When first becoming a child of God, persecution was not on my mind. Had it been, it might have scared me away. I only realized the possibility later — when reading verses like this:
You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:17–19)
Endurance? While excited to be a Christian, I didn’t know much about endurance. A new believer seems enveloped in a bubble of protection. How could God ever let anyone hate me?
Chambers says that a new Christian has to learn how to live as a Christian, thinking with the mind of Christ and responding to life in a new way. He uses the phrase, “Acquire your soul with patience.”
Then he notes that many “stay at the threshold of the Christian life instead of going on to construct a soul in accordance with the new life God has put within.” I’ve noticed that too and wondered why some believers never seem to grow. He says it is ignorance of the way we are made (or bad teaching). Many blame their problems on the devil instead of their own sinful and undisciplined natures.
Blame-shifting began in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake. “The devil made me do it” has robbed many a Christian of taking responsibility, but also the wonder of an amazing discovery — confessing sin results in forgiveness, cleansing, and becoming more like Jesus.
Ignorance and unbiblical teaching results in other problems. Sometimes we ask God for deliverance when we already have it and need to take hold of it in faith. Or we pray for His presence yet He promised to never leave us or forsake us. Or we ask for the ability to love, or the pleasure of joy, or for inner peace, when these and other graces are already ours in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The bottom line for much of it is finding out what God says. If I cannot live as God asks me to live, I need to seek out my responsibility in the matter. If I blame the devil or anyone else, I will miss living as God intended. Yet in all of this, I am not my own Savior. Jesus Christ died for me and He also lives for me and in me.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:20–21)
Growing in the grace and knowledge of God means learning how to live by faith. It also means learning how to let Jesus save me from my foolishness. Trying harder does not work. Admitting that I cannot do it has taken me farther in my journey with Him than doing anything like ‘pulling up my own bootstraps.’ Resting in His promises has rescued me from more distresses and brought me more joy than by taking any other sort of initiative.
As for the endurance Jesus talked about in Luke 21, this also is a quality that He produces. He uses the trials of life, big and small, to not only test me, but to show me His great faithfulness and build the capacity to hang in there during those trials. In the beginning, I was excited and thought I could do anything. Through the years, I’ve calmed down and realize that apart from Him, I can do nothing, yet in Him I can do all things.
Corrie Ten Boom asked her dad about enduring persecution. He told her this was like riding a train; she would be given the ticket when she needed it. God gives what is needed when it is needed. I may never be severely persecuted, but if I am, the patient endurance needed is from Him, the One who is my life. I can depend on Him.