The more we mature in the LORD, the more we come to realize our absolute desperate need of Him.
The more we become mature, the more we should become transparent and open to our fellow man. All of our suffering and tribulations are for the sake of the gospel.
The more power or influence we are given, the greater the danger of pride and deception. Power without death to self, brings corruption. Our cross is our means of execution. It is to be picked up everyday.
We must be humble, broken and lowly of heart before God. God wants to prepare us for what is coming to the church and the nations.
I had a dream years ago. I was in a coliseum like in Rome. I was looking at the people in the stands, all shouting, laughing and mocking what was going on in the arena.
I looked down and there were Christians tied to poles and others running around the bottom of the arena from lions. The lions were killing the Christians and eating them, while the crowds cheered and seemed to enjoy the sight. I was so sick. I had a hard time shaking the images of my mind from that dream.
The passion of the Roman culture for entertainment was enormous. During the reign of Claudius, 93 days each year were expressly devoted to games and spectacles. By the end of the second century the number had risen to 135.
The Roman coliseum was an arena of butchery. It was in this coliseum that many of our brothers and sisters were given to the lions and other forms of terrible torture. The brutalizing effect of the arena on Roman society was hard to comprehend. How could so many people of “culture” fail to condemn this practice?
Christians were unpopular partly because their rites were widely misunderstood. The communion rite especially. The Romans thought that their arrogance and impious behavior towards the gods of Rome, must have angered the gods themselves. Thus natural disasters such as earthquakes and fires sent by the gods, were the fault of the Christians.
Nero had self acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned, for their anti-social tendencies. Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animals’ skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be dipped in oil then ignited after dark as substitutes for day light.
Persecution has a way of stripping our masks and hypocrisies. For those who truly believe the gospel, will not compromise it, even unto death.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death,” Revelation 12:11 KJV.
During the heat of Rome’s persecution, many Christians found sanctuary under ground. In a place called the Catacombs. I was stationed in Italy when I was in the Air Force and visited Rome personally.
It was an eerie feeling going under ground knowing that Christians lived in such places as the literal under ground church. The caverns all over Rome were of volcanic porous rock. Many tunnels and caves were dug out under the city of Rome to house the under ground church.
They worshiped, prayed, taught, lived and died in those caves while persecution raged above. They buried the dead in dug out places and sealed them into the rock.
I think of all the entertainment we have as a church. How entertaining will it be when they start taking us to jail or killing us for our message? Will Christianity still be appealing to us then? We must search our own heart and mind. We must get ready and be ready for whatever comes. Are we ready?
“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but yea are strong ; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labor working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless: being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the off scouring of all things unto this day; I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me,” 1 Corinthians 4:9-16 KJV.
“And others had trial of cruel mocking and scourging, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment, they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy, they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth,” Hebrews 11:36-38 KJV.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds,” Hebrews 12:2-3 KJV.
In HIS Grace and Mercy,
~ Sherry Edwards Mackey