Ephesians 3:12-13 In [Christ Jesus our Lord] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.  I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

As the Apostle Paul writes this letter from prison in Rome, he is very conscious of the despair and discouragement his dear friends in Ephesus are feeling because of his situation.  They would no doubt have been deeply concerned for his personal well-being.  But they would also have been ‘reading the times’, and realising from what was happening to their faithful ‘leader/mentor’, that the future was not looking good for them … or for anyone who was responding to the preaching of the Gospel and putting their trust in Jesus as their personal Saviour!

Paul’s message to them is therefore very relevant to us today – and perhaps more so than it has previously been throughout my life time in Australia (though certainly not throughout the world and the history of the Church over the last 2,000 years since it was written!).

It is easy for us to become discouraged as we witness – and FEEL – the effects  of the advances being made by militant atheism and other anti-Christian forces at work around us.  I would not have believed when I first discovered Jesus as my personal Saviour and Lord in August 1957, that within 64 years, laws would be passed in Australia that would make it ILLEGAL (attracting a prison sentence) for me to proclaim publicly the truths declared clearly in God’s Word in passages like Genesis 1:27, Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6, Romans 1:18-32, to name a few!

So what is Paul telling US to do?  He is telling us to ‘NOT be discouraged’ by these imminent threats to our freedom, but, instead, to ‘approach God with FREEDOM and CONFIDENCE’.  He reminds us that we are able to do this ‘through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’.  This is the Lord Jesus Christ who has already WON the victory over Satan and all his ‘diabolical’ schemes and devices.  As the Author of Hebrews says: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Let us take heart.  This is God’s world, and HIS history.  Jesus warned us about what would happen as the time gets closer for his RETURN to ‘make all things new’.  And Church history shows us that persecution is the fertile ground in which he GROWS his Church.