Standing up to persecution isn't easy. Especially around those we really care about.
How much time and energy do we spend trying to fit in?
It’s natural - wanting to be included, accepted.
I know I’ve been through many seasons where I desperately wanted to fit in - at work, with friends or with family.
And sometimes it goes well. I feel like I belong.
But there are those times where the push-back bites at my confidence. I feel unloved, unwanted, not enough.
What about you? What areas of your life are you trying to fit in?
When I first gave my life to Jesus and invited Him into my heart, I was away at camp. I was surrounded by encouraging leaders, camp staff, and friends who understood and encouraged me. It was a powerful and life-changing experience.
And then I came home.
I was met by friends and family who had no idea what I had just experienced. No matter how hard I tried to explain or to show them, they would look at me like I had two heads, or worse, like I was now a “condemning Christian” they feared would judge them.
This was a difficult time for me. I was new to my faith with little support and already surrounded by persecution. Those I cared about would insult and make fun of me, ridiculing me for my faith.
I battled with the desire to win over those whose opinions of me had changed.
Can you relate? Have you turned away someone you cared about because of your faith?
Jesus tells us this will happen. He knows that in this broken world, His love will appear foreign. He knows that when He shines through us, we will become strangers in this world.
Take a minute and consider an area of your life where you are trying to fit in.
Maybe it is among other Christians who think you take your faith too seriously. Or maybe it’s around family disagree with this new lifestyle you’ve chosen. Or what about friends who want to do things that you don’t feel comfortable with?
You can stop striving to fit in and to be accepted because you already belong to the family of Christ.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” -Ephesians 1:4
It’s now almost ten years since I gave my life to Christ and I still find myself longing for acceptance.
Satan wants me stuck believing that I need the acceptance of those around me. He wants me to forget the sufficiency of Christ’s love for me. He wants me to ignore the family to which I already am accepted.
So how do we find the confidence to be set apart? How do we find the strength to endure persecution?
Consider Your Focus: Set Your Eyes on Things Above
When your focus rests on the things around you, then the setbacks, the disappointments and the persecution become unbearable.
In order to stand strong in your faith, you must set your eyes on things above.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:11-12
When you feel push-back or persecution, you can be assured that you are in exactly the right spot.
When you are insulted because of Christ, it’s simply because those around you see Christ in you.
As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve learned to place my hope in the glory of Christ. Doing this gives me the strength to walk through unimaginable trials.
This isn’t easy. It takes constant renewal in the way you think. It takes a reshaping of the heart and of your natural desires.
But you have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Christ is chipping away at the parts of you that long for acceptance in this world.
And as you shed this burden of acceptance, you will find a powerful freedom and confidence in Christ. You will discover the strength you need to withstand any trial and any persecution.
Let’s take a look at three powerful ways to help you walk forward in this journey.
1. Rest in the sufficiency of Christ
Renewing your mind is one of the most essential tools to finding peace and strength amidst persecution. When you focus on Christ’s love in His Word, you will find healing in the broken places.
Take time to read, to meditate on and to memorize Scriptures that remind you of your acceptance in Christ.
I’ve created a printable list of Scriptures for this very purpose.
You can download them here or at the end of the post.
2. Pray Continually
The Holy Spirit works in us through prayer. As we offer our hearts to the Lord and surrender our desires, He shapes us and heals us. I have found immense healing and strength through constant prayer.
It may help to create a prayer journal where you can record prayers requests, written prayers, and answered prayers.
Pray for strength to withstand persecution.
Pray for opportunities to be a light to those around you.
And pray that the Holy Spirit would shape in you the desire for His will to fix your gaze on things above.
3. Find Fellowship with Other Believers
It is essential to surround yourself with the body of Christ. We weren’t meant to do this alone.
If you are struggling, I want to encourage you to reach out to a trusted believer.
There is power when we come together to pray, to worship together and to lift each other up in our journey.
As you walk alongside other believers you will find the strength to withstand persecution.
We weren’t meant to walk an easy path as Christians. Christ told us that our time here would be hard. But as you find strength to stand against persecution and freedom from the burden of trying to fit in, you will see that your heart is becoming more like Christ’s.