“They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering service to God (John 16:2).” These were the words of Jesus to his disciples before his departure. They were not the words his followers wanted to hear, but Jesus’ forewarning came true.
About a year after Jesus’ death, a group of religious leaders picked up stones and stoned to death a Christian leader (Acts 7). At that stoning was Paul of Tarsus. The men laid their coats at his feet, as he approved the execution. This Paul went on to zealously persecute Christians. Not long after this, Herod Agrippa I executed James son of Zebedee. He was the brother of the John who recorded the words of Jesus mentioned above. This John would be exiled to the Island of Patmos, because he followed Christ. He would write the Book of Revelation. This book was largely a book of hope for Christians undergoing intense persecution. Less we think the persecution of Christians is a thing of the past, estimates tell us today well over two million Christians around the globe experience a high degree of persecution.
In a country where Christians still enjoy a certain degree of religious freedom, it may be hard to identify with these violent types of persecution. However, there is another type of persecution. Christians are frequently portrayed as narrow-minded, archaic, bigoted, self-aggrandizing, self-righteous hypocrites. Because of this, many Christians at times feel embarrassed about their faith. So, when others are talking about Christians, they never let on that they are a Christian.
One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to aid Christ’s followers in testifying about him (John 15:26-27). I know a woman who teaches elementary age children about the Bible and Christianity. She says that children ask more difficult questions than adults. At times, she has found herself speechless. So, she silently prays to herself a simple prayer, “Holy Spirit, give me the words to speak your truth into these children’s lives.” She says that the Holy Spirit always comes through. The words that come out of her mouth are often more brilliant and meaningful than anything she could have come up with on her own.
Similarly, the Holy Spirit equips Christians to stand up to a persecuting world and testify about Christ. Next time you are given the opportunity to testify about Christ, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to speak the truth of Christ into that person’s life.