Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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November 2, 1997
Last Updated :
December 31, 2012
Choose Your Battles Wisely, People Divided By The Word Of God, Persecuted For Our Faith, Scriptural Examples, God's Care And Protection, Don't Purposely Go Looking For Trouble, Don't Play The Martyr, Agree With Thine Adversary Quickly
Choose Your Battles Wisely
Being as we are clearly involved in spiritual warfare, it is very important that we choose our battles carefully. Stated another way, do not start a battle unless you are sure that you can win it, or at least that you are prepared to suffer the consequences if you should happen to lose it. You need to count the cost of your actions, just as Jesus advises us to do in the following verses:
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace."
Luke 14:28-32, KJV
During the many years that I was an active street preacher, I was harassed by policemen, by store owners or managers, by the officials of a few foreign governments, by communists in Mexico, by atheists, by close-minded religionists and others. As we discussed earlier, whether you are witnessing on the street, or going door-to-door, or witnessing online, or being a light for the Lord in any other fashion, you really need to be thick-skinned. Active witnessing is not an occupation for spiritual babes who barely know the Lord, and who are barely grounded in God's Word. Train them first and provide them with a strong foundation in the Scriptures before you send them out to be chewed up by the wolves and butted by the goats of the world!
While we should most certainly not compromise our message or bow to political correctness, there are times when we should exercise a little wisdom, and tread a little lighter, if it will help us to last a little longer in a certain witnessing field. Believe me when I say that sooner or later, the time will arrive when the enemies of the Gospel will finally get tired of you, and will give you the boot, or at least make it impossible for you to continue your witnessing activities in that particular locale. This happened to me many times over the years. Even if you are not looking for trouble, trouble will find you. If you are on-fire for the Lord, it invariably happens that Satan will send along one or more troublemakers who will heckle, harass and ridicule you, and try to interfere with your public witness; so get used to it, and don't let it bother you too much.
So again, choose your battles wisely. Know when it is time to fight, when it is time to exercise patience, and when it is time to quit and go elsewhere. This is exactly what Jesus did. On one occasion, after having performed the miracle of the fishes and the loaves, certain people wanted to make Him their king. Obviously, it was not the Lord's intention to be a king of this current world. Thus, rather than acquiesce to their demands, Jesus departed into a mountain by Himself. On another occasion, after He had preached at the synagogue in his boyhood town of Nazareth -- during which He read from the Book of Isaiah and boldly stated that He was the fulfillment of those particular Scriptures -- his listeners became very offended and upset. As a result, they tried to throw Him over the edge of a hill, but the Lord escaped out of their hands. Consider the following verses:
"When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone."
John 6:15, KJV
"And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way,"
Luke 4:28-30, KJV
Divided by the Word of God
Earlier, we discussed how different people will react to the Gospel message in different ways. This is precisely what we see happening in the previous verses. Some people wanted to kill Jesus, while others wanted to make Him their king. You should expect the same kind of variety in reactions when you preach the Gospel publicly. Your audience will almost always be divided, because that is exactly what God's Word does; that is, it divides the sheep from the goats. Consider the following verses which clearly prove this point:
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me."
Matthew 10:34-38, KJV
"Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
Mark 13:12-13, KJV
"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."
Luke 12:51-53, KJV
"Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division among the people because of him."
John 7:40-43, KJV
"Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them."
John 9:16, KJV
"There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?"
John 10:19-21, KJV
"And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles."
Acts 14:1-4, KJV
"But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both."
Acts 23:6-8, KJV
Persecuted for Our Faith
As I point out in other articles such as "Civil Disobedience and Christian Persecution", being persecuted for our faith -- whether it is just verbal persecution, or actual physical persecution -- is a fact of life for the on-fire Christian. It simply cannot be avoided; that is, unless one willingly chooses to hide their light under a bushel, which will have its own serious consequences. Of course, Jesus was not the only person who had to escape from angry mobs; mobs which ultimately demanded His very blood. Many other people in the Bible had to flee from persecution as well. You may recall that in the Old Testament, the Prophet Elijah fled from King Ahab and his wicked, witchy wife Queen Jezebel, whose body was eventually devoured by dogs. The Prophet Jeremiah was accused of being a traitor to his own nation, and eventually found himself thrown into a pit full of mud, into which he sank. In the Book of Acts we also learn that the Apostle Paul was forced to engage in a nighttime escape -- in a basket no less -- when he had to flee from Damascus. Consider these verses:
"And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket."
Acts 9:23-25, KJV
"In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands."
2 Corinthians 11:32-33, KJV
The previous verses are just a few examples of the harrowing incidents which were experienced by the Lord and His First Century followers. As I said, the Old Testament is full of similar stories, as is the Book of Acts, the Epistles, and the Book of Revelation. As we saw earlier, Jesus advised us to count the cost, and to make certain that we can complete what we have begun before we even start it, lest we shrink back in cowardice when the going gets rough. There is no doubt that the going did indeed get rough for our Christian brethren of the First Century. It is commonly believed that most of the Twelve Apostles died as martyrs; as did Stephen, James, Paul and others as well. As the following Scriptures clearly reveal, persecution in one form or another is what we should expect, if we actively engage in witnessing for the Lord:
"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."
Matthew 10:22, KJV
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another."
Matthew 24:9-10, KJV
"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls."
Luke 21:12-19, KJV
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."
John 15:18-21, KJV
"Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison . . . And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name."
Acts 5:17-18, 41, KJV
"When they [the Jews] heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him [Stephen] with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."
Acts 7:54-8:1-3, KJV
"Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people."
Acts 12:1-4, KJV
"And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks."
Acts 16:19-24, KJV
"For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:"
Acts 24:5, KJV
"I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."
Acts 26:9-11, KJV
"But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;"
2 Corinthians 6:4-5, KJV
"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."
2 Corinthians 11:23-27, KJV
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:"
2 Timothy 2:12, KJV
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:12, KJV
"I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth."
Revelation 2:13, KJV
"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."
Revelation 6:9-11, KJV
"And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth."
Revelation 18:24, KJV
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
Revelation 20:4, KJV
God's Care and Protection
It is evident then that we are bound to face casualties of one kind or another, as a result of actively promoting our faith. In fact, while we Christians who live in the West are free to practice our faith with very little opposition, such is not the case with many of our brethren who find themselves living Muslim-dominated nations, and in other non-Christian lands. As many of you will already know, these dear brethren face daily persecution in the form of ostracism, oppression, persecution, torture, imprisonment, and even death. While we do not know the future, or what the Lord may have in store for us in the years ahead, given the way that a large part of the world is becoming increasingly hostile to our Christian faith, it is a cause for concern. However, we should by no means fear; because no matter what happens, God is still in control, He truly cares for us, and He won't allow anything to happen to us, unless it is for our own good. Consider the following verses:
"The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."
Psalms 34:7, KJV
"Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."
Psalms 55:22, KJV
"A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee."
Psalms 91:7, KJV
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."
Isaiah 26:3, KJV
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."
Matthew 10:28-31, KJV
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."
Luke 12:6-7, KJV
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
John 10:28-29, KJV
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:28, KJV
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Hebrews 13:5, KJV
"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
1 Peter 5:7, KJV
Don't Look for Trouble or Be a Martyr
While persecution may possibly be in store for some of us as a result of our witnessing activities, at the same time, we should not purposely go out looking for trouble. As I noted earlier, if you are a faithful witness for the Lord, trouble will find you soon enough. As I also pointed out, and mention in the article entitled "He Who Fights and Runs Away: Choose Your Battles Wisely", sometimes it is wiser to back down and be a little more low-key, rather than face persecution, and possibly lose our freedom to witness altogether. The truth is that sometimes fighting back may simply be our pride kicking in. If you are accused of being a coward, who cares? Another day, another battle. Don't go out of your way to be a martyr. The Lord needs each of us here as long as possible. If you do something stupid to cut short your ministry, you may possibly miss someone who you were supposed to reach. In such a case, the Lord will just have to send along someone else to finish the job for you.
As I said earlier, when you are out on the witnessing field, you must be led by God's Spirit. Don't waste your time on the goats, and most certainly do not provoke them unnecessarily. For example, if a certain store owner, shop manager, or mall security officer asks you to leave the premises immediately, don't stand there and mouth off to them. If you do, the next thing you hear may be a police car siren pulling up behind you. Wouldn't it be rather dumb -- not to mention a waste of your time -- to spend the next few days in a jail cell with smelly drunks and who-knows-who? While you may boast in your self-righteous pride that you are willing to suffer for Jesus Christ, I must wonder if you were really locked up because of your own stupidity.
Agree with Thine Adversary Quickly
To reiterate, do not purposely go looking for trouble; and try to avoid playing the martyr. If business owners, civil authorities or similar individuals ask you to move along, do so quickly before they become impatient with your flippant attitude. As Jesus teaches us, "Agree with thine adversary quickly." Some of the verses which come to mind are the following:
"Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."
Matthew 5:25-26, KJV
"They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."
Matthew 22:21, KJV
"And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him."
Mark 12:17, KJV
"And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's."
Luke 20:25, KJV
"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
Romans 12:18, KJV
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake."
Romans 13:1-5, KJV
"These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men."
Titus 2:15-3:2, KJV
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king."
1 Peter 2:11-17, KJV
Please go to part six for the continuation of this series.
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