Preparing Kids for Persecution

February 29, 2024

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In this Foundation Worldview podcast episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz dives into preparing kids for persecution. Learn how to build a theology of suffering and equip young believers to stand firm in their faith against adversity.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "Do you have a podcast on preparing children to face persecution?" And the answer to this question is no. We don't currently, but we do now. So we're going to answer this question today talking about how can we prepare our children to face persecution.

Now, I think this is a really important topic for us to talk through with our kids, what persecution is, what it isn't, and how we need to be prepared for it. And so one thing I want to say just at the start of this is we want to make sure that we don't have a persecution complex where we're seeing every small difficulty that we encounter as somehow persecution for the sake of Christ. Now, this is a mistake that I made when I first started the Foundation Worldview Ministry. Well, now, praise God, I am not the one who runs our social media. I do not like social media. I don't know a lot about social media, so now I have other people who run our social media. But at the beginning of this ministry, I was the one who was running the social media and we were struggling in the beginning with a lot of our posts being flagged as inappropriate content. And I was just all up in arms like, this is persecution. It's because we're talking about things that are biblical. And I had a few different people who knew a little bit more about social media than I did say, you know what? Elizabeth probably isn't persecution, it's probably just you're a new organization. The algorithms just need to get caught up in understanding what your content is about and who it should go out to. And I was just convinced that this was persecution. And now that we have been running Foundation Worldview for more than five years, I understand that I was incorrect. It was not persecution, it was just the algorithms were just figuring out what our content was. Not to say that there can never be any forms of persecution online or even with the algorithms, but we just need to be careful that we're not seeing persecution underneath every rock and behind every tree that we're understanding what persecution is and what it isn't.

And I think before we can even prepare our kids just to understand what persecution is, we have to make sure that we're developing in them a biblical theology of suffering. Because suffering just in general as well as suffering for the name of Christ is going to be a part of our life as Christians. But I think so often in the West, we're so focused on being happy and healthy, which they're not in and of themselves bad things, but they're not the ultimate goal that we tend to push suffering to the side. We don't want to think about things that are difficult. We don't want to think about things that are sad. We just want to be happy. We want to focus on joy, and we need to be careful that we're not just doing that, that we want to prepare our children to biblically navigate suffering before we go through periods of intense suffering.

I think through even just a blog series that we have on the Foundation Worldview blog, and it's called "Mommy, Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?" And that's a six part blog series just covering why does God allow evil and suffering? And I kind of find it odd that that is one of our least popular blog series that doesn't get a whole ton of hits throughout the year, but I think it's one of the most foundational blog series that we have on the Foundation Worldview blog because it's so important for us to equip our kids to understand why does God allow suffering in our lives?

So that's really important for us to cover with our kids. So I highly recommend that you check out that blog series just to read with your kids. It's written in a way that's designed for you to read with your children, to help give them a biblical understanding of why God allows suffering. And just a really short answer to the question is why do we suffer? We suffer because of sin. Because our first parents, Adam and Eve, they chose to rebel against God, and we have inherited that sin. So we are born with a sinful nature, and then we choose to sin each and every day. And not only do we choose to sin, but the others around us choose to sin. And we are affected by our own sin and we are affected by the sin of others.

Not only that, when Adam and Eve sinned, one of the consequences of their sin is God cursed the ground and we now live on that cursed ground. And so sometimes we experience just effects that have nothing to do with our sin or the sin of others, but just having to live on a cursed ground. When we experience things like colds and the flu and cancer, those kind of things, those are effects of living on the cursed ground. So we want our children to understand that this is why we suffer because of sin. That's not the end of the story. That's why God, the Father sent Jesus God the son, to live the perfect life. We could never live, to die in our place and to rise again to new life so that one day when Jesus returns and recreates a new heaven and a new earth, we will live perfectly happily with him forever. But in our current condition, we are going to suffer because of sin. Now, sometimes our suffering will be for the sake of honoring Christ, and we want to help our kids understand this.

Now, Elizabeth Elliot has a definition of suffering that I think is really spot on, and she says that suffering "is either getting what you don't want or wanting what you don't have". That when we get something we don't want or we don't get something that we do want, that that is suffering. And our suffering usually falls into one of those two categories. And so we may suffer for Christ. And now sometimes this suffering for Christ is not in the form of persecution.

For example, if you are a mother and you are suffering by getting up in the middle of the night to take care of your child who is ill, that's really hard for you not to get sleep when you're going to have a really busy day the next day, but you are suffering by loving your child. If you are a father and a husband and you are laying down your life daily for your wife and you are thinking of her needs above your own, that is a form of suffering that you are not getting to live out your desires because you are first thinking of the needs of your wife and of your kids. That is a form of suffering.

Those of you who have followed the Foundation Worldview Podcast for a while, you know that I'm not married and I don't have children of my own and a form of suffering, it's not intense suffering, but a form of suffering in my life is that I am remaining single, that God has me single so that I can continue to invest in the lives of Christian parents and their kids. If I had what I wanted, I would be married right now, but God is keeping me single so that I can run this ministry. This is an intense form of suffering, but it is a form of getting something that I don't want or wanting something that I don't have. And so we all face these things where we are suffering in some form or another for the sake of honoring Christ.

Every time we die to ourselves to honor God, we are suffering for the sake of Christ. But God has promised us in Romans 8:28 that "he's working all things together for our good ". How? By what Romans 8:29 says, "by using all things to conform us more into the image of his son". So we want to help our kids understand this, that when they say no to the temptation to push their brother or to roll their eyes at us, they are choosing to honor Christ. They're choosing to say no to their own desires and to honor God. When they choose to give part of their birthday money to church, money that they would probably prefer to spend on toys for themselves, they are having a form of suffering for the sake of Christ.

Now, this suffering that you and I face, most of the sufferings that you and I face for Christ are nothing compared to what our brothers and sisters in closed hostile countries are facing, but suffering for the sake of Christ. And we have to help our children understand that some people throughout the world, they face intense suffering for the sake of Christ. That when people come to know Jesus and trust him and follow him in countries that are predominantly Muslim, that they face intense suffering. Many times they face being cast out from their families. Many times they face beatings and even the threat of death for the sake of following Christ. In communist countries right now where there are dictators running the show, that many times Christians are killed or imprisoned, they're beheaded, horrible things are happening to them for the sake of Christ. And in the West, we're currently blessed where that is not happening. But more and more as our country becomes secular, we are going to face suffering in the form of persecution for the sake of Christ. And so even though in the West, we're not facing this in an intense way right now, we want to make sure that we're laying the groundwork because chances are our children are going to outlive us. Hopefully they will outlive us. That's what we pray for. And if they do, they're most likely going to face more intense persecution than we are currently facing. And if Jesus tarries, if he continues to allow the world to go on as it has before he remakes everything new, our grandchildren are probably going to face more intense persecution than our children. As we go on down the line, that's probably going to continue to increase. So we want to make sure that we are helping ground our children in Scripture to give them a biblical understanding of suffering for the sake of being faithful to Jesus specifically in the form of persecution.

So I think there's actually four passages of Scripture that we can take our kids to and we can even have them memorize to help them understand a biblical perspective of persecution. Now, the order that I'm going to read these passages in is simply the order that they take place in the New Testament, not an order of importance or significance, but just in the order that they're placed in the English New Testament.

So the first passage of Scripture, we can take our kids two and even have them memorize is Matthew chapter 5, verses 10 through 12. And in this passage, Matthew writes, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And Matthew is quoting Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and he goes on to say, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." And we can take our kids to this passage and say, okay, what does it say about those who are persecuted for Jesus's sake, that they are blessed, that this is actually a form of blessing, that they are following in the steps of the prophets who went before us, so that if we do face persecution in our life, we have to understand that even though it's difficult, it is a blessing. And there's actually, if you're familiar with the "Slugs and Bugs" albums, you can find them on Spotify or on iTunes or anywhere that you can purchase music "Slugs and Bugs Puts Scripture to Music", and they actually have this passage put to music. And so I have this passage memorized simply because of that song. And so we can play this song for our kids and memorize these verses.

The next passage that I think we can take our kids to and have them memorize is John chapter 15, verses 18-20. And in this passage, John writes again, the words of Jesus, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master'. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours." And so just to ask our kids, okay, what is this saying? This is saying, Jesus is saying that the world hated him and the world persecuted him. And therefore, as we follow in Jesus' footsteps, as we become a true disciple of Jesus, the world is also going to hate us and we have to recognize this.

Another passage is Second Corinthians chapter 12, verses 7-10. And so in this passage, Paul writes, "So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." So this passage is specifically talking about something, some form of suffering that Paul was going through. And we don't know if it was a persecution or what exactly it was, but whether it was a persecution or some other form of suffering, the message is clear that God's power is made perfect in our weakness so that we can boast in this, we can rejoice in our sufferings and in our persecutions because it's when we are weak that we are truly strong.

And then the final passage of Scripture, I think we can take our kids to and have them memorize is First Peter chapter 4, verses 12-14. And in this passage, Peter writes, "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." So we can ask our kids, what does this say? That when we are persecuted, when a fiery trial comes upon us, we should not be surprised, but we are actually to rejoice because we are sharing in Christ's suffering. Now, this is something that is not exciting for us, but we can trust that God will give us the grace that we need when we need it. And this is another passage that Slugs and Bugs has a song that goes with this. Actually, the whole time I was reading that verse, the song was going through my mind. And we can play that song for our kids to have them memorize this passage and to talk with them about this is something that when we are persecuted for Jesus' name, we are to rejoice because we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. And when we are being persecuted, Jesus is right there with us because as the world persecuted him, we can expect that we will be persecuted by the world.

And so this is something, these are truths we want to reveal to our children, and we want to model for them. Most of the persecutions that we're going to face are going to be very, very mild compared to what Christians have faced throughout the centuries. But we want to model this for our children. It's almost not that this is laughable, but it kind of is laughable to even consider this a persecution. But I think about the comments that we receive sometimes on the Foundation Worldview YouTube channel about people just telling me that I'm brainwashing kids and that it's child abuse and then this and that and those things. Those are very, very, very, very, very mild forms of persecution. But I, it's my hope and my prayer that, I will rejoice in this. Thank you, God, that I get to receive a comment like this to share in the sufferings of Christ in a very, very, very, very, very small way. And so we want to model this for our kids at any time. It might be that in a workplace that you or your spouse loses a job because you're refusing to comply with something that goes against the truth of the Christian worldview. Or maybe you don't get a promotion because of that, and that those are things that we want to model for our kids. This is hard, but we can rejoice in this. I think of Peter and John when they healed the lame man at the temple in the Book of Acts, and then the Sanhedrin brought them in for questioning and they were shortly imprisoned and beaten. And when they were released, it says they went out rejoicing that they were able to suffer for the name of Christ. And so we want to pray that this would be our attitude in the different types of persecution that we face, and that our children would have this attitude as well.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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