John Wesley (1703-1791), the passionate preacher and founder of the Methodist movement in England, was riding along a road when it occurred to him that he had gone three days without being persecuted. Threats and insults had ceased. No chicken eggs or bricks had been thrown. Wesley came to a halt, alarmed, and shouted, “Can it be that I have sinned, and am backslidden?” He interpreted the lack of persecution as a lack of devotion to Christ.
Wesley leapt from his horse and went to his knees, pleading with God to show him how he had sinned. A burly man on the opposite side of the hedge heard the prayer and recognized the preacher. He picked up a brick and hurled it at Wesley, saying, “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher!” It landed gently beside Wesley, missing him by only a few inches. Wesley leaped to his feet cheerfully crying, “Thank God, it’s all right. I still have His Presence!”1
Thank God for thrown bricks! When the world hurls bricks of slander, contempt, and ridicule at you, it simply means you are glowing with God’s presence. The world despises Christ, and when you live like Him, you arouse their rage toward Him, which they then direct at you (John 15:18-25). You shouldn’t be shocked if the world hates you. You should be shocked if they don’t.
That is what the apostle Peter meant when he wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Do not sulk when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Do not shut up, back up, or give up. Instead, praise God and keep on preaching. Rejoice and continue to represent Jesus in the world. Being ostracized and opposed for following Jesus is a blessing unlike any other. As Reverend Obadiah Holmes exclaimed after being whipped for preaching Christ, “Gentlemen, you have whipped me with roses!”
- This story has been circulated for years, but I first discovered it in Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations (Rockville: Assurance Publishers, 1979), 995.
Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).
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.
The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky, on the 5th day of May 2018, during the morning service:
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their two dogs, Susie and Aries.