Perhaps one of your burning questions from the last blog, The Hate that Rules the Heart that Hates, is: Why would a good God who loves His children allow them to be mistreated in unimaginable and unspeakable ways?
To the reasoning mind, it makes no sense. But in the eyes of a sovereign God with an eternal plan for His people – a plan to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) – “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). He sees that glory. He knows what’s to come. He tells us it’s coming. It’s our job is to believe Him, place our faith in Him, and trust Him. Tweet this!
Is there a purpose? Can we really expect answers of God? Can we question Him as we try to understand what’s happening, why, and how we’re supposed to stand firm? Isaiah 45:9 warns, “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?”
In Romans 11:33-36, Paul exclaims:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).
Yet, even as we deal with the Ruler of the Universe, who can do whatever He wants whenever He wants, He is also our Creator and Daddy God who knows that as humans, and as His children, we often struggle to understand the why. Tweet this!
With regards to persecution, the Bible reveals a number of reasons why God might allow it, all of which serve Him and not our flesh.
Six Scriptural Purposes for Persecution
- To spread the gospel.
Persecution scatters God’s people where they otherwise might not go, preaching the gospel to those who otherwise might not hear (Acts 8:1-4, 11:19-20, 2 Timothy 4:17-18), including those we might encounter while in chains (Acts 23:11, Philemon 1:10). Tweet this!
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15).
It may take persecution for beautiful feet to carry the gospel where God wants and needs it to go. Tweet this!
- To make us and others more bold to speak the word without fear.
Paul assures believers in Philippians 1:12-14:
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
It sounds crazy, but I find Paul’s words to be true in my own life just from reading testimonies of Christians who remain unwavering in their love for Jesus, faith, and courage even as they suffer unfathomable circumstances, loss, and pain. It challenges me to be more bold in speaking God’s word without fear! Of course today all you have to do is read news from a trustworthy source outside of the mainstream media (such as American Family Radio, One News Now, or WND), or I subscribe to a free monthly newsletter from Voice of the Martyrs (you can subscribe at www.persecution.com). The stories force me out of my American prosperity bubble and technology trance and inspire me to anchor my identity, love, and faith deep in Christ should my faith be challenged in such unthinkable ways.
- To produce in us perseverance, character, and hope:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5).
- To show His power, for His name to be declared in all the earth, as He did when He raised up Pharaoh (Romans 9:17).
God “has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (verse 18). God does things we don’t understand. If we don’t fully grasp His heart of goodness and mercy, His ways can seem hard and cruel. This truth can be a hard pill to swallow, but surrendering to God’s truth and His will, even when it’s hard for our finite minds to comprehend, is the best remedy for overcoming any trial and being in a position to receive eyes to see the goodness of God in all things. Tweet this!
- For the consolation and salvation of others, and for us to comfort others with the comfort we receive from our heavenly Father:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. Tweet this! For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Tweet This! added by me).
I love what the Expositor’s Bible Commentary has to say:
Paul’s affliction and endurance of his trials ultimately benefited the Corinthians in that he was now equipped to administer divine encouragement to them when they were afflicted and to ensure their preservation when they underwent trials (cf. Eph 3:13; 2Ti 2:10). Paul then makes explicit (v.6b) the divine comfort he received in the midst of affliction. Whether he suffered affliction or received comfort, the advantage remained the same for the Corinthians (cf. 4:8-12, 15). They too would know an inner revitalization, an infusion of divine strength that would enable them to endure patiently the same type of trial that confronted Paul (cf. 1Pe 5:9). 
- So the life of Jesus may be manifested in us:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).
When a follower of Jesus joyfully and genuinely declares their love and commitment to Him AFTER the world has taken everything it possibly can short of their life – possessions, children, businesses, homes, security, safety, etc. – a temporary, mortal vessel becomes an eternal, living testimony of the excellence and power of God!
Many times, I would never have chosen the circumstances through which I have received the greatest blessings in the Lord. I can say with certainty that I would never choose to lose my mother, but I can also say with certainty that the Lord used that experience to reveal Himself to me, strengthen my faith, and draw me into a deeper relationship with Him. What scripture says we can know for certain: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”(Romans 8:28), including persecution. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
Some of the things that threaten and stretch us the most are the very things God uses to accomplish His work in us, which is to make us more like Jesus, and ultimately, it’s the only work that withstands fire. Tweet this!
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).
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Lord, even as we see the purpose behind persecution, it’s a tough truth to embrace. Help us to love You so completely that we will do anything for Jesus’ sake and to advance Your plans and purposes. Help us, Lord, to live this life for You and not ourselves and to hold loosely the things that threaten to shift our focus from the reason we’re here: to glorify You. As we become more wholly Yours, give us courage and faith to stand firm in the fire.
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION:
- In Philippians 1:12-14, it becomes evident to the entire palace guard that Paul’s chains are in Christ, and his imprisonment serves to further the gospel and inspire confidence in others to be bold in their faith. Have you ever gone through a difficult time that God used to bring attention to the gospel? Have you ever endured suffering that inspired another’s faith? Or watched someone else walk through challenging circumstances and it strengthened your faith? Do you think it’s worth it? Would you share your thoughts here?
- In Acts 11:19, “those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.” I wonder if persecution is sometimes the only way God can get His people to go and preach to hostile people and places they otherwise would do anything to avoid. Do you sense God’s nudge to take the gospel to a particular person, group, or place but you’re resisting? What holds you back? Are you willing that persecution might give you the boldness to obey?
- Have you been through something unpleasant or uncomfortable only to find that it’s the reason you are able to comfort someone else going through the same thing? According to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Are you willing to let God use past and future suffering for the purpose of comforting others? What if our suffering is not about us at all but what God wants to do in someone else’s life? If that’s a hard truth for you to stomach, ask the Lord for His grace, that His holy influence would turn your heart to Him and His ways.
 Barker, Kenneth L. and John R. Kohlenberger. Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition, Old and New Testaments.