"Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering -- since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thessalonians 1:4-8 ESV).
Most of us have never experienced the persecution the early Christians did. But I see the prospect of persecution increasing in this country. The prevalent attitude in America is that we are living in the "post-Christian era" (USA Today). The majority of the politicians do not consider God's laws when writing the laws of the land. Our president is establishing policies that violate God's emphasis on personal responsibility and the purpose of government -- to punish those who do wrong and reward those who do right.
I predict that we are heading into a time like no other in our nation -- a time when Christians in one form or another will be persecuted.
While reading 2 Thessalonians the other day, the above passage caught my attention (even though I've read it hundreds of times before). A recurrent theme in the New Testament is Paul's praise for those who remained steadfast in the face of persecution. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5, Paul ties faithfulness during persecution with being considered "worthy of the kingdom of God." Isn't it easier to be faithful when our lives are uncomplicated than it is when we face difficult challenges? Jesus noted that even sinners love those who love them (Lk. 6:32). That's easy. However, loving and doing good to those who hate and abuse us is far more difficult, yet it's the path Christians must walk. And in doing so, we become the "sons of the Most High."
Our reward and relief may not come during our time on earth. In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul tells us that God will afflict those who afflict us and grant relief to us WHEN Jesus is "revealed from heaven with his mighty angels" (vs. 7).
I say this to encourage all of you who are trying to do God's will and are concerned with the direction our country has taken. Times may get tough, but we need to look beyond this life to what God has prepared for us in eternity.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:16-18 ESV).