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Sabbath School Insights
2012 Quarter 3: Jul - Sep
“Promise to the Persecuted”
For the week of Aug. 18, 2012
1 Thessalonians 1:1-12
Promise to the Persecuted
In the text for this week’s Sabbath School lesson, Paul encourages the Thessalonian believers who were experiencing persecution. Paul, in writing to the church in Roman said:
“We also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope” Rom. 5:3,4.
When writing to Timothy, Paul stated, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,” 2 Timothy 3:12.
In preparation for this week’s lesson, Sabbath School students would do well to re-read the second chapter of the Great Controversy entitled “Persecution in the First Centuries.” In that chapter (pp 47, 48) we trace the causes of persecution, as well as the reasons for its absence:
How, it is asked, can One who is just and merciful, and who is also infinite in power, tolerate such injustice and oppression? This is a question with which we have nothing to do . . . . There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today [which is]. . . . Why is it … that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber? The only reason is that the church has conformed to the world’s standard and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.
I have known Seventh-day Adventists to say they would rather go to heaven via the underground route than live through the fiery trials and persecution of the last days.
Growing up Adventist, I remember being terrified of the time of trouble. All I could imagine was that when the time came for us to flee, our family would pile into our station wagon and we would drive to the mountains. Beyond that, I couldn’t fathom what would become of us.
Fear is a powerful motivator, but not always with the best results. If I’m afraid to jump off a cliff because I will die, fear of dying is an effective motivator to keep me from jumping. But if I’m afraid to live or share my faith in Jesus because of what others may think, say, or do to me, then fear becomes destructive, and counterproductive to the cause of the gospel.
According to Romans 5:3, 4 above, the more genuine the faith and experience of Christ’s followers, the more certain it is that persecution and trials will come.
The apostle John gives the secret to dealing with this powerful human emotion of fear: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment,” 1 John 4:18.
The 1888 message of righteousness by faith was given to our church to prepare us for the terrifying, trying times ahead:
"It has been Satan’s determined purpose to eclipse the view of Jesus and lead men to look to man, and trust to man, and be educated to expect help from man. For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered." Testimonies to Ministers, 93.
In the trials that await us, faith in man will prove to be insufficient for what lies ahead. Of those who live through the last days these words are spoken: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,” Revelation 14:12.
And, “Faith is the expecting that the word of God itself will accomplish what that word says,and the depending upon ‘the word only’ to accomplish what the word says.” Lessons on Faith, p 11 Faith is the depending upon the word of God only, and expecting that word only to dowhat the word says. Lessons on Faith, p. 12
In His mercy, God has given us a prolonged window of opportunity in which to cultivate our faith – not in man and what man can do, but in God and what He can do. That faith – the faith of Jesus – is what will be needed to see us through the difficult times of the future just prior to Christ’s return.
Ironically, developing this faith is also what will incite persecution, but the words of Christ are for us today: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” John 16:33.