Winning the Hearts of Your Critics

Note from Jesus

Dear Friend,

Just as Paul faced his legal ordeals and challenging travels to Rome, My disciples in Asia Minor faced growing criticism, ostracism, and persecution. So Peter wrote to encourage them. Like Paul, Peter would soon face even more challenging personal persecution and eventually martyrdom. These two great servants who carried the good news won friends and even some disciples among those who were assigned to guard and imprison them. They even shared their testimony before leaders who had them imprisoned.

Peter wrote to those disciples facing persecution and reminded them repeatedly of the importance of being people of holy character and compassion. If they were going to suffer, they were to make sure they suffered for doing right things as My witnesses. I want you to read Peter’s words of encouragement and instruction to those disciples in today’s verses.

Paul’s influence on Julius, the Roman officer responsible for delivering him to Rome, is a powerful testimony to the truth of Peter’s words of exhortation. Paul’s influence on Julius saved the crew, the soldiers, the prisoners, and himself from probable death at sea on several occasions. As you read today’s verses, notice how his influence on the Roman officer opened the door for his influence as a witness to My grace.

Please remember that your words and actions, especially when you are facing hard times, are powerful and influential in ways you may never realize. When you are a person of faithful character in the face of trial, you are following My example and opening the door for My continued influence on the hearts of those who desperately need My grace!

Verses to Live

As you read these words, remember the importance in your own day of being a faithful and winsome witness to Me. My disciples today face growing resistance and opposition in the West. They are enduring horrible persecution in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Some countries in Asia are directly oppressing and imprisoning My followers. Please realize the principles you see in today’s verses are every bit as important to living in your day as they were in the time of Peter and Paul.

Here are some of Peter’s words of exhortation and instruction to Christians in difficult circumstances:

But you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One Who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received it.

Beloved, remember you don’t belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile, so resist those desires of the flesh that battle against the soul. Live honorably among the outsiders so that, even when some may be inclined to call you criminals, when they see your good works, they might give glory to God when He returns in judgment.

For the Lord’s sake, accept the decrees and laws of all the various human institutions, whether they come from the highest human ruler or agents he sends to punish those who do wrong and to reward those who do well. You see, it is God’s will that by doing what is right and good you should hush the gabbing ignorance of the foolish. Live as those who are free and not as those who use their freedom as a pretext for evil, but live as God’s servants. Respect everyone. Love the community of believers. Reverence God. Honor your ruler.

Why would anyone harm you if you eagerly do good? Even if you should suffer for doing what is right, you will receive a blessing. Don’t let them frighten you. Don’t be intimidated, but exalt Him as Lord in your heart. Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope. Keep your conscience clear so that those who ridicule your good conduct in the Anointed and say bad things about you will be put to shame.

For if it is the will of God that you suffer, then it is better to suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong.

Dear ones, don’t be surprised when you experience your trial by fire. It is not something strange and unusual, but it is something you should rejoice in. In it you share the Anointed’s sufferings, and you will be that much more joyful when His glory is revealed. If anyone condemns you for following Jesus as the Anointed One, consider yourself blessed. The glorious Spirit of God rests on you. But none of you should ever merit suffering like those who have murdered or stolen, meddled in the affairs of others or done evil things. But if you should suffer for being a Christian, don’t think of it as a disgrace, as it would be if you had done wrong. Praise God that you’re permitted to carry this name.

So bow down under God’s strong hand; then when the time comes, God will lift you up. Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries.

Most importantly, be disciplined and stay on guard. Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chance to devour someone. Resist him and be strong in your faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are fellow sufferers with you. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of grace Who has called you [to His everlasting presence] through Jesus the Anointed will restore you, support you, strengthen you, and ground you. For all power belongs to God, now and forever. Amen.

(1 Peter 2:9-17; 1 Peter 3:13-17; 1 Peter 4:12-16; 1 Peter 5:6-11)

Now read about Paul’s example as a Christian prisoner sailing to Rome:

The date was set for us to depart for Rome, and Paul and some other prisoners were transferred to the custody of a Roman officer named Julius, a member of the Augustan Division. I, Luke, was permitted to join Paul for his journey to Rome, along with Aristarchus, a Macedonian brother from Thessalonica. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium that was stopping in ports along the coast of Asia. We stopped the next day at Sidon, and Julius kindly allowed Paul to visit friends and be taken care of by them.

[After the ship had been in a storm for two weeks, there is concern that it may be about to break into pieces on rocks near the shore.] Then some of the crew decide to make a run for it on their own. They say they need to let out more anchors from the bow, and this will require lowering the ship’s lifeboat. They actually plan to abandon us; we realize what’s going on. Paul quickly speaks to the officer and soldiers.


Unless these men stay on board, you won’t survive.

So the soldiers intervene, cut away the lifeboat, and let it drift away. We wait. Just before dawn, Paul again gathers everyone on the ship — all 276 of us. He urges everyone to eat and encourages us not to lose hope.

Day finally breaks. They survey the coastline and don’t recognize it, but they do notice a bay with a beach — the best place to try to run ashore.

So they cut the anchor ropes, untie the steering oars, hoist the foresail to the wind, and make for the beach. But then there’s a horrible sound, and we realize we’ve struck a reef; the bow is jammed solid, and the waves are smashing the stern to pieces. The soldiers start talking about killing the prisoners so they won’t swim away and escape; but the officer wants to save Paul, so he stops them. He tells those who can swim to jump overboard and swim to the shore, and those who can’t, he tells to hold on to planks and other pieces of the ship when it breaks apart. Some hours later, we reassemble on the beach, each one safe and sound.

(Acts 27:1-3; Acts 27:30-33; Acts 27:39-44)

Response in Prayer

O Father, I thank You for the great examples of faith that encourage, motivate, and convict me to be faithful in times of trial. I trust that the Holy Spirit will inspire and empower me with courage. I commit to live for You as a witness of Jesus no matter what circumstances I face. May my life be a living testimony to others of Your grace. May the character and compassion You have developed in me open the door for me to share my hope in Jesus. It is in his name I pray. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.