“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165 (NIV)
What comes to mind when you hear the word peace? Do you picture a quiet and serene place, free of life’s troubles? When we think of peace, we’re usually referring to what’s happening outwardly rather than inwardly. So we find it difficult to connect peace with any type of hardship, much less while being persecuted for our faith. According to the psalmist, however, we can experience peace in persecution.
As we’ve read Psalm 119, we’ve seen the writer beg God to deal with his persecutors. He has clung to Scripture like a drowning man clings to a life preserver. Now he says that loving God’s law brings great peace. Yet nothing has changed outwardly. He even begins this stanza by saying, “Rulers persecute me without cause” (v161 NIV).
The change is inward. From here to the end of the psalm, every verse focuses on his relationship with God and His Word. How can we achieve this kind of paradigm shift? If we treasure truth above anything this life can offer, then our awe of Scripture will be greater than our fear of persecution (vv161-163).
The fact that his persecutors were rulers is significant. Throughout history, the rejection of God’s Word by powerful people has often been followed by the persecution of God’s people. When leaders disregard the truth of Scripture they begin to view those who embrace it as a threat.
Truth is exclusive. In order for Christianity to be true, all other religions must be false. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). People aren’t persecuted for saying that all roads lead to Heaven. But claiming that salvation is exclusive to Jesus Christ has long been a cause of persecution, and will continue to be so.
Living by biblical truth will certainly come at a higher personal cost in the future. Experiencing peace in persecution requires an inward change. Is reverent awe for God’s Word at the core of your being? Are you asking God to calm your circumstances, or to calm your heart and mind? Remember, peace is not found in the absence of trouble but in the presence of the Lord. That’s how your heart can be at peace, even when your life is not.