Luke 21:12-15 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”
One of the people who would have been present to hear Jesus make this amazing, far-reaching promise, is the apostle Peter. When he wrote to Christians in the early Church who were being scattered throughout the ancient world, and were being severely persecuted for their faith, he said to them, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:14-16).
There is great comfort to be found in combining Peter’s instruction with Jesus’ promise. I am not among the more courageous heroes of the Christian faith – people like Ridley or Latimer who witnessed bravely as they were being burnt to death at the stake in Oxford on 16 October, 1555, or Cranmer who was martyred the year after. I often wonder how I would go if I was placed in a similar position. I don’t feel very brave as I think about it.
But I take heart in knowing that all I have to do at present is be firmly settled in my heart/mind that Jesus, my Saviour, is Lord (as he has proved to me by his faithfulness for over 65 years), and he will look after the rest, as he has done for Ridley, Latimer, Cranmer, and countless others for more than two millennia!
The other exciting thing about Jesus’ promise is that, not only will he give me the words to speak when the time comes, but he will use the whole situation (including my/his words) to leave my adversaries without a counter argument and, hopefully this will bring some/many of them to saving faith. I still don’t feel very brave, having written what I’ve just written, but do know for a fact that the Church is growing fastest where the persecution is the greatest! Come, Lord Jesus, come!
– Bruce Christian