James Webster Smith entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1870. For the next four years, other students harassed him, refused to talk to him, or eat with him. Twice he was court-martialed. In his junior year, they expelled him. He died of TB at age 26. Then in 1997, in an attempt to right this wrong, the Army honored him by commissioning him as its first Black cadet — 123 years after expelling him. They gave his papers to the South Carolina University where he once taught. Persecution can make or break a person. Paul thanked the believers in Thessalonica because persecution did not break them. Rather, their faith in God was so strong that despite persecution, they remained faithful to Christ; they were steadfast in sharing the Gospel, they helped those in need, and they did not waver in their hope of the Lord’s return. In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul wrote, “God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering.” Some people may criticize us for upholding biblical values or for our stance against injustice; they may reject us for our faith in Jesus Christ. Still we can take heart and say as the Apostle Paul said, “I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.”
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