you are greeted at your door by a stranger who hands you over a package. Although it is not wrapped in gold foils, you are wary of how to deal with the situation. You do not know what lies inside the box. For all you know there could be a knockout punch springing out of it. Or perhaps, it’s a box of delicious candies after all. Since you do not know what lies in it, you are wary of opening it. But you have to open it someday or the other. Persecution is like that mystery box delivered by a stranger. Although you may not know what it may offer you, you sure need to know how to handle it.
Also read: Is persecution on the rise?
Jesus Christ asked us to anticipate troubles in John 15:20: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” and in John 16:33, He said: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Most of the epistles, and books like Hebrews and Revelation were written to encourage the Body of Christ in a situation of persecution. In 1 Peter 3: 13-14, it is written: ‘Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.’
Hebrews 10:32-34 gives us an insight into what the early church believers went through to hold on to their faith: They were insulted, imprisoned and persecuted. Their properties were confiscated by the oppressors. Yet, they stood their ground in the face of suffering because they knew they had ‘better and lasting possessions.’ That should come as a glorious reminder to us to stand our ground unwavering in our faith.
When the early church underwent immense suffering, the leaders belonging to the faith wrote to the believers advocating a sort of a theology of persecution. Through their epistles, they underlined the need for patience, endurance and steadfastness.
Romans 12:12 asks us to ‘rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.’ James 5:11 calls those who have persevered under persecution ‘blessed’. The believers were asked to be in prayer (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14; 1 Corinthians 4:12) and thanksgiving (2 Thessalonians 1:4) because testing of the kind mentioned in Mark 4:17 would determine if we have deep roots or not. The Word of God is given to us to strengthen and encourage us in our faith so no one would be unsettled by trials (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3). Persecution is also an occasion for believers to experience the grace of God (Romans 8:35; 2 Corinthians 4:9, 2 Corinthians 12:10).
Paul, the apostle who listed out the hardships in his ministry, believed that a persecuting believer could also be a living testimony to the power and grace of the crucified and risen Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).
Please remember we cannot do this on our own strength. If we attempted to do that, we would simply be overwhelmed by the challenges ahead. To be a Christian winner, one needs to be in Christ. Anyone who regularly quenches his thirst drinking from the Living Water will never be fooled by any mirage.