Every two to three years, I have the pleasure of gathering with my extended family in North Carolina for a family reunion. It is a joy to see distant cousins and hear all the old stories from our elders about growing up “down south”. It is humbling to go see the small farm home that raised ten children and to hear about what it was like as a sharecropping family. We also share current stories about marriage, raising kids, employment, etc., only to realize that life “up north” is not that much different from the south. As we learn from the past and from our current extended family, it gives us perspective of our own lives.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16, Paul reminds the Thessalonian Christians that the persecution they are enduring is like the persecution their brothers and sisters in Judea are having to bear. He also helps them to see beyond their contemporary struggles to the reality that opposition to the gospel has been on full display since the beginning. Both Jesus and the prophets received push back when proclaiming the truth, even to the point of death. To be reminded of the difficulty our extended Christian family deals with as well as God’s people in the past, it puts our present life in perspective. To be reminded is both humbling and encouraging. It is humbling because we cannot hold an idea that our persecution is somehow unique. But it is also encouraging for we know that as God has strengthened and kept our spiritual ancestors, he will do the same for us.
As we experience the current culture’s opposition and attempted suppression of the gospel message, we are not called to grow weary, for we have the accounts of our brothers and sisters from around the globe who face great opposition but do not shrink back. But we also have the witness of Scripture and historical records that give account for the church’s strength in the past. As the preacher in Ecclesiastes would state: “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiasts 1:9). As Satan continually attempts to hinder the proclamation of the gospel, God is constantly strengthening and emboldening his saints to tell of His good news, for salvation of many, and to the glory of His name. To be encouraged, my suggestion would be twofold: (1) get acquainted with the global church and (2) read church history. Below I have listed some resources that would prove helpful.
Global Church Resources
· The Joshua Project [here]
· PCA Mission to the World [here]
· The Voice of the Martyrs [here]
Church History Resources
· Foxes Book of Martyrs by John Foxe
· “5 Minutes in Church History with Stephen Nichols” (Ligonier Ministries Podcast) [here]
· The Story of Christianity, Volumes 1-2 by Justo Gonzalez