‘And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…’ (Hebrews 12:1–2 NIV)
We will all face opposition in one form or another at some stage in our lives. And if we are Christians, Jesus has stated that we will face it (John 15:18).
Throughout history some famous Christians have been opposed in what they were doing:
William Tyndale, who pioneered the translation of the Bible into English, was called ‘a spreader of sedition’ by King Henry VIII, a ‘devil worshipper’ by Sir Thomas More, and was tried and convicted of treason and burned at the stake. In recent times Melvyn Bragg has said, ‘his genius makes him one of the co-creators of the English language’ and ‘one of the greatest men in English history’.
Lord Shaftesbury was one of the key individuals responsible for bringing about reform of Britain’s factories, improving working conditions and limiting the length of the workday. He was described as ‘a danger to the welfare of the community’ by Sir William Clay MP and that he ‘could bring about the ruin of the country’ by Joseph Hulme MP. More recently the former MP, William Hague, has described him as, ‘one of our country’s most effective and successful politicians’.
William Wilberforce, the architect of ending slavery in the British Empire, was accused by General Gascoyne MP of fomenting revolution and murder in the West Indies. Again, William Hague has said of Wilberforce ‘his extraordinary combination of humanity, evangelism, philanthropy and political skill made him one of the most influential Britons in history’.
All of these Christians faced opposition in what they were doing and yet they stood firm and continued to do what they believed to be right.
Facing opposition to Christian beliefs can be most acute for teenagers and young adults.
For you it might be atheist friends or teachers at school or university making you feel stupid for believing in God.
It might be non-believing friends who want you to go to their parties, to drink, take drugs and have casual sex, abandoning the ‘restrictive rules’ of Christianity.
This kind of opposition can really shake your confidence in what you’ve learnt about God, and make you think, “Has science disproved the Bible?” “Am I missing out on a full life by not going to parties, drinking, taking drugs and having sex?”
The answer to standing firm and not giving up for Tyndale, Shaftesbury and Wilberforce, is the same for young people (and us oldies) today: Focus on Jesus.
Investigate who he is, his claims, his life, death and resurrection. Check it out for yourself.
When you discover that he is God in the flesh; that he is alive and is supreme then you’ll realise that you are not being anti-intellectual or missing out on anything by following him. In fact you’ll have the true fullness and fulfilment of life and the promise of eternity with him that will sustain you through any opposition you may face.
So stand firm.
Don’t give in to the people who give you a hard time.
Remember Jesus and don’t give up!
Father, we thank you for faithful Christians in the past that refused to give up on you despite the opposition they faced. Please help all of us today, young and old, to keep Jesus central to our lives so we can stand firm through whatever opposition comes our way, in Jesus’ name we pray.
Have a good week standing firm.