Nine people were killed and several seriously injured in another tragic school massacre this past Thursday. This latest carnage took place at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon.
A witness said the gunman demanded to know each student’s religion before shooting them. “The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian,” she stated. “If they said, ‘yes’ then they were shot in the head. If they said ‘no’ or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs.”
When I read that story I immediately wondered, “If someone pointed a gun at my head and threatened to kill me if I said I was a Christian, how would I respond?” What about you? Would we renounce Christ so we could continue to live or would we courageously state that we belonged to Christ and were willing to die for His name?
Jesus warned that in the last days His followers would experience severe persecution. “Brother will betray brother to death and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
With the chaos that’s going on in the world right now, we don’t know what the future holds. Values are eroding rapidly and “everything nailed down is comin’ loose.” “Preppers” are stockpiling weapons, food and water supplies. I’d suggest followers of Christ can intentionally take several steps to prepare our hearts for intensifying opposition so that we can stand firm to the end.
1. Make up your mind in advance what you are going to do if threatened. When Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians, he made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s food regardless of the consequences. Don’t wait until the pressure is on to make a decision. Plan in advance that you will immediately take your stand for Jesus Christ regardless of the nature of the threat against you.
2. Rely on the Holy Spirit to empower you and don’t be anxious about what will happen. Jesus said, “When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20).
When Adolph Hitler was persecuting Jews as well as the Christians who attempted to protect them, Corrie Ten Boom expressed concern to her father that she might wilt under persecution. He reminded her that when they traveled together on a train when she was a little girl, he didn’t give her a ticket until just before they boarded the train. He had it all along and supplied it just when she needed it and God will do the same.
“God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
3. Practice standing up for God’s truth even though you don’t have a gun to your head. Instead of worrying about what we’d do under threat of death, let’s focus on being courageous under threat of ridicule or rejection.
When you’re involved in a discussion in a secular setting are you willing to share Biblical truth without cowering? Are you willing to say:
“I believe God created the world. We’re not here by evolutionary accident.”
“I believe in absolute truth expressed succinctly in the Ten Commandments.”
“I believe man is inherently evil and left unrestrained we are all capable of
“I believe marriage is ordained by God to be only between a man and a woman. It is not a human institution to be totally disregarded, easily dissolved or dramatically redefined.”
“I believe life is sacred from the womb to the tomb.” It is a gift from God and is not to be terminated by human hands.”
“I believe there is a heaven and there is a hell.”
“I believe Jesus Christ died an atoning death and arose bodily from the grave and he is our only hope for eternal life.”
Try making those statements as lovingly as possible and you are likely to experience hostile reactions or at the very least a mild repudiation. Taking a stand for Biblical truth will soon cure you of being a people-pleaser and condition you for anything more severe that may lie ahead.
Remember Jesus said, “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you” (Luke 6:26). And, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
Back in the 1960’s a story circulated from Eastern Europe about a small church that was meeting in secret. One Sunday night two communist soldiers burst through the door branding automatic weapons. They shouted, “Everyone who is willing to renounce Christ leave now. If you remain you will be shot on the spot!” Several quickly exited. Most stayed and prayed.
When the deserters had fled, the two Russian soldiers walked to the front and put down their guns. They said, “Brothers and sisters we too are Christians but we dare not have fellowship with anyone who isn’t a genuine believer. May we worship the Lord together with you?”
We have a plaque in our kitchen that reads, “Fear not tomorrow, God is already there.” Let’s live like that’s true!
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