by Jon Bloom
So our culture is growing more hostile toward those of us who believe and preach the gospel. It’s not like Jesus didn’t warn us: “…you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake… and because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold (Matt. 24:9, 12).
And it’s not like Paul didn’t warn us: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12-13).
We in the West have lived in a historic aberration–a few centuries when the gospel has wielded remarkable social influence and commanded some measure of social respect. But we are seeing those days waning. We are just beginning to taste what our brothers and sisters of the past and many of the present have experienced: hostile rejection.
What we must bear in mind is that these turns of events, evil though they may be, are very likely the answer to our prayers for world evangelization. God often answers our prayers in unexpected ways.
It is clear in the New Testament that human beings see the love of God in the gospel of Christ most clearly in this dark world through the suffering of God’s saints.
First, it was the Lord. The cross was the most evil and most righteous, most hateful and most loving, most profane and most holy event in all of human, indeed cosmic, history.
Then, the gospel began to spread to Samaria and other regions following the death of Stephen.
Then, the gospel spread through Asia Minor and into Europe through Pau,l who suffered more than most of us can imagine (2 Cor. 11:23-28), and eventually was executed.
Testifying and suffering: it is the motif of redemptive history. It is God’s chosen method to spread his gospel. The earliest Christians even rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).
That might seem strange to us. But that’s because we’re a bit strange in redemptive history, having, for the most part, not endured dishonor for bearing the name of Christian. But we have prayed for the gospel to spread more through our nations and throughout the world. And the Lord may be answering our prayers by counting us worthy to suffer dishonor for his name. We should not be surprised.
So what are we to do as increasing dishonor comes to us? We are to do just what the early disciples did: keep speaking. When the rulers charged the apostles to stop speaking and teaching the gospel, this is how the apostles replied: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
It is precisely when it is personally costly to speak and we still speak that people listen to what we have to say. When it’s costly to deliver a message, the message must be costly. For people only pay dearly for what is valuable. Paying dearly glorifies the valuable thing. And no message is more valuable than the gospel of Jesus.
So keep speaking.
Relentlessly keep speaking.
Relentlessly keep speaking, not to win a culture war, but to win souls.
Relentlessly keep speaking to win souls because you love souls.
And as you keep speaking, don’t look to the immediate circumstances to measure your success. It is likely that in your context, the gospel may appear to lose ground and evil appears to be winning. That is how circumstances have frequently appeared up close to saints throughout history. But, in fact, the gospel has only ever continually spread through the world, despite the devil’s best attempts to stamp it out.
So keep speaking the gospel. It is going to win out. Here is Jesus’s promise to us: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:13-14).
We will have to endure. That means suffering. But the gospel will be preached to the whole world. God will answer our prayers, first by causing us to endure, and then bringing the end. And then the suffering will be over. Forever.
So let’s “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). And let’s keep speaking.
Jon Bloom (@bloom_jon) serves as president of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched in 1994. He is also author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith.