God has called His children to be His representatives in this world and therefore, our privilege and responsibility to share His love must be evident in every aspect of our life. In fact, Jesus’ life on earth proclaims the certainty of this unique call to witness. However, because our calling is in direct opposition to the prince of darkness, as God’s children on earth, we also face the certainty of the devil’s direct attack on us. But through this experience we have the assurance that we will be “blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests on [us]” (New American Standard Bible, 1 Peter 4:14).
PERSECUTION OF GOD’S CHILDREN THROUGH THE AGES
When Jesus said, “The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (King James Version, John 15:20) He wanted them to understand what they would face in the years to come. Indeed, it wasn’t long afterward that Stephen faced death at the hands of a persecuting mob. Later we read that Peter understood how Jesus’ words of warning were not limited to his own generation but would indeed encompass the experience of all God’s people down through the ages, until Jesus’ second coming. This is evident in Peter’s later advice to “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you” (1 Pet 4:12), thereby describing Satan’s warfare against God’s children during Peter’s generation and for the years to come.
In The Great Controversy, we read “the history of the early church testified to the fulfilment of the Saviour's words [regarding persecution of His people]” (White, 39). In fact, Satan feared the gospel’s triumph and summoned his forces to utterly destroy Christianity. “Beginning under Nero about the time of the martyrdom of Paul, [persecution] continued with greater or less fury for centuries” (White, 40). However, history testifies that Satan’s efforts to destroy the church of Christ were in vain. Even when facing death by the stake, God faithful children “rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer for the truth, and songs of triumph ascended from the midst of crackling flames” (White, 41).
However, amidst the gloom that settled on the earth during these dark years, God had a remnant who kept the light of the truth from being wholly extinguished, by passing the light of truth from one generation to the next. In fact, in every age there have been witnesses for God, men and women who held the Bible as their rule of life, refusing to compromise even a single truth.
THE BATON OF TRUTH
In mid-July, Toronto Canada hosted the famous Pan Am Games, the world’s third largest international multi-sport competitive event, where representatives from 41 countries participated in a host of summer sport competitions. In the relay races, one of the competitions at the Pan Am Games, the challenge is not only to run fast and to stay on the course, but also to pass the baton in such a way that the next team member is able to grab it correctly and keep running. A team is disqualified if they drop the baton, or pass it improperly. In fact, many still remember that at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, both the U.S. men's and women's teams dropped the baton in the semifinals, and were sadly disqualified from the race.
WHEN WE EMBRACE UNCOMPROMISING ADHERENCE TO THE TRUTH THE BATON IS AUTOMATICALLY PLACED IN OUR HAND
Amazingly, the world’s longest relay race begins in Nagasaki Japan and ends after 1064 km. However, as God’s people we are engaged in a much longer and more important race. We are not engaged in a competition but rather a war, and we do not pass a wooden baton, but rather, the baton of truth from one generation to the next. In fact, to accept the baton of truth is to automatically join the winning side. Unlike the Pan Am Games in Toronto where 12 of the 41 competing countries felt the humiliation of receiving no gold medals, all of those on God’s team are winners and will one day receive the crown of victory from Jesus’ own hands.
When we take up the baton of truth we are in direct opposition to God’s enemy, who immediately embarks on a plan to disqualify us from the race.
PETER AND JOHN’S EXPERIENCE
In Acts 4, we read that Peter and John were apprehended because they taught the people and preached about the resurrection from the dead. Thus, because they responded to Jesus’ commission to teach the gospel (Matthew 28), they faced persecution. However, while Satan endeavoured to use human agents to halt the disciples’ work, their experience actually became a vehicle for spreading the gospel.
Jesus’ assurance that “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) testified that God was in control. And the apostles’ response, “whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19, 20) testified that they would never compromise truth to obey man.
In fact, God has always required strict obedience from His children. For this reason Moses cautioned the Israelites not to “turn aside [from the commandments] to the right hand or to the left” (Deut. 5:32). We read in Lift Him Up that “no lower standard is presented to those who desire salvation today” (White, 139).
Though God permits temptations, we can be assured that He will not permit us to face anything that is not in harmony with His ultimate plan and will. We have the assurance that He knows best and therefore our only hope is to pass the baton by strict obedience to His word, with complete faith in Him.
THE THREE HEBREWS MEN’S EXPERIENCE
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to serve the Babylonian gods or to bow down to the golden image. In Daniel chapter 3, we read that they were therefore summoned before King Nebuchadnezzar. Again, similar to Peter and John, their crime was to refuse to obey the king’s decree at the cost of obedience to God’s word.
Interestingly, even though Daniel described the anger of the king, he also seems to suggest that in an effort to get the three Hebrew men to comply with the law, the king may have appealed to reason and loyalty to himself. Sadly, many of us may be tempted to compromise principle because of respect or honour we hold for parents or someone else in authority. The story of the three Hebrew men shows that the devil is crafty and often pretends to show kindness and even empathy when a more direct and cruel approach proves futile. Finally, we learn from their experience that allegiance is due to God in all circumstances, even at the cost of life, and that ultimately, He is capable to protect His people in persecution.
PERSECUTION CREATES OPPORTUNITY TO PASS THE BATON OF TRUTH
We learn from the history of God’s church that persecution, though feared and dreaded, creates opportunity to pass the baton of truth. In other words, when we obey God’s word, He always uses us to accomplish His purpose to share His truth to others.
Let us not forget that when we grab the baton of truth, our destiny is solely in God’s hands. Like the relay participants at the Pan Am Games, we must keep our eyes focused on the race before us. We must make no assumptions about the results of our obedience, but rather leave the consequences in God’s hands and obey in all circumstances. Indeed, trusting in God’s promises and benevolence will save us from fear for tomorrow. Our loyalty and love for the truth confirms our acceptance and justifies our willingness to carry the baton. Let’s not drop the baton now. Let’s remember the faith of our fathers who suffered for truth’s sake and may God help us to hold tight to the baton and stay the course until Jesus comes.