The preaching of the Gospel always brings opposition, even strife. What is Good News to some is anathema to many. For all those who are broken and in great need of the Word of God, there are also those who want nothing to do with the ways of the Lord. Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:9 described this situation well:
… for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
In fact, this could probably be seen as a solid rule of thumb. If God opens doors for His Word to go forth, the enemy – feeling the breeze that’s coming in – will accompany God’s messenger to thwart him. Another way to put this may be that as the one who carries the Gospel ventures out filled with the Spirit of God, a close, and quite unwelcome, companion will inevitably be at his side.
But, that’s not necessarily bad. It may even be the best thing that could happen to God’s apostle. (To be clear, any one of us may be considered an apostle if we are speaking the truth of God by evangelizing or discipling. An apostle is simply one sent on a mission, i.e. a messenger.) How, you ask, could this be beneficial to have opposition of this nature?
We have only to consider the means by which the Word of God has spread in hostile and restricted countries around the globe. These are nations that have serious resistance to God’s truth. They may be Islamic, Hindu, communist, or animistic. Whatever their persuasion of religion or atheism, they don’t like their beliefs challenged. Obstruction and enmity may come from the hands of friends and family, or it may come from the government. Regardless, there can be great antagonism toward Jesus Christ.
Depending on the situation, believers may be able to meet openly yet face serious difficulties in the form of government harassment or raging mobs. In other circumstances, because of the illegality of Christianity, believers can only meet underground, i.e. out of sight of any prying eyes. This might mean gathering in the cold of a deep forest or surreptitiously in someone’s home only by twos or threes. Any more people draws too much attention. For their praise and worship, if they can even play music, it must be very soft. Worshipers likely cannot raise their voices above a whisper in singing. If they are discovered, the consequences can be dire.
None of this should be a surprise to us. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
The sword may be wielded within families, as Jesus continued to describe in the next verses. God’s Word brings division, much of it painful. It’s one thing to be persecuted by the authorities for being Christ’s representative. That can result in torture and death. What may be worse to deal with, however, is the alienation from loved ones. The wrath coming from the government is impersonal; the hatred that arises from those close to a believer is something that cuts to the quick. It may be harder to take than the suffering one endures from an unknown sadist.
What inevitably happens in these areas of trouble and tribulation is that the church of Jesus Christ increases. Yeast in the Bible is usually something negative, but Jesus used to describe how the growth of God’s kingdom works in a hidden, positive fashion in Matthew 13:33:
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
That’s exactly what has occurred in places like China and Iran. Pressure upon the church causes it to spread and grow sight unseen. But all of a sudden, there are millions of believers.
Human adversaries don’t become opposition without demonic incitement. At the core of man’s desire to prevent the Name of Christ from being preached is Satan’s hatred of God. Anything and everything that he and his minions in the demonic realm can do to thwart God’s plans and purposes are on the table. In these last days, they know their time is short, so what we have seen over the years as to how they have caused men to spurn God will only intensify. They know that if they lose (which they most assuredly will) that they are destined for eternity in the Lake of Fire. If you knew that was your fate, how hard would you fight against the One who intended to make that happen?
With the gathering storm of hostility that we see from men against Christianity, and that which we don’t see in the spiritual realm, yet is a boiling mass of ungodly darkness, what must we – as true believers – do? Should we shrink back and be silent? As Paul would say: “God forbid!”
We are in the final days before the Lord comes for His church to snatch us from this alien place to our true home. Now is the time we should stand bolder for Christ than we ever have. His Name should be constantly on our lips. This is the point for all of us where we earn or cement for ourselves Christ’s commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” For believers, now is the time for works in Jesus’ Name. These works aren’t bringing us to salvation, they are done as a result of it.
Look at what Paul said as encouragement in 1 Corinthians 16:13:
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
We’re to keep our eyes peeled for opportunities around us to demonstrate the love of Christ, even as we continue to look up in eager anticipation for Jesus’ coming for us in the clouds. We’re to make sure our ears are attuned to God’s Word and for the trumpet that will sound announcing our departure from this earthly plane of existence.
When Paul says for us to act like men, he‘s saying that we must be responsible and courageous. Such necessary behavior obviously isn’t limited just to men. All believers in Jesus Christ, male and female, brothers and sisters in the Lord, can and must be strong in Him. The key is that it is His strength that animates us and makes any of this possible.
Adversaries will arise on every side to attempt to steal, kill, and destroy what God wants us to accomplish before Jesus returns. If we abide in Him, remain rooted in His Word, and pray without ceasing, He’ll be with us in the midst of all our troubles, and will surely come sooner than we think.