The Difference between Trials and Persecution
A common question: What is the difference between everyday trials and day-to-day persecution? At first the answer wasn’t obvious. Therefore, I did the expected – I prayed. “Lord, what is the difference between trials and persecution? As we endure these times of tribulation, should we differentiate between the two at all?”
The Lord reminded me of Job. Similar to Abraham, Joseph, Paul and others, Job’s faith in God was definitely tried (or tested). The difference between Job and most others is that Satan’s attack on Job’s life was discussed for implementation – or planned for execution. Put simple, Job was diligently pursued by Satan. Prior to Job's persecution by Satan, Job had not willfully sinned against God. However, God tested, measured and presented Job’s faith as a testimony of Job’s righteousness.
Job loved God and walked circumspectly before Him. Job even offered up sacrifices to God every day on behalf of his children who may have sinned before God at any time. Job genuinely feared God. While God permitted Satan to wreak havoc in Job’s life without cause, God was yet still in control of Job’s life and his future. Life and death is in the hand of God, as David indicated “my times are in Thy hands”. (Psalms 31:15). God had already known every work or attack Satan would have performed against Job. God knew that Job would have stayed faithful and that He would have substantially restored Job’s losses during his time of persecution. Even Job’s wife discouraged him during his time of persecution. While Job was diligently pursued by Satan, Job’s faithfulness testified of God’s righteousness and glory: Have faith in God and God will deliver you!
Job was pursued. Satan’s pursuit of Job lasted for a season. After Job’s physical body was attacked with painful sores, Job may have perceived that his end or death was near. Yet still, Job steadfastly continued to trust in God, pleading with God for mercy. God completely delivered Job from the enemy.
God Knows All and Everything
The difference between enduring trials and surviving persecution is that when persecuted, the enemy diligently pursues the eternal life and faith of the believer (or Christian). Tests or trials aim to manifest individual weaknesses or those areas in which both those righteous are lacking. However, persecution (a more intense form of trial) measures and clarifies our faithfulness or righteousness to death before God. Again, God already knows all and everything. We, on the other hand, need to know how faithful and righteous we are (or are not) in order to assess our standing with God. Persecution usually requires more patience and trust in God. Do you trust in God in every aspect of your life? Do you trust in God to death? Are you walking the straight and narrow path? Are you worthy of the prize called Heaven? It is God who searches the reins and hearts of men.
Persecuted Christians tend to feel spiritually discouraged, lack of faith, unmotivated to pray, disconnected or even suicidal – unworthy or guilty of God’s love or the prize of Heaven. These feelings are deceptive, as the enemy tempts individuals to sin, rejecting the righteousness and power of God. It is primarily these deceptive feelings or lies resulting from persecution that can drive wedges between man and God. In Psalms 51:14, David begged God for forgiveness and to deliver him from blood guiltiness after David committed murder. David’s heart was heavy with sorrow and guilt. God knows that we are not perfect in this flesh, as our omniscient God knows all things. Therefore, it is not necessarily our flaws that keep us apart from God, but our failure to seek God diligently for forgiveness or deliverance from our flaws. Those powerful forms of depressions or sorrows that keep us back or in a place of unrepentance, rebellion or unbelief (like barriers and strongholds in our lives) can cause man to miss Heaven in the end.
As strange as it may seem, we should rejoice in persecution for the mere reason that a plan of implementation or execution is needed to pursue us at all. Peter indicated "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also, with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13). If we must rejoice in mere trials, then how much more should we rejoice in persecution! A well-armored soldier of Christ has already conquered his foes. On Christ, the solid Rock, we stand.
Like Job, the persecuted are usually already within a close walk with God. What a great consolation and confirmation! God will not allow Satan to persecute us, if through God we couldn’t handle it – whether we believe we can or cannot handle such a spiritual pursuit. Philippians 4:13 reminds us that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. This is the attitude we must maintain during difficult times of persecution. Jesus is always with us, “even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
Therefore, while trials inform us of our weaknesses, persecution prepares our souls for eternity in Heaven with God. Thank you Lord!
Read more about Christian Persecution at www.cwcsisters.org.