If it’s intense and sustained enough, it can easily sap one’s resolve. Faced with opposition, however, no movement in history has managed to thrive through 2000 years of protracted persecution, save one—the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since its inception, the people of God have suffered physical torture, intellectual ridicule, and social ostracism, yet they have never ceased to strive and grow. It leads to the question: What has infused the Church with such an inextinguishable tenacity? One incomparable promise from its Master, that’s what!
After warning His disciples against spending their lives solely in a chase after worldly goods, Jesus tells them what they ought to prioritize. “Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you,” (Luke 12:31). Pursue God’s rule in the world, honor His name, obey His Word, and proclaim His gospel. It would not be an easy task. The world would rage against them, hate them, and even seek to kill them, but Christ tells His disciples, “Fear not.” The Father is committed, willing, and even pleased to finally give them the kingdom.
The Lord’s address, “little flock,” reflects the tenderness with which God cared for His people throughout biblical history. The Old Testament speaks often of God the Shepherd caring for His sheep, both with gentleness and with a mighty, ruling arm to dispense reward and recompense (see Isa. 40:10-11; also Ps. 23:1; 28:9; 74:1; 77:20; Jer. 13:17; Zech. 13:7). Jesus’ words must have been enormously comforting to the disciples, for they would have known their Shepherd could never fail to deliver what He had promised.
The earliest followers of Christ were in a precarious position. A tiny minority in a hostile pagan culture, they were reviled because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Arrested and jailed, hauled before godless kings and governors, hated, ridiculed, and even killed, the Church would not rest until her Lord returned. Two thousand years later, the Lord has not returned, and many believers are still in a precarious position. The Church in the West is pilloried in the media, ostracized in the academy, and generally dismissed by the cultural elite. In other parts of the world, Christians are still imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and even killed for their faith. Even so, there is one truth which infuses the battered Church with hope: if the world’s hostility has not changed, then neither has the Father’s promise. Through mockery and derision, insult, slander, and even death, the Father is still pleased to give His people the kingdom.
Many Christians listen every night to the evening news and see what appears to be a near hopeless situation. Abortion is entrenched, greed, lust, and avarice run unrestrained, and neither reason nor law seem capable of stemming the tide. In such a discouraging day, we must raise our voices to hearten one another with the promise of final victory. If there is any sure promise in Scripture, it is that the Lord will one day return to establish His glorious reign. Christ’s Church may be a “little flock,” but we have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as our Shepherd!