Persecute means: To pursue in a manner to injure; to cause to suffer because of belief, especially religious belief. To afflict, harass, or annoy with urgent attacks, pleas or the like.
John 15:18-20 - If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
Matt. 5:11 - Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for GREAT is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I enjoy studying Church History and reading about all the mighty men and women of God who have gone on before us. Many of these saints were persecuted for righteousness sake, but they never gave up the fight. Some were burned at the stake, while others were crucified, tortured, thrown to lions, etc. My heart grieves as I read about them and the terrible suffering they had to endure. Yet, in the midst of it all, they continued to sing praises to God and witness for Jesus as they were being persecuted and put to death. What a testimony. These men and women were true witnesses (martyrs) for the Lord. They refused to deny Him, even though it meant dying for Him. What an inspiration these saints of God have been to me as I have studied their lives. May we all learn from their experiences.
Let's begin by looking at the lives of a few of God's generals:
Polycarp was born in Smyrna and later became Bishop there. He was a student of the Apostle John and a friend of Ignatius.
It is said, that one day, soldiers were looking for him so they could arrest him and he tried to escape. Even though he tried to hide, a small child discovered him. When the soldiers found out this information, they went to his home to arrest him. Upon arrival at his home, the soldiers were welcomed and Polycarp fixed them a hot meal. He talked to them for a while and then he asked them if he could have one hour to pray before they took him away. They consented to his request and allowed him to pray for one hour. He ended up praying for two hours. He prayed so fervently, that his guards said, "We are sorry that we were the ones who captured you."
When He was brought before the governor, he was told that he would be thrown to wild beasts. Polycarp's response was, "Bring out your beasts." The governor then told him, "If you scorn the beasts, I'll have you burned." Polycarp answered, "You try to frighten me with the fire that burns for one hour and you forget the fire of Hell that never goes out."
This man was fearless in the sight of his persecutors. He wasn't afraid to die. It didn't matter to him if they threw him to the wild beasts or if they burned him at the stake. He knew that he was in the hands of His God.
When asked to renounce his faith in Christ, He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served Him and He hath done me no wrong. How can I speak evil of my King who saved me?"
Polycarp was eighty six years old when he stood before the governor. That didn't matter to him. He still had the strength and the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon his life.
When they tried to nail him to the stake, he said, "Let me be as I am. He that grants me to endure the fire will grant me also to remain at the fire unmoved, without being secured with nails." He was not nailed to the stake. Tradition says that he just stood there as the flames engulfed him. Even though the fire kindled around him, it would not kill him, so they stabbed him with a dagger. His blood put out the fire.
You talk about steadfastness in the faith! What a mighty man of God!
Wycliffe was born in Yorkshire, England in 1324. He was called the "Morning Star of the Reformation."
Great spiritual darkness permeated most of Europe at this time. The Lord used Wycliffe to stir up much of this area with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Wycliffe was a high official in England. He acknowledged the Bible as the only source of truth. He declared Christ as the head of the church. He rejected the doctrine of infallibility (the Pope is without sin). He wrote against the doctrine of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is a doctrine of the Catholic Church which says, the little wafer (in communion), literally becomes the body of Christ and the wine literally becomes the blood of Jesus. Wycliffe taught against this doctrine.
He sought to revive the importance of preaching by creating a band of traveling preachers/evangelists.
For many years, the Bible was not in the language of the people. It was forbidden for people, at that time, to have their own Bible. He felt it was important that the people be able to read the Bible in their own language, so he translated the Bible from Latin to English.
He was declared to be a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church, because he taught against their church doctrines.
He died in his sleep on December 31, 1384 at the age of 56.
Thirty one years after his death, the Council of Constance decreed that Wycliffe's body and bones be removed from the burial place and burned and the ashes thrown into the river. His persecutors thought they would kill his continuing influence by doing this. Needless to say, it didn't work because others continued the work that he started.
He was born in Hussenitz, Bohemia in 1372. He studied theology at the University of Prague, and was ordained a priest at the Bethlehem chapel in Prague in 1402. He was known as the "Bohemian Reformer."
He defined the church as the body of Christ. He taught that only God could forgive sins.
Huss was greatly influenced by the writings of Wycliffe and taught many of his teachings at the University in Prague. He translated Wycliffe's writings into Bohemian.
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Prague issued a decree to suppress the further spreading of Wycliffe's writings. This had a great effect upon the reformists at this time, and instead of suppressing the spread of his writings, it increased it. All those in the University (reformists) united to spread the teachings as far as they could.
Huss opposed the archbishop's decree personally and from the pulpit. The archbishop then obtained an official document from the pope, giving him the authority to stop anyone from publishing Wycliffe's doctrines in his province. He condemned Wycliffe's writings and commanded any who had such writings to turn them over to him. When four Doctors of Divinity did not, he issued a decree that they were forbidden to preach to any congregation. Huss and four members of the University protested the decree and appealed the sentence to the archbishop.
One thing led to another, and Huss was summoned to Rome to answer accusations that he was preaching errors and heresies. Huss didn't personally appear before the council at this time, but some others represented him instead. The cardinal declared that Huss was stubbornly disobedient, and immediately deprived him of any further rights of church membership by excommunicating him. Huss's representatives appealed to the pope, but the sentence was then enlarged to include all of Huss's friends and followers as well.
Huss appealed the sentence, but it was to no avail. During this time, he retired to his hometown in Hussenitz and wrote books against the corruptness of the Roman Catholic pope, cardinals and clergy. He made sure his arguments were biblically sound and they had much impact on those who read them.
Huss was invited to attend the Council of Constance, and was guaranteed safety by Emperor Sigismund. Huss arrived in Constance in January of 1415. He was arrested and confined to a room in the palace. The Emperor refused to intervene or protect Huss in any way.
When Huss was brought before the Council, forty articles were read against him. Huss again appealed. The council continued to ask him many questions, of which he responded to them all.
Seven bishops came forward and commanded Huss to put on the garments of a priest. Huss obeyed and they began to degrade him and mock him severely. Then, they removed the priestly garments from him and cut off the crown of his head with a pair of shears. They put a paper bishop's hat that had demons on it, on his bloodied head. As this hat was placed upon him, the bishop said, "Now we commit your soul to h---."
Huss lifted his eyes to heaven and said, "I commend into Your hands, O Lord Jesus Christ, my spirit that you have redeemed."
They led Huss past a fire where they were burning his books and he was then bound to a stake with a chain. A bundle of sticks was piled up around him and the duke of Bavaria tried to get him to recant his teachings. Huss refused to recant, so the sticks were lit and the flames engulfed him. Huss began to sing a hymn, so loud and cheerful, that he could be heard above the crackling of the burning sticks and the noise of the crowd watching him burn. He died quickly and slumped forward against his chains.
The bishops gathered Huss's ashes and threw them in the Rhine River. (The same was done with the ashes of Wycliffe).
John the Baptist:
John was beheaded in prison. His head was carried on a platter and presented to Herodias' daughter Salome.
He may have been executed around A.D. 64 during the persecutions of Emperor Nero, or possibly later in A.D. 67. He was crucified upside down, at his own request.
He was crucified at Patras in Achaia.
James was beheaded.
(brother of James and son of Zebedee)
He was banished to the Isle of Patmos and died a natural death.
Philip preached the Gospel in west central Turkey before being martyred at Hieropolis.
He did missionary work in Armenia, eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and India. Tradition says he was flayed or skinned alive and then beaten.
Many believe he labored in Iraq, Iran and southern India. He was speared to death near Madras, India.
He preached in Judea and was possibly martyred in Ethiopia or Persia.
James: (Son of Alphaeus)
Tradition says he worked in Palestine (Israel) before he started preaching. He was martyred in Egypt.
He was most likely killed in Persia.
Simon the Zealot:
Some say he was martyred in Persia. He may have been crucified or hacked to death.
Judas hung himself.
Tradition says he was beheaded at a place called Tre Fontane in Rome, and that the church of St. Paul stands over his grave.
These are just a few, of many, who were persecuted and put to death for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of us have no idea what the word persecution really means. Many of us think we're persecuted because someone calls us a "Jesus Freak." This may be a type of persecution, but when comparing our lives now with the lives of these mentioned above, we've not really suffered at all. Thank God for His mercy upon us! Thank God we've not had to face the fire or the sword, but what if the day comes when we will have to face it? Are we ready to suffer for the cause of Christ? Are we really willing to lay our lives down, if it would come to that?
These are questions that we need to ask ourselves. We are not exempt from any of these things. Persecution could happen to us at any time. We never know what tomorrow will bring.
If we are completely sold out to Jesus, we will be able to stand in the face of our persecutors and say, "Into Thy hands I commit my spirit, O Lord."
I believe there are many different types of anointings that believers can walk in. I believe that there is an anointing that will come upon all those who must suffer persecution at the hand of their enemies. The men that were mentioned earlier were anointed by the Spirit of God to die. I believe the anointing of God was all over them as they were tortured and persecuted for righteousness sake. There's an anointing that will be upon us for every situation that we must face. We don't have to be bound by fear regarding the future. Our times are in His hands! If it's God's will for us to suffer persecution, He will anoint us and give us the ability to endure it! Hallelujah! I believe God is raising up both men and women, who will be fearless, when they stand against opposing forces. No weapon formed against His Church shall prosper! We belong to Jesus Christ and He's going to bring us through to VICTORY! May we give ourselves completely to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work in us mightily for His glory.
We are just scratching the surface of what God has for us to accomplish on this earth. May we continually seek Him and put Him first in our daily lives. He is worthy to be praised and glorified. Let's glorify the King of Kings with all that is within us. Let's not bring reproach to His name by the way we live. Let's commit our ways to Him and fulfill the destiny that He has for each one of us.
2 Cor. 4:8-10 - We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
2 Cor. 4:16-17 - Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our LIGHT AFFLICTION, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
May God bless you richly as you serve Him.