I heard a speaker once who had been a missionary in an Eastern bloc country during the cold war. He returned to the country after the communists were out of power. Christians were now able to worship freely, and churches were growing. But an old friend came to him in private and asked him earnestly, “Why did God take away the blessing of persecution?” Although their numbers were growing, each believer’s relationship with God was more shallow. Persecution had made them strong, and tolerance was now serving to weaken them.
I know there are hundreds of Christians in America who have been praying for revival in our nation for years – for decades. What they’re praying for is something like the Great Awakening, a wave of conviction and redemption that sweeps across a wide area, bringing people to God and changing lives and communities as a result. And Lord knows, it would be awesome to witness a revival like that.
But I’m reminded lately of the Jews of the first century who were praying – as many generations had before them – for God to send his Messiah. They were expecting a warrior, a political leader who would throw off the shackles of the Roman Empire and usher in a new mighty Jewish kingdom. They couldn’t conceive of a suffering Messiah, of the completely different kind of kingdom he was coming to bring, even though their prophets had said plenty that could have pointed them to that fact.
They were expecting a political conquest, and instead they got a spiritual infection (a "good infection", as C.S. Lewis calls it). They expected to be kings of the world; instead, they became refined in the fire.
So many friends of mine are so discouraged at the direction our country is taking. Traditional Christianity is taking a beating. It's no longer comfortable or easy to hold or express the beliefs we hold. It puts us out of the mainstream, swimming against the current. It is costly -- in money (consider Hobby Lobby), in friendships, in reputation. And I don't see it getting any easier . . . in fact, I foresee it getting much, much more difficult . . . and I'm pondering this concept of the blessing of persecution . . .
And I'm wondering, friends, if these might be the birth pangs of the revival we’ve been praying for all these years.