"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." - Psalm 23:4
2 years ago, a guest pastor in our church had showed a Youtube video, "With All I Am Music Video". It had shown about persecution of Christians during Emperor Nero's time and God's promise after the tribulation. From that music video, it had inspired me to create an artwork. It was so sad but touching about what happened to them. It gave me a point that we should hold on our faith no matter what the circumstances are.
So, What is persecution? What made an impact for all of us, believers?
According to Merriam Webster," it is an act or practice of persecuting especially those who differ in origin, religion, or social outlook."
In Wikipedia, " It is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, isolation, imprisonment, fear, or pain are all factors that may establish persecution. Even so, not all suffering will necessarily establish persecution. The suffering experienced by the victim must be sufficiently severe. The threshold level of severity has been a source of much debate."
Of course, historically, Persecution of Christians had started a year after Christ's death. Stephen was the first martyr who got beaten and stoned to death. James was followed in 41 AD during the time of King Agrippa. Then, the other apostles faced their deaths by their persecutors several years later.
In 64 AD, Emperor Nero and Suetonius started the fire in Rome. Nero was claiming that he was playing a lyre during the city burning. The emperor accused that Christians started the fire. So, Severe punishments had made on them. The following centuries later, there were major imprisonments, arrests, torture and executions. The believers began to fled and escape in the countryside, while the others were facing fatality. Persecution was not focused in the Roman Empire but also in other countries from the 2nd century up to the present time.
Sadly, this kind of discrimination tormented the Christian believers throughout the years. For the sake of the faith and relationship with the Lord, they never gave up. Rather, they continued to believe and spread the Good news. They kept their sincerity of believing about God's promise in store for them.
What does the bible say about persecution and God's promise? Here are the following verses mentioned from the scriptures:
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you." - 2 Corinthians 4:8-12
"If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." - John 15:19
"Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name."- 1 Peter 4:16
"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong"- 2 Corinthians 12:10
"But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth." - 2 Timothy 4:17
"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand." - Isaiah 53:7-10
"Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law." - Psalm 119:61
The Bible mentions how our faith works during the time of hardships. It becomes powerful because of our great love for the Lord. It proclaims the glory and truth from Him. Of course, the Lord mentioned about His promises for us.
"The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil." - Jeremiah 33:1-26
"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," - Ephesians 4:11-13
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:2-7
"Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered," - Psalm 105:1-45
"He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children."- Revelation 21:5-7
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." - Revelation 22:1-5
The Lord declared eternity as a promise and a gift to all of us. No matter how difficult the situation it may be, We should hold on to our faith.
Somehow, even today, Christians, or most of them still suffer in certain conflicts in life, but usually in the conflicts of choosing whatever path one will go. And yeah, I admit I can be one of them. Despite the sufferings, the strong bond of humanity and God turns out to be strong as before.
And yeah, tons of suffering can be equalized with tons of (or even infinite) happiness by God/Lord, as long as we cling to Him.
And for all they suffered, and many Christians still suffer in some parts of the world, the least we can do is stand strong where God put us. I suppose that since the judgment is going to be fair for all, hopefully He will give all of us enough chances and situations to witness of Him, hopefully enough of them tough enough that He may come to testify of us in a similar way He will testify of the Christians from the first centuries after Christ and all those faithful amidst persecution through the centuries until it's all finished and His day comes. So right now, we have at the very least the chance to be LOUDER, so to speak, and just to get started.
Glory to God indeed. Thank you for putting this up! God bless!
theres really not much to add. great job and many blessings to you!