Luke 12:4-5, “4 I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
The fear of persecution is being afraid of rejection, threats and physical harm by those who oppose the gospel. On one hand, this kind of fear comes natural to everyone because no one desires to suffer and be mistreated. Even Jesus, God the Son in the flesh, prayed in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” On the other hand, like every other fear, the fear of persecution is not of God and can lead to disobedience and rebellion.
For example, when Peter was afraid of persecution he denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75). Jesus had taught Peter, along with all the other disciples, not to fear what man can do to the body but rather fear what God can do to the soul. However, when it came time to stand up and be counted as a disciple, Peter let his fear take over. We are to obey God’s commands even if we are afraid. Fear is still rebellion against God and is never an excuse for disobedience; especially when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission.
Our fears can make us cowards and Jesus said cowards would be cast into the Lake of Fire. John wrote in Revelation 21:8, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile… and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Thankfully, Peter was given a chance to repent and reaffirm his love for Jesus, unlike Judas who hung himself and most likely went to hell (John 21:15-19). Afterwards, Peter preached the first message of the church in Jerusalem before thousands of people filled with power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-41). The same Peter who weeks earlier was afraid to even admit he knew Jesus in front of a servant girl was now able to preach before a whole city without the fear of death- that’s what faith in action looks like!
Eventually, Peter along with many of the disciples were arrested, flogged, publicly mocked and even put to death. Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he felt he was unworthy to die how Jesus did. Now because of the courage of these great disciples we have the expansion of the Word of God growing all over the world (Hebrews 11:36-12:3).
Though the fear of persecution is real, we are to be people of faith and follow all of God’s commands- especially being obedient to Jesus’ command to be a public witness (Acts 1:8). Don’t let what people say and do affect your willingness to go in public and preach the gospel. Always remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Are you afraid of persecution? If yes, the answer to the fear of persecution is two-fold. First, fear God more than man and second, be filled with the boldness of the Holy Spirit. If you want to be free from fear pray this prayer out loud from Acts 4:29-30, “29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Has the fear of persecution ever made you afraid to preach the gospel to strangers in public?
- Repent of the times you have had the fear of persecution.
- Ask God to fill you with the boldness of the Holy Spirit.
- Fear God more than you fear man and be a public witness for Jesus Christ! Thomas Watson wrote, “[Christianity] will cost us the tears of repentance and the blood of persecution.”