Persecution and Suffering Permeate the New Testament

  1. Jesus spoke these verses on suffering and persecution: “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it,” (Luke 9:24 and other verses). “In the world you will have tribulation; but take heart I have overcome the world, (John 16:33b). “When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away, (Mark 4:17 and another verse). “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons…and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for My Name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your life, (Luke 21:12-19 passage, with parallels is Mark 10:16-30).
  2. Paul has passages on suffering “With far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hand of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure,” (2 Corinthians 11:23b-27).

Other Pauline verses are, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?,” (Romans 8:35). “My persecution and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:11-12). Paul says from prison, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ…It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:12-13, 20-21).

  1. Peter, Luke, James, John, and others author of tell about followers of Christ having problems and most of the apostles were killed for their faith. To say the least the New Testament describes a virtually endless amount of trials, tribulations, suffering, persecutions, and even death for those who choose to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. This leads to the following questions:
  1. If persecution and suffering permeate the New Testament why do we avoid it so much?
  2. Do some verses justify our goal of staying away from even discussing the subject?
  3. Why do most of the world’s people live in persecuting countries but we avoid the topic?
  4. Could it be that the majority of humanity who reside in persecuting areas are more closely obeying the New Testament than American and other western believers are?

Pastor Josef Tson’s Testimony at Brother Andrew & Open Doors’ ’95 Prayer Conference

Pastor Tson’s context is that communists ruled Romania after World War II as the Russians put ruthless Nicholas Ceausescu in charge. Josef Tson explains the communist’s cruel way of eliminating Christianity over time:

“In 1948 the first communist school teacher told us that ‘Religion has to disappear from society. In a generation for all religion to disappear from your country by isolating the new generation.” It was dangerous to have Christian books and Josef became a Christian at a university in 1951. He shares, “Twenty students tried to defend their mind against (communist) brainwashing and learned English to read Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s Christian books. (The Christian leaders left us) isolated; pastors are ordered ‘If you are caught working with youth, children, or students you are finished, you go to a labor camp,’ and nobody would dare come to teach us (about Jesus). Nobody was interested…we were left alone; everybody was waiting for us to perish.

There was a young man when he heard about 90 million youth in the communist world he asked the question ‘Who will bring Bibles to these young people?’ And he heard an answer, “You.” And from our side we started to hear there are some strange people who come and bring new Bibles. It was in 1963 or so I saw a new Bible. I tried it and kissed it. You don’t understand what a miracle it was. Brother Andrew was a sign we were not forgotten. Somebody started to think of us…’Those people need the Bibles.’ Jesus’ words meant for Josef that “I will build my church in Eastern Europe and the gates of hell of communism would not overcome it,” (Matthew 16:18), and Pastor Tson continued with

“When communism came over us we heard people who were trained by American missionaries (tell us) we should avoid suffering. We should accommodate (the communists). Why suffer if we can avoid suffering? And all the compromises that were accepted in the ‘50s and ‘60’s in Romania were accepted under the slogan, ‘Let’s avoid suffering.” The greatest revolution in my own life came in 1972 when I understood that suffering is a call and that martyrdom is the greatest function that God gives to some elect.

When I understood that suffering is a call and martyrdom is a function, and when with my wife accepted together that if the Lord gives us that function we accept it gladly. And when we decided to raise up a new generation of people who were not afraid to stand up, preach the whole counsel of God and then die for it. And I figured out that after a while if I did like that maybe they would kill me, but then, of course, everybody else would say they want to follow that example. But the goal was to raise a generation of preachers who are not afraid of dying but consider that dying is an honor.

And after a while, when I was arrested and a secret police officer threatened to kill me, I said ‘Well sir, let me explain to you that issue. Sir, your supreme weapon is killing, my supreme weapon is dying. Now here is how it works sir. My sermons on tapes are all over the country, you know that. When you shoot me, I sprinkle my sermons with my blood. Everybody who has a cassette with one of my sermons will say, ‘I better listen, this preacher really meant it, he died for it.’ Sir, my preaching will preach ten times louder if you kill me, and I will actually conquer this country if you do it, go ahead and do it.’

Now wait. There were more who heard this. One of them told another minister, ‘We know that Mr. Tson would like to be a martyr, but we are not that big fools to fulfill his plan.’ That man ran to tell me, ‘Josef even if you wish, they will not kill you.’ Why? Don’t you see something strange? I wasted my life. When I put my life on the altar accepting to be a martyr, they tell me even if I begged them, they would not kill you. Now I can go and preach whatever I want wherever I want because they will not touch me. As long as I wanted to save my life I lost it, when I lost it I found it. Now somebody said something like that somewhere. Okay?

They didn’t touch me because they understood the value of martyrdom. That’s it Brother Andrew. What the world needs is a clear teaching on the value of suffering and martyrdom, to see the joy of it, the beauty of it. When Peter & John were beaten their backs were cut with a whip. Now (did you see) them afterwards going to the church and crying and everybody crying with them? In Acts 5:41 they went out rejoicing because they were found worthy for their treatment! Build that kind of a Christians everywhere in this planet and nobody can defeat them anymore because there is no more dangerous creature than people who are not afraid of dying.”