FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION
EVANGELIZATION AND PERSECUTION
April 19, 2016
Today’s reading: Acts 11:19-26
The work of evangelization is an assault against the kingdom of darkness. Thus the enemy will retaliate with all his might. Thus we can expect oppression and persecution. But Jesus has already won the victory, and God can turn seeming defeat into opportunities to further His work.
This is what happened to the early Church after the martyrdom of Stephen. “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews.” (v.19). Because they were being persecuted and hunted down, many fled. So the work was negatively affected, right? Yes but no. The work actually expanded, as those who fled to other places continued the work where they had scattered to.
The Church first preached the gospel to Jews, but the word of God cannot be contained. “There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. So the work not just expanded geographically, but also began to reach those who were not Jews, the Gentiles. And we know that eventually the gospel was brought to the ends of the earth.
In their difficult situations, facing opposition and oppression, living in foreign lands, the disciples still proclaimed the gospel. Since they still allowed themselves to be used by God, then they continued to reap the harvest. “The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” (v.21).
What principles do we learn here?
One, when we truly serve the Lord, and especially in proclaiming his salvation, we can expect opposition and even persecution. That is part of the package. It is not a walk in the park.
Two, when we are opposed or our work not accepted or even stopped, we just move on. There are many opportunities that the Holy Spirit will provide. In fact, God would allow such seemingly negative situations precisely in order to move us on to newer and better situations. Of course, we should later, even much later, try again in the place or situation where we had not succeeded.
Three, we are but instruments. Many times we do not see what God intends to do. We must simply trust that God wants the gospel to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth, and allow Him to use us in whatever way. If we do things God’s way, then we need not be dismayed or discouraged with current results, but look to the good which God is already getting underway. To be truly God’s instruments, we must be like Barnabas, who “was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith.” (v.24a).
If we simply persist and persevere despite trials, challenges, difficulties, setbacks, opposition, oppression and persecution, then God can do His work in and through us. What result can we then look forward to? “And a large number of people was added to the Lord.” (v.24b).
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