Pastor Ken Graves: Embracing Persecution
Teaching by Pastor Ken Graves
This is Part 1 of a teaching delivered by Ken Graves, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Bangor in Central Maine, at the Southeast Calvary Chapel Pastors’ Conference in February 2021.
I believe the Lord laid upon my heart [something] that we need to actually do some business with here: Embrace persecution.
Didn’t [Jesus] our Savior tell us to rejoice and be exceedingly glad, to actually celebrate [persecution]? Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5:11-12, KJV). I acknowledge that we have to balance out that concept of embracing persecution with all that the apostle Peter had to continually say, no less than three times: Make sure you’re not being persecuted because you’re a jerk or because of your falls. There’s no virtue in that. There’s no reward in that. (See 1 Peter 2:19-21.)
Embrace persecution. Stop running from it. Directly connected to what our Lord Jesus taught us about embracing persecution, I believe persecution is the greatest weapon in the advancement of the Gospel, the greatest tool to flesh out and separate wheat from chaff. I have labored, been coast-to-coast telling pastors, “You need to be involved politically. You need to be taking a stand, preaching what God’s Word says about every single subject.” I have been as involved as one can be, and I have warned, “If these people come to power, along with it comes persecution, the end of freedom.” Now it’s here. Now it’s time to embrace it.
The Good Samaritan
Part of that takes us to the following text in Luke 10. You know the story; we call it “The Good Samaritan.” There are no “good Samaritans.” There are no good people—only God is good. The Lord Jesus didn’t say, “Along came a good Samaritan.” He said, “Along came a certain Samaritan.” In this story, a lawyer tried to justify himself [before Jesus].
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Luke 10:29-30
There’s no positive or encouraging way to describe a guy who’s left half-dead. What’s going to finish him off? There are a number of things, obviously, as he’s laying there. They wounded him. They stripped him. They took his very clothes. Left him. The cold will get him by night, the heat will get him by day. Maybe blood loss. But the most dangerous thing—the thing that he could not see, the thing that they did not know about—was infection. All the way from the Garden of Eden to the 1860s, nobody knew what was killing people, this invisible killer. They didn’t know about germs and viruses. You know what’s going to finish him off is infection.
The Lord has laid [this] upon my heart because I know that in this room there are people geared to Him, geared to me, who are, in fact, infected and in desperate need of cleansing and a new understanding. Infection is the thing that’s going to kill off this Jew on the side of the road. Religion offered him nothing.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. Luke 10:30-31, KJV
Did not both of those religious men—both the priest and the Levite—do exactly what the thieves did? The thieves stripped him, “murdered” him, left him. [There are] so many people victimized by religion; probably some here, whose earliest religious experiences were traumatic. Religion offers little. Religion offered our victim nothing. But. God uses that conjunction, and it’s sweet. I like Ephesians 2:3b-5a: … Children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins (KJV), made us alive. But God—isn’t that our testimony, all of us? It’s not But we; we found Jesus. We didn’t find Him; we weren’t even looking for Him.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. Luke 10:33, KJV
Some of you are thinking that compassion was this overwhelming feeling, that this Samaritan, who has an agenda and is on a journey, came to that spot, saw him, and went, “Oh, you poor thing!” Men are not wired to offer solace. We are wired to solve. The Samaritan was a man, and he doesn’t go over and say, “Oh, my, my.” I submit to you that there’s very likely a conflict. He realizes, “This is going to cost me.” Oh, it does. His whole agenda is interrupted. It cost him his fabric [clothes]—he’s tearing up his own fabric, as they didn’t carry bandages with them [at that time]. It’s going to cost him his oil, his wine, his ride. Now he’s leading [his animal]; he’s walking. It’s going to cost him cash and time. He’s going to love this man as he loves himself.
I submit to you that part of the problem with modern Christian thinking, particularly here in the West, is that we think love is a feeling. We think compassion is a feeling. There are feelings associated with love and compassion. There are higher things than just love. We hear things wrong. We hear the Son of God talk about forgiveness, and He talks about it in heavy terms—if we don’t forgive our brother “from the heart,” we wrongly think he meant from our feelings, that you’ve got to actually feel something. I submit that you may eventually [have the feelings], but if you’re waiting for that to happen to do forgiveness, you’ll never forgive.
[The Samaritan] went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine. Luke 10:34a, NKJV
That Samaritan “hurt the feelings” of that victim. He stung him. He poured in that which was going to sting—but that stinging cleansed. But then he soothed him.
Pastors, we are to be pouring in the oil and the wine. Don’t go out of your way to sting. You know what I mean—don’t be a jerk. But don’t go tip-toeing, as Pastor Sandy Adams would say: “Let us not be pulling the teeth off of the text that God intends to bite with.” The Samaritan stung him. But he did him service—faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6). It was a necessary step. But then he soothed and sealed [the wounds] with that oil.
I am, by the Holy Spirit, connecting this story to the days in which we live and to the need for us to prepare our hearts to embrace persecution because [it’s] directly connected to our understanding of what forgiveness is and how to do it. We are going to have a whole lot more to forgive.
To read more about what Pastor Ken taught about forgiveness, look for Part 2 to be published soon.
All verses above are quoted from the King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.