On a square of papyrus, he wrote: “I don’t know what to do with these Christians!” Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia from 111-113 AD, was agitated and perplexed by the faithful witness of the early Christians, and once wrote Emperor Trajan a letter seeking guidance on how to deal with them. Their unwavering joy and resolute devotion to Christ bewildered him. Despite harsh interrogation and brutal chastisement, they never once renounced their faith.
According to some sources, one Christian was brought before him, and Pliny, finding the man innocent, proceeded to intimidate him.
“I will banish you from Bithynia,” he said.
“You cannot,” said the Christian, “for all the world is my Father’s house.”
Irritated by this reply, Pliny said, “Then I will kill you!”
“You cannot,” the Christian answered, “for my life is hid with Christ in God.”
Pliny continued, “Then I will take away every possession you own!”
“You cannot, for my treasure is in heaven, Governor,” he replied.
Then came the final threat: “Then I will drive you away from man and you shall have no friend left!”
And the peaceful reply was as before: “You cannot, for I have an unseen Friend from whom you are not able to separate me.”
This faithful believer was right. The world can never take away what you have in Christ, if you are a follower of Jesus. If you live a godly life, persecution is a guarantee (2 Timothy 3:12). But it is also a guarantee that the world cannot seize the spiritual riches you possess in Jesus. The world hates Christ and they will hate you, too (John 15:18-25). Until the end of the age, when our Lord Jesus returns, the world will oppose, slander, and even kill you for your faithfulness to Jesus: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). The world can only do so much, however.
The world may oppose you, but God still approves you: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33). The world may ostracize you, but the Lord is still your friend: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14, KJV). The world may deprive you of possessions, but you still have heavenly treasures: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). And even if you must die for Christ, you will be “absent from the body, [and] present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
When you are inevitably persecuted for faithfully following Jesus Christ, you may truly say with David, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).
 You will find this story in many books. I read it first in Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations (Rockville: Assurance Publishers, 1979), 993.
Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.