Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God knew we would be challenged, persecuted, troubled, embarrassed, harassed, and hurt in this world. He knew the weight of sin. That’s why He sent his son Jesus, to take it on His own shoulders for us. He loved us that much. Yet, He allows us to experience trouble and persecution.
Why? Paul, an apostle and former persecutor of Jews, tells us that it’s the sin of this world that causes death and faith in Christ that gives us life. In Romans 8, Paul gives us a guide to what life is like for those who have this faith. He tells us that those who are called by God will be used for His purpose and all things will work out for their good
Yet, when you’re in the battlefield, it doesn’t always feel that way. You don’t feel like fighting the battles that this world brings. If you’re weary from the good fight, you might want to go read Paul’s speech in Romans 8 again.
You’re a conqueror because of the love Christ has for you. That’s worth jumping out of bed for every day. Grab that sword of truth (Ephesians 6) and get ready to face your day.
It’s easy to say it, but it’s not easy to do it, especially when you consider the words of people— said to you and about you. Still, even here God has a battle plan for you. A plan for you to conquer persecution and trouble with your faith.
James, who was Jesus’ half-brother and initially was quite doubtful of his brother’s mission (John 7), may have picked up where Paul left off in his powerful speech. His entire letter is more of a playbook on how to live this Christian life. In it, he addresses persecution and trials as a means of how we get closer to God. He writes: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, NIV).
He even tells us how to deal with this challenge of words—ours and the ones others use against us. He covers all the bases with how to handle God’s Word, your words, and others’ words when it comes to all situations—especially trials.
Here’s what he writes: “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and] slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]” (James 1:19, AMP).
Why does God allow persecution? Persecution and trials contribute to your walk toward holiness. Trials prove your faith, prune the defects from your human heart, strengthen your relationship with the Lord, and prepare you for His great plan for your life.
So, when you’re in a trial, scripture gives you some instructions that help you accomplish this game plan:
1. Listen to what God’s Word is telling you about your need for this trial.
Listen to how God intends to shape you in and through it. What are the revelations that shall come from it? What about your character is it challenging? Which of God’s promises is it revealing? What of your behavior is it calling for you to alter?
2. Listen to others and recognize that they are experiencing trials too.
Listen for common ground so you can say “me too” and share the power of the Gospel in your trials. Finding common ground in trials can be life-giving to a hurting soul and a blessing to the one who comforts.
3. Listen with God’s filter on your mind. Don’t take the words of others to heart. Don’t allow anger to block your faith.
When conversations heat up and words become weapons, you don’t have to participate in the anger. You are not responsible for the anger of another person. You are responsible for your response. Scripture tells us to be “patient, reflective, forgiving” in our response to others.
Yet, that’s REALLY hard to do. But there’s a secret to it. Listen for the voice of God in what they are saying. What is He asking you to do in this trial?
4. Remember the game plan—prove, prune, strengthen, prepare.
God is allowing these trials because He’s proving your faith. He’s addressing your defects and He wants you lacking nothing with regard to what He wants to do with your life.
Don’t get angry, because you’re listening for the voice of God in what’s being said to you. You’re listening for God’s intent rather than another person’s intentions.
Now, go be a conqueror!