Jesus said we should expect many troubles in following him. For most, we call those troubles persecution. The Lutheran Brethren is historically concerned with equipping young people for tough times by strengthening their faith. Hillcrest Academy was established for this purpose. Here are seven simple steps we use at Hillcrest to equip students for coming persecution.
- Hone Habits of Prayer: One of Jesus’ character-revealing habits was prayer. It wasn’t a mealtime nicety. Jesus’ actions on earth were driven by prayer. To build a solid foundation that will withstand gale-force winds of persecution, prayer is an essential habit. A great resource that will help build your devotional routine is The 29:59 Plan by Daniel Henderson.
- Embrace Martyrdom as a Lifestyle: The word martyr comes from the same root word as testify. A good example of someone testifying in a martyr fashion is found in the story of Stephen in Acts 7. If we hone habits of prayer, speaking with a flavor of God should flow naturally. So whether we’re in church, in public places, or at our dinner table, these practices of testifying to Jesus will become habit. Ask your pastor or youth pastor to start a testimony time in church.
- Unlock Christian Legacies: I recently discovered the story of Eric Liddell. He was an Olympic champion who traded his sprinting spikes for a Bible and became a missionary in China. He eventually landed in a concentration camp, where he found more peace and joy sharing Jesus than he had when he was free. We build courage in Christ when we hear of others who endured hardships. Check out the book 7 Men and 7 Women by Eric Metaxas or the Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com) to unlock these legacies.
- Mourn with Perspective: My brother’s first son died in the womb. My wife and I made a special candle as a physical reminder of a life we never saw. Every year, as we light the candle, it is a reminder of the sorrow and injustice of an infant dying before being held. This grants us a perspective that life is short and beautiful, and God holds all of it inside his hand, granting strength, peace, and love to the broken. Mourning gives perspective for joy.
- Practice Waiting without Worry: I once led a minute-long intentional moment of silence in chapel at Hillcrest. It was painful. After 45 seconds the exercise was over. Waiting without worry is counter-cultural. We are conditioned to be active and busy, and waiting is seen as lazy and unintelligent. However, Jesus waited in silence before Pontius Pilate, and in doing so taught that waiting reveals confidence in God executing his plan. This is important as you prepare to face turmoil.
- Worship in Service: Lyn grabbed a bottle of lotion and made a bee-line to the lady in the back. We were in the blistering Dominican heat on Hillcrest’s senior class mission. Others were building a roof, prepping their sermon, and sharing Jesus with kids on the street. Lyn was rubbing lotion on the arms of someone cast out by society. Too often we highlight the work being done rather than consider the One whom we are reflecting in our work. Practicing simple acts of worship—and calling them worship—prepares us for times when worship doesn’t sound or look glorifying.
- Build a Worldview: Many view education as training to build opportunities. Schools give students a leg-up and pull the poor out of poverty. However, a biblical view of education focuses on Jesus Christ. Every subject and discipline you study in school shouts to the need for God in the world, and the purpose of education is to show that Jesus is the only means of salvation for the poor, feeble-minded, and strong alike. Education builds a view of the world, and if our view of the world is centered on studying Christ and his plan, we build a scaffold to support us in tough times.
Wayne Stender is the Director of Enrollment at Hillcrest Academy. He and his wife met while serving at Hillcrest, and were married in the school’s chapel. Fifteen years later they are continuing to mentor students, equipping them for lives of eternal significance found in Jesus Christ.