Five of the most important words ever written are found in Psalm 23:4…”for thou art with me.” God’s promise to keep safe His faithful followers is based upon His love and His mastery over spiritual opposition.
Paul is nearly stoned to death by the Jews in Lystra (Acts 14:19) because Paul and Barnabas are being used of God mightily to convert the Gentiles to the new Christian faith.
Yet Paul is not defeated by this extreme opposition to his ministry. On the contrary, as a result of this stoning, Paul is probably freer of any remaining inhibitions about preaching the gospel, is more determined than ever not to be defeated, and is further stripped of his self-in-control nature. Paul could add this new experience of a near-death stoning to his resume as an apostle, suffering in conformity to the cross of Christ as a definite sign that his ministry was having an impact (Eph. 5:20).
Stephen is martyred by the Jews of Jerusalem because He is defending the new way of Jesus Christ as the risen Messiah with such power and persuasiveness (Acts 6:10) that the Sanhedrin cannot tolerate Stephen’s message in their city.
But spiritual opposition does not win in this confrontation with Stephen. Stephen does give his life as a faithful witness to Jesus Christ. But as Stephen was about to be stoned to death, Acts 7:55 says that he looked up into heaven and saw “the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”
Acts 8:1-4 then goes on to describe how an intensified persecution of the Christian church after this stoning of Stephen, resulted in the church being scattered to outlying regions around Jerusalem and as far away as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19), creating the first Christian missionaries.
Spiritual opposition silenced Stephen, but in doing so it set in motion the persecution spearheaded by the young Saul…soon-to-become Paul…and thereby created the opposite unintended consequence of hundreds of Christian missionaries who “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
God took Stephen’s sacrifice at the hands of spiritual opposition, and turned it into the beneficial pattern of missionary evangelism that would continue down to our present day.
Peter is arrested by Herod the king, and scheduled for martyrdom to politically appease the Jewish rulers (Acts 12:3-4)
This was in opposition to the great work that the Holy Spirit was doing through Peter and the other apostles in the growing Christian church in Jerusalem.
This spiritual opposition that manifested itself in the outer natural realm, first in the execution by Herod of the Apostle James (Acts 12:2), then in the seemingly hopeless outward appearance of doom for Peter, did not deter God in the slightest. God simply reached deeper into His assortment of options and sent one of His angels to release Peter and guide him safely out of the prison.
Scripture does not tell us why God allowed James to be killed at this time. But we can be sure that after Peter’s rescue, the second rescue from prison in his Christian career (Acts 5:19), that even the heretofore highly experienced Apostle Peter gained a greater confidence in yielding and surrendering himself into the care of the Almighty God.
The Old and New Testaments of the Bible are filled with similar stories of situations and circumstances meant to destroy God’s people or individual servants of God, which God then channels and re-directs towards a good outcome containing positive spiritual lessons and character-building.
Equally important, the Old Testament tells us that God is capable of using spiritual opposition on a macro scale, in the form of the threat of invading foreign armies, periods of exile, captivities, and dispersions, to redirect the entire nation of Israel back into the sphere of His ways.
This is one of the upcoming great issues of our time…that God is so in control of events and circumstances that He can beneficially use evil and spiritual opposition as tools to reveal His divine capacity to resolve a crisis and work His purposes at the same time.
The Christian, who has learned through a walk of faith, that in a God-led life all things work together for good, will not be deterred, offended, or discouraged by the spiritual opposition that will manifest itself in the natural realm of events in the upcoming last days (Matthew 24:6).
Whether it is Daniel in the lion’s den, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, or Queen Esther trusting in God’s protective care in approaching the king in opposition to Haman the powerful enemy of her people, God is able to combine overcoming victory, the dividing of truth from error, and beneficial spiritual growth within each of His masterfully creative solutions.
The character traits of unconditional forgiveness and unselfish love exhibited in the believer through the heart and mind of Christ, cannot be defeated under any set of dire circumstances (Lk. 23:34).
Like the fruits of the Spirit, against such there is no law (Gal. 5:22), the traits of perfect love and Christ-like character are not subject to defeat (1 Jn. 5:4).
In a world where Spirit-born Christians already possess eternal life, the character traits of faithfulness, fidelity, trust, and loving commitment to Christ eventually win-out, even in martyrdom.
In a world where Jesus is raised by God the Father…from the grave…Christians do not have to be afraid of anyone or anything (2 Tim. 1:7).
The willingness to become as last (1 Cor. 4:9), and to be fashioned as empty vessels able to contain the outpouring of the Spirit for ministry in the last days (Joel 2:28-29), will set apart the end-times Christian in glorious revelation of the character of Jesus Christ…at the end of human redemptive history.
The Bible teaches us that the condition of mankind, while lost in sin, is out of balance (Eph. 2:1). God created mankind with the capacity to live as human beings, not as gods unto themselves. When a person repents and accepts Christ into their lives, they step down off the throne of their hearts to give place for God to assume His correct position in the relationship.
This is one of the explanations for why people, who become born-again in the Spirit, experience a deep inner sense of joy, peace, and relief. They no longer have to assume the unnatural role of being the god that they were not created to be. The blood that Jesus shed on the cross not only washes the repentant believer clean of sin, but also sets in proper order and balance Jesus Christ on the throne of a person’s life.
The born-again Christian, who has vacated the throne of their heart to make room at the top for God, can venture out into a genuine walk of faith following Jesus Christ, precisely because they are now operating as a human being and not as a god.