Relationships of the Believer
LESSON FOURTEEN – PERSECUTION
Lesson Goal: Our goal in this lesson is to understand what persecution is, why it comes, and what benefits it can have in a believer’s life.
PERSECUTION IS A PART OF EVERY BELIEVER’S EXPERIENCE.
Persecution should not be an unexpected or surprising occurrence for believers. The verses below clearly show that persecution and suffering will be part of the life of every genuine believer.
1. Read Matthew 5:10-12–10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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.
a. When are we to be happy or blessed?
b. What should we do when facing persecution? Why?
c. Who were the ones who endured such persecution before us?
2. Read John 15:18-25–18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: `No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: `They hated me without reason.’
a. Who did the world hate before it hated us?
b. Who does the world love?
c. Who sent Isa?
3. Read John 16:1-4–1 “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to Allah. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.
a. In this passage Isa warns his disciples that what is going to happen?
b. Thus, if such things occur in our lives, should we be surprised? Why or why not?
4. Read 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4–2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and Allah’s fellow worker in spreading the Injil of al-Masih, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.
a. What is a believer destined for?
b. What do you think, should we seek to hide from new believers the fact that trials and persecutions are going to come into our lives? Why or why not?
5. Read 2 Timothy 3:12–In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in al-Masih Isa will be persecuted.
a. Of those who want to lead a godly life in al-Masih Isa, how many will face persecution?
b. If we do not live lives obedient to Allah, is it very likely that we are going to suffer for our faith? Why or why not?
REASONS FOR PERSECUTION
6. Jealousy of Religious Leaders.
a. Read John 12:10,11 and 19–10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Isa and putting their faith in him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
NOTE: Isa raised Lazarus from the dead immediately before this incident occurred.
1) What did the chief priests plot together?
2) What was their reason for doing so?
3) What was the Pharisees’ sad conclusion in vs 19?
b. Read Acts 5:17,18–17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.
1) What were the feelings of the high priest and his associates?
2) What did they do as a result?
c. Read Acts 13:44,45–44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
1) What was the Jews’ response on seeing the crowd?
2) What was the reason for their anger?
3) As a result, what did they proceed to do?
d. Read Acts 17:5–But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.
What did the Jews do out of jealousy in this incident?
7. Exposure of Other’s Sins and Wrongdoings
a. Read John 3:19-21–19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through Allah.”
1) What has come into the world?
2) Who was that light? (See also John 8:12–When Isa spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”)
3) Why does the world hate the light?
b. Read John 15:18-25–18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: `No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: `They hated me without reason.’
1) As the world hated and rejected Isa, so too it will reject whom?
2) What is the reason for that hatred according to verse 22?
8. Revenge for Financial Losses.
a. Read Acts 16:16-21–16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Isa al-Masih I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. 19 When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
1) Why were the owners of the spirit-possessed girl so upset when she was freed from the spirit’s oppression?
2) Did they tell the magistrate the real reason for their anger against Paul and Silas?
3) Instead, what was their official complaint?
b. Read Acts 19:23-31–23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.
Why was Demetrius so angry with Paul?
9. Honest but Misguided Attempt to Serve Allah
a. Read John 16:1-3- 1 “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to Allah. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.
1) What do those in this passage think they are doing when they persecute the disciples of Isa?
2) They think this way for what reason?
b. Read Acts 26:9-12–9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Isa of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them. 12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.
(NOTE: In the above passage the Apostle Paul describes his own condition before becoming a disciple of Isa.) Before coming to faith in al-Masih, how did Paul seek to serve Allah?
10. Our own Mistakes and Insensitivities.
In this section we shall not look at Scriptural examples, but rather at examples from our own situation. Thus, some people change their names on coming to faith in Isa. Others shave their beard, change their vocabulary, the dress style or the food they eat. Such actions are usually very offensive and strongly resented by the person’s friends, relatives and neighbors. For doing such things, many have faced various trials, lost their jobs and even been driven from their homes and families.
a. Do you think the things mentioned above such as changing one’s vocabulary or dress style are really honoring to Allah in this situation? Why or why not?
b. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23–19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from Allah’s law but am under al-Masih’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the Injil, that I may share in its blessings.
What do these words have to tell us in this matter of living so as not to offend those around us? What was Paul’s motive for not creating offense?
c. Give some examples from your own experience where you or someone you know suffered for foolishly doing something which offended others?
ALLAH’S PURPOSE BEHIND TRIALS AND PERSECUTION
11. Read Romans 5:3-4–3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
a. What are the results of suffering in a person’s life?
b. Thus, what should our attitude be in the midst of suffering?
12. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10–7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that al-Masih’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for al-Masih’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
NOTE: In this passage we see that a difficult trial has come into Paul’s life. The specific nature of the trial is not mentioned, but it clearly weighed heavily on him.
a. Paul realized that the trial had come into his life in order that he might learn to trust only in whose strength in each situation?
b. Give your own explanation of verse 10 –
13. Read 1 Peter 1:6,7–6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Isa al-Masih is revealed.
a. What impact does Allah intend for trials and suffering to have on a believer’s faith?
b. What is a believer’s faith compared with in this passage?
NOTE: If you are interested, you can read more about Allah’s purpose behind suffering and trials in the following passages:
2 Corinthians 1:3-7–3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Isa al-Masih, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from Allah. 5 For just as the sufferings of al-Masih flow over into our lives, so also through al-Masih our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
Hebrews 5:8–Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.
Hebrews 12:4-11–4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; Allah is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but Allah disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
OUR ATTITUDE IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS AND PERSECUTIONS
14. Read John 16:33– “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
If we continue in close fellowship with al-Masih, what will we experience in the midst of trouble and suffering?
15. Read Acts 16:22-25–22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to Allah, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
a. Though Paul and Silas had done no wrong, what happened to them in the city of Philippi?
b. Despite the treatment they received, what do we find them doing in their cell at midnight?
16. Read Romans 8:18–I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
a. The sufferings and trials of this life seem minor when compared to what?
b. Recall what you just read in Acts 16:22-25. Where do you think Paul and Silas had their focus as they sat in their jail cell – on their present sufferings or on their glorious future?
YOUR OWN CONDITION
17. Have you had any significant trial or persecution in your own life or in your believer group (if you have one)? Describe briefly.
18. What was the reason for that persecution? Was it any of those mentioned above?
19. What was your attitude and that of other believers in your group at that time?
20. Can you point to any benefits that came out of that trial?
21. What have you learned in this lesson that could be of help in facing future trials?
TO MEMORIZE – ROMANS 8:18
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.