The early Christians were tortured, excluded from Jewish temple activities, reviled by the Romans and martyred. Even running a business was difficult as they were ostracized by nearly everyone in the Roman empire, afraid to do business with people branded as enemies of the emperor. They were starting with nothing. They could only rely upon fellow Christians. There was nowhere to go but up.
Contrast this with my life, living in the United States. I am blessed with a job, family, and friends. For years I did not have to worry about whether I would be discriminated against because of my religion, race, or even gender. Yet, ominous storm clouds are brewing. The liberties that Christians and other religious groups have enjoyed for so many years are under attack by atheists and liberal activist groups. They are bent upon establishing a politically correct environment in this county, free of any religious overtones or moral obligations. Everyone and every behavior are acceptable and if anyone raises an objection, they are immediately branded as narrow and bigoted. These views completely ignore the fact that their very viewpoints epitomize the same narrow prejudices they claim they are battling and defeating. Sadly, for Christians, there may be nowhere to go but down.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Revelation 2:10 (ESV)
When the Apostle John wrote to the early Christians who were suffering persecution, he wanted to encourage and remind them that in this life, their souls, were more than this earthly existence. The trials and tribulations they were facing were preparing them, strengthening their faith, for an eternity with God. A crown of life awaited them, filled with unimaginable blessings. No doubt, John must have remembered the words of His Master, Jesus Christ, who gave this sober warning to all of His disciples:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Matthew 24:9-13 (ESV)
Throughout the world, all Christians are being assaulted for their faith. The early Christian believers started with nothing. It should be a sobering reminder that in these dark days, we must cling to our faith in Jesus Christ and not the security and safety of our education, jobs, and relationships. We, too, must start with nothing. Our reward is in Heaven and our hope is only in Jesus Christ.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.