I have always assumed that physical persecution was far worse than spiritual persecution. But, I recently read a book by a pastor who had spent several jail terms in prison, was beaten, starved, etc. for preaching the gospel. In that book he said that spiritual persecution is far worse. To me, that was extremely encouraging. I seem to hold up better in the spiritual than the physical.
I remember the first time I ever felt the presence of evil. It was about 35 years ago, in San Francisco. A girlfriend and I had gone there to shop. We were on the sidewalk, going from one store to another, and I felt this overwhelming evil oppression surround me. It was palpable. I told her that we were in the middle of an evil stronghold and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, which we did.
I can detect evil very easily. Several years ago I walked into a nursery where we always buy our yard plants and supplies. There was no one inside except a very normal lady behind the counter. I needed to ask a question, and when our eyes met, they locked - and I knew I was looking into the very eyes of evil. The power behind those eyes knew me, too. They knew who I was. For 5-10 seconds I was too mesmerized to speak. Finally, I looked down at my plant and asked my question without locking in my gaze again. I had never seen that lady in the store before, and I never saw her again afterward. The woman had a demonic spirit. I recognized it as surely as if I had met someone I knew on the street.
I believe I may have a particular sensitivity to the presence of evil. I have no fear whatever of the demonic. I do, however, have a healthy respect for who they are. We are not called to search them out to prove something. That would be pride, and it would also be our downfall. Only the Holy Spirit can do battle with the demonic. Any born-again Christian with the Holy Spirit indwelling him need not fear 'the spirits.' However, this is the realm of our battle. While I didn't feel on either occasion that I was called to 'cast out' the demon, should it ever arise and I felt so moved, I wouldn't hesitate to call on the name of Jesus to do so. (I certainly don't anticipate such a thing, nor would I welcome it.)
I have always been, however, nervous about the idea of withstanding physical persecution because since I was a teenager I've always believed the last days would come during my lifetime. That missionary pastor's words will never leave me. They were a great comfort to me.
In this day in America we have been carrying on an intense cosmic spiritual battle for many years. Have you ever noticed? It has worn me out many times. But, the Bible says that while we have 'an arm of flesh' we need not worry. "With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles." 2 Chron 32:7-8.
This is our secret weapon, our spiritual battle gear. We cannot lose. When we do everything "with all prayer," we will "be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Ephesians 6.
The same principle applies to us that Moses spoke of when he told the people, "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today ... The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." Exodus 14:13-14. What an absolutely thrilling verse.
This battle - which gathers speed and intensity daily - will soon be over. The things we see are merely temporal. There is a much larger, extremely violent spiritual war going on which we cannot see with our physical eyes. The things we do not see are more important, and they are eternal. These can only been seen through our spiritual eyes, which can only be opened through God's Word as it is revealed to us through the Holy Spirit.
"Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life...He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" Rev. 2:10-11.
It's worth whatever we may face. When we run through that tape at the end of the race, and enter new dimensions, "the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face...and they shall reign for ever and ever." Rev. 22:3-5
There is absolutely no reason to be fearful. This is nothing compared to the glory that awaits.