WILLIAM WILBERFORCE EXPERIENCE TELLS US THAT PERSECUTION OFTEN HAS THE OPPOSITE EFFECT IT SEEKS TO PRODUCE. As Milton said in Paradise Lost, 'Her devilish engine recoils back upon herself.' Authentic faith has always thrived under persecution. During such times, it is not easy to be a Christian. There are no lukewarm believers, or half-hearted followers of Christ in times of great difficulty. The battle lines are clear during such times, and it becomes evident that the kingdom of Christ is not of this world. The greater the difficulty, the closer it drives us to Christ. Only in Him do we find refuge. We truly become pilgrims and strangers. We carefully examine and cling to the basics of faith. They become an anchor in the storm.
Ironically, peace and prosperity have the opposite effect. When all seems to be going well, we seem to forget we are engaged in warfare. The intensity of faith that gets us through the tough times tends to languish when life is easy. The Church tends to become assimilated into the culture and cultural Christianity replaces authentic faith. The distinction between Church and culture become blurred....
.....In times like we are now living in, ideas of radical obedience (to Christ) and self-denial fade into the background. Even faithful Christians become soft and more tolerant of the moral decline of the world around them.......Only those principles or doctrines that fit with the general tenor of the culture are observed as common practice. The truths that stand in stark contrast to the systems of the culture are almost totally forgotten. This is especially obvious when these teaching confront the problems of pride, luxury and conformity to the culture. Even the clergy seem afraid to tread too heavily on these subjects in their preaching for fear they will be regarded as fanatics....Christianity has become a mere system of ethics which we do not embrace anyway.
-----William Wilberforce, Real Christianity (Published in 1797)