“You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those
churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus
and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God
and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from
speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.
(I Thessalonians 2:14-16)
Thoughts… Mostly likely, you have never suffered for your faith—really suffered. Neither have I. Our idea of suffering is when the doughnuts don’t show up for church, or the sermon goes too long, or the music is too loud, or the sanctuary is too cold. The truth is, we don’t really pay a heavy price for our faith here in America.
However, believers in other places do. Even as you are reading this blog, Christians are being persecuted in diifferent parts of the world simply for believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior and for sharing the Good News. According to Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com) approximately 160,000 believers are martyred for their faith every year.
By the way, how many of those martyrdoms took place in America? I don’t know for sure, but my guess is none! But just because the suffering Paul speaks of is rare in our country, it is certainly not rare for our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. In fact, I would venture to say that when you consider the panorama of church history, the believer who doesn’t suffer for Christ is the exception rather than the rule. As Paul taught in I Thessalonians 3:4, “we warned you troubles would come.” In Philippians 1:29, Paul said, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.”
Since the beginning of the church, Christians have suffered. They have been rejected, beaten, imprisoned, and killed. That’s what they do best. Within three hundred years of the birth of the church, beginning with only a ragtag band of twelve disciples, Christ’s church overtook the once hostile Roman Empire, converting it to Christianity. How did they do it? Not by fielding an army or gaining political power or suing for their rights. All they did was to suffer and die. That’s what Christians seem to do best. And that’s what makes them—that’s what makes us so powerful. Tertullian, a brilliant Christian apologist, said in the third century, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Of course, that doesn’t negate the reality of the pain and devastation suffering brings. So could I encourage you to take a moment today to pray for the persecuted church? While you are at it, say thanks to God for the country you live in where freedom of religion is still possible.
And if you are called upon to suffer today—suffer in a way that brings glory to Jesus.
Prayer… Dear Father, I pray for all the believers around the world who are undergoing persecution, hardship and suffering. Strengthen them for the battle, encourage them in their spirit, give them boldness to speak for Christ, and use their hardship as the seeds of revival in their community. Lord, hold them close to your heart.
One More Thing… “How naturally does affliction make us Christians!” —William Cowper