Greetings MOL Family!
It’s said, regarding the apostles in the early church, that they rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. It is possible, my dear friends, to be so close to Jesus that when persecution comes, it only causes us to press nearer to His bleeding side.
The Hardest Persecution
These winds, this awful hurricane [as we discussed in our last lesson] that’s about to blow against the church, the result will be to separate us from Jesus and the church, or to draw us closer to Christ and closer to our brethren. And we are cultivating now the attributes of character which will decide that, when the storm breaks.
For let me tell you, friends, as you read in Matthew 7, the storm didn’t make one house strong and the other weak. It only showed up what the character of the building was. Is that correct? And the wind that we read about in Matthew 3, the wind didn’t make wheat and chaff. All the wind did was show which was wheat and which was chaff. And that’s what this wind of persecution is going to do.
Sometimes I hear people say, “I wonder if we’re not going to have to have persecution in order to get our people into the condition they need to be in.” Why, my dear friends, persecution is simply going to reveal the condition we are in. That’s what it’s going to do. Test, pressure, strong opposition is going to bring out what’s in us. If it’s gold, the fire will show the gold. If it’s dross, the fire will burn up the dross. If it’s chaff, the wind will blow the chaff out. If it’s wheat, the wheat will stay.
So you see, dear friends, we need not look ahead to this awful wind and think, “When that time comes, I’m going to build a good, strong house.” Oh, no! The time to build is before the storm breaks. Is that right? Oh, yes. So in today’s lesson, we’re studying how we can have a character that will be proof against any effort the devil can make.
Now, if we’re going to face these tests, you can see that God is going to let us have certain tests and trials ahead of time. Last week we were studying about the great tornado, the great whirlwind of lawlessness, that awful wind which is about to sweep over the earth. We were studying about how it already is beginning to blow. They’ve sown the wind and they’ll reap the whirlwind. So it is with this matter of persecution, dear friends. God is letting us have some persecution ahead of time to get us ready for the great persecution ahead.
Do you know what the hardest kind of persecution is? Well, I’m going to read you something interesting from Desire of Ages, page 357. It’s not being tortured on the rack. It’s not being burned at the stake. It’s not suffering in a dungeon…
Of all persecution the hardest to bear is variance in the home, the estrangement of dearest earthly friends. – Desire of Ages, pg. 357
That’s the hardest persecution.
Now, let’s turn to Matthew, the 10th chapter, and we’ll see what Jesus says about this. Jesus was talking to the leaders of His church here, and He wanted to warn them about what was coming. Matthew, the 10th chapter, the 21st verse:
And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. – Matthew 10:21-22
Can there be persecution right in the family, friends? Oh, yes. And so, in the 36th verse, He says that a man’s foes will be those of his own household. In other words, as the gospel is preached, people take their positions and there is pressure. In the coming storm of persecution, we shall have to endure not merely physical suffering, but the most intense mental conflicts, my friends. And some are undergoing those right now. There may be some that have, in your home, a foretaste of what many of the remnant will soon experience.
And so, my dear friends, if you’re called upon to meet those pressures, or somebody in your home opposes your stand for Jesus, your stand for His truth, and your stand for His standards, remember: Jesus knows all about that. He says, “I’m going to be with you.” Do what we’re reading here in Isaiah 32 – flee to the hiding place:
A Man shall be as an hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest… – Isaiah 32:2
And even if it’s in the same house with you, the same home with you, the same family with you, that persecution arises, flee to Jesus. Learn what it means to hide in the cleft of the Rock. Learn what it means to suffer the way Jesus did – without angry retorts and selfish self-defense. Learn what it means, friends, to reveal the character of the Master.
What Will We Do?
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. – 1 Peter 2:21-23
We can afford to wait for vindication until Jesus comes, my friend.
And I want to tell you something: if you cannot endure in the home to stand for what you believe is right, if you cannot endure in the church the ridicule or the opposition of a worldly influence, what will you do when the great storm breaks and everything and everybody in this world is against you? You remember how the Lord put it to Jeremiah – if you’ve run with the footmen and they’ve wearied you, what will you do when you have to contend with horses? (See Jeremiah 12:5.)
And so with these winds. If we can’t stand a wind that’s blowing 20 miles an hour, what’ll we do when it’s blowing 150 or 200 miles an hour – this wind of persecution, this terrible hurricane of opposition against the church and the truth and the message of God? So, if God is letting us have persecutions of a sort, opposition of friends and loved ones, those near to us, remember: this is getting us ready for what’s ahead.
Let’s read another inspired picture of this approaching sifting, brought about by this wind of persecution. This is found in Volume 5, page 81:
The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 81
Has that come yet? No, this is talking about something future. And then notice, just like Great Controversy, page 608, this tells us the same thing in different words:
Those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will not find it a hard matter to yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. The contest is between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. In this time the gold will be separated from the dross in the church…Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, pg. 81
Has God given us the business then, today, of deciding who are faithful and who are not? Why, no, friends; we’d make poor work of it. God hasn’t put that responsibility in our hands. But let me tell you, when the wind of persecution starts to blow, then all the chaff is going to do what? Going to blow out. It can’t help it. Against that awful storm of persecution, no unconverted person can stand. His house will tumble and go down. His faith will crumble. He’ll be gone, out with the apostates, with the opposers.
But the true people of God (oh, thank God, friends!), they will shine like stars in the dark night. They will be true. They’ll be the wheat that stays in the threshing floor. They’ll be the gold that the fire doesn’t consume. They will be a part of that house built upon the Rock against which the storm beats, the floods come, the winds blow, but the house stands, for it’s built upon the Rock. Oh, I’m so glad for the bright view of what’s ahead. What do you say?
Really, friends, we have nothing to be discouraged about. It’s true we’re going into a time of great test and trial, but Jesus is going to be with us. You remember that when the three Hebrews were thrown in the fiery furnace, they found Someone in there with them. Who was it? Jesus. They must have had a wonderful time in there. We’re told that when they came out, there wasn’t even the smell of fire on their garments. The only thing that had been consumed was the ropes that they had tied them up with. And in there with Jesus – what a wonderful time!
And as you and I go into this furnace of affliction, as we go through this storm of persecution, we are going to sense the presence of God more than we have ever known it in the past. Aren’t you glad for that, friends? I’m glad for that. I think it will be worth it. What do you say? So, let’s not worry about it, friends. Let’s not feel perplexed or burdened in the sense of losing heart. Not a bit of it. We have every reason for faith and courage and joy in the Lord. I want to be ready. What do you say? Can we be? No question about it. “And a Man shall be as an hiding place from the wind…” (Isaiah 32:2). We can hide in Him.
Put On Your True Colors
Now, another statement that I wanted to share with you in this study is found in Volume 4 of the Testimonies, page 89:
I was pointed to the providence of God among His people and was shown that every trial made by the refining, purifying process…proves some to be dross…In every religious crisis some fall under temptation. The shaking of God blows away multitudes like dry leaves. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 89
Here’s the wind, you see. It “blows away multitudes like dry leaves.”
Prosperity multiplies a mass of professors. Adversity purges them out of the church…They go out from us because they are not of us; for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, many are offended. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 89
So this storm of persecution is going to blow out, this illustration says, multitudes like what? “Like dry leaves.” We’ve seen how the dry leaves in the fall, a wind comes along, and away they go. That’s the way it’ll be with multitudes in this church when the storm of persecution comes. Volume 8, page 96:
Some have so long sacrificed principle that they cannot see the difference between the sacred and the common. Those who refuse to give heed to the Lord’s instruction will go steadily downward in the path of ruin. The day of test and trial is just before us. Let every man put on his true colors. Do you choose loyalty or rebellion? Show your colors to men and angels. We are safe only when we are committed to the right. Then the world knows where we shall be found in the day of trial and trouble. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 8, pg. 96
So the choice is between loyalty and rebellion. That’s what the issue is going to be over: the seal of God (standing for loyalty) or the mark of the beast (rebellion).
The following is an inspired statement with a little word in it that means a lot. See if you can find the little word with three letters there that means a lot.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:12
Is there any way to get away from this wind, then? No. The wind is going to blow on us wherever we are. We can’t move to some country where persecution won’t come. We can’t live so nicely and sweetly and meekly and gently and lovingly and tenderly that persecution will let us alone. No. No way to avoid it.
…All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. – Ibid
1 Thessalonians, the 3rd chapter, and the 3rd verse, just back a few pages. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians who were suffering persecution, wrote:
That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. – 1 Thessalonians 3:3
Has God made an appointment with you in persecution, in affliction? Yes. Will you keep the appointment or will you dodge it? Will you evade it? What will you do as the wind blows in your home, in your community, wherever you are and no matter what point it comes over? Now, the great point in the coming test will be the Sabbath. But there are many things that a man may be ridiculed for or opposed over. Anything that God has told us to do, friends, becomes a point of attack from the enemy. Thank God we can show our colors of loyalty and be true, no matter what those around us do.
You know, I’ve thought about it, friends, in the training of our Seventh-day Adventist children. Sometimes it seems to me that parents are too afraid of their children having to be peculiar. Sometimes parents seem to want to move into a Seventh-day Adventist community, and then be sure that every parent in that community has the same high standards that they seek to hold. And if they can’t find a place like that, they think it’s just too bad because “Poor little children.” Now, why are they ‘poor’ little children? Why, my dear friends, was Daniel a ‘poor’ little boy because he had to stand alone for God? Was Joseph a ‘poor’ little fellow because even among his brothers he had to stand out against their vile talk? Do you not see, friends, that in the experience of Joseph and Daniel, God purposefully allowed them to be in situations where it was necessary for them to stand, sometimes alone, sometimes almost alone?
So, while I certainly agree that we should choose the best environment for our children that we can find, do not think that that means that we’re going to find a heaven on earth where there’s no devil to tempt and nobody to invite us to lower our standards.
Every time, dear parents, that your children have the opportunity to stand alone for God, they’re getting an experience in being ready for this awful hurricane that’s soon to burst upon the world and the church. So don’t be afraid of that. Don’t let it worry you. And don’t think that it means that your child has to be like the crowd. He doesn’t have to be like the worldly crowd. He doesn’t have to be like even the crowd of professed believers. If you, as a parent, have clear convictions on any point of practice in your home and with your children, stand for what you see in the Word of God and the Testimonies of His Spirit, regardless of what those around you do. And don’t let it worry you. Don’t let it worry your children.
And if they say: “Yes, but Mother, look! All the children, they do this,” or if they come to you, fathers, and say, “Why, Father, sure I’ve got to do this. All the boys are going to do it,” train your children to expect to be different. Train your children in the stories of Daniel, of Joseph. Train your girls in the story of Esther, who risked her life in order that she might save her people. Train your boys and girls in the story of John the Baptist, whose parents were so careful and so strict in health reform and all the reforms.
Let your heroes and heroines be those who stood for God all alone, all down through the pages of sacred history and through the Dark Ages. Let the stories of the Waldenses be familiar to your children. Read it there in Great Controversy, the wonderful story of how those young people risked their lives and many times gave their lives rather than give up the truth that they stood for.
Oh, this is a glorious hour to be living in, friends! This is no time to lower our standard.
You know, the prophet tells us about a certain battle in a war where the soldiers were retreating because of a terrible enemy attack. And as these soldiers were retreating, an officer noticed that up on the battle line there was a soldier that was still holding the flag. He was the standard-bearer. And the soldiers were back here and there he was. And he said to him, “Bring the colors back to the men.” And he shouted back, “No, bring the men up to the colors!” And my dear friends, the prophet of God, commenting on that, says:
This is the work that devolves upon every faithful standard bearer – to bring the men up to the colors. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, pg. 45
Let’s do it. What do you say? Thus we’ll be ready when this storm of persecution breaks. And not one of the true-hearted will be blown out by this wind – only the chaff, only the dry leaves, only the professors that haven’t had a deep work with God. Hidden with Jesus in the cleft of the Rock, we shall be safe when this awful hurricane breaks.
Until next week – Invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…
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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.