Let’s talk about the will today, because even as we line our hearts and minds up with the word of God, we have a choice to make: Will we serve the Lord? Will we do as He asks, even in the face of adversity and death? Tweet this!
Even after God saves us, He gives us choices, as He did the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
Truth is, God will accomplish that which He purposes, and He’ll do it despite and in spite of us. The question before us, then, is: Will we willingly submit to Him and trust Him that His way is best? Tweet this! Will we do what He says to do because we trust Him to do what He says He will do, and will we receive our due reward because of it? We don’t do it for the reward, but there is a reward, because that’s just the character of God. Tweet this! God desires to give us good things, above and beyond what we can ask or imagine, but we have to trust and obey to experience the fullness of what He has for us. Tweet this! That’s what my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His, is all about.
So if God clearly gives us a will, what does scripture tell us to do with it in the face of persecution? This is where we determine to do what God asks us to do.
Six Determinations of an Unwavering Will
1. DETERMINE to commit your soul to God and continue the work He gives you.
When we count suffering as joy (1Peter 4:13) and trust the Lord implicitly, we can do as Peter instructs us in verse 19: “Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” Jesus has given us a job to do. Regardless of what’s happening around us, as we wait for Jesus’ glorious return, “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing” (Matthew 24:46). Tweet this!
What is our job? “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).
We must, like Paul, after the Jews stoned him and left him for dead outside Lystra, strengthen “the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:21-22).
It is not enough to simply survive persecution; we must thrive and bring encouragement to others in the midst of it. Tweet this!
2. DETERMINE never to compromise, but DO be wise.
After Jesus calls His twelve disciples, He sends them out with this admonition: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Just a few verses later, He tells them, “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another” (verse 23).
Sometimes God will have us stay right where we are to continue His work, but other times, He will have us change locations. Tweet this! Even Jesus did it in Matthew chapter ten, when the Jews plotted His death. He no longer walked openly among them; instead, He went to Ephraim and remained with His disciples (John 11:53-54). He was wise; He didn’t change what He was doing, just how. He concealed His movements and changed locations. Peter did the same thing after God miraculously broke him out of prison in Acts 12:5-11: he “departed and went to another place” (verse 17).
When the Jews “raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region,” the scripture tells us “they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium” (Acts 13:49-51). In other words, they knew their work there was done, and they didn’t linger. They didn’t keep insisting they could do more. They moved on. They didn’t go into hiding and stop preaching the gospel and encouraging other believers, but they did use wisdom.
Remember, persecution sometimes scatters God’s people to places where He wants the gospel to go. We never keep silent, but we may need to change locations or audiences. Tweet this!
3. DETERMINE to follow the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is our helper. He is our guide. He will show us what to do and where to go. There’s no cookie-cutter answer for when to stay and when to go. Each of us, as we abide in Christ (see What to Do When We’re Persecuted: the Mind and Heart), must listen for His voice and do what He says to do.
To know God’s will, we must hear from Him, through His word, through other people, and when He speaks directly to us. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is unchanging: “For I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). He always has interacted directly with His people, and He always will. Listen for Him, and obey. It is your greatest source of hope, assurance, and security. Tweet this!
4. DETERMINE to go where you’re needed, regardless of the threat.
When we follow the Holy Spirit, we can go where we’re needed, regardless of the threat. Tweet this! If He leads us directly where the threat is greatest, we can remember what we learned in How to Persevere through Persecution, even as they sought to take Jesus, “no one laid a hand on Him because His hour had not yet come” (John 7:30). Even though the Jews in Judea sought to stone Jesus, He returned there to raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-11). Like my friend whose daughter is serving orphans in China says, the safest place for us and our children is smack in the middle of God’s will. Tweet this!
In God’s economy, a threat isn’t a threat when there’s work to be done yet. Tweet this!
5. DETERMINE to love and forgive those who seek to do you harm.
Regardless of what God has us do – stay, hide, or go – wherever we are, Jesus plainly instructs us: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Taking it a step further, we are to forgive them: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses”(Mark 11:25-26).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the life of an apostle of Christ as “men condemned to death…a spectacle of the world” (I Corinthians 4:9). He goes on to say, “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless” (verse 11). And even as they were made as “the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (verse 13b), he declares, “being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat” (verses 12-13a).
Forgiving those who persecute us is the life to which we are called as followers of Christ Jesus – Jesus did it, and we must too. Tweet this!
6. DETERMINE to welcome persecutors into the persecuted fold.
Even as we love and forgive, Jesus might ask us to take it one step further and welcome those who sought our harm into the loving arms of fellowship. Tweet this! In Acts chapter nine, as soon as Jesus confronts Saul the persecutor, blinding him and sending him to the disciple Ananias in Damascus to receive back his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit, Saul becomes the persecuted. The Jews in Damascus plot to kill him (verse 23), and the disciples, the very Christians he pursued for destruction just days earlier, are the ones to help him escape to safety (verse 25). The very ones Saul sought to kill become his rescuers; God may ask the same of us. Tweet this!
Honestly, there’s nothing easy about denying our flesh and following after Christ. It’s simple, but it’s hard, at least in the immediate. Tweet this! But know this: the Spirit will enable us to do that which God asks us, and we will reap a sure reward, sometimes here, and definitely in eternity. Tweet this!
Stand firm. Will to do the will of God. Trust Him, and as He reveals Himself ever faithful in you, to you, and around you, your faith will grow and you will be able to do all He asks you to do, including boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus, the topic of our next blog: what do with our mouths when we are persecuted.
Lord, empower us with Your Holy Spirit today to choose to follow You, even when it’s hard. Help us to love and forgive, even those who seek to do us harm. Use us to advance the gospel and grow Your kingdom, knowing this is not our home. It’s not our end. Help us to discern Your voice as we become more wholly Yours, going where You want us to go and doing what You want us to do.
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FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION:
1. Peter writes, “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19). The word commit infers an act of the will: we are to entrust our souls to God. We make a choice, and when we do, we can know “He’s got this” and stay the course. We don’t quit what He had us doing in the first place. Rather, we look to the last five words. What does Peter tell us about God that makes committing our souls to Him desirable and possible? How is this a game changer when it comes to worrying?
2. Sometimes in the face of persecution, the Lord might have us depart and go to another place. Regardless of who we are, where God has us, or what’s going on around us, we are always on assignment with God; it never changes. According to Matthew 28:19-20, what is our assignment? “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” In the face of persecution, our assignment remains the same. What, then, must we determine to do?
3. There’s something about the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth, life-for-a-life system of justice that satisfies our fleshly desire for vengeance! But according to Romans 12:19, to whom does vengeance belong: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord”? Leaving vengeance to the Lord, then, what does Jesus tell us in Matthew 5:44 to do instead: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you”? Chances are, if we’re persecuted, our feelings won’t tell us to do these things, so what will it require?