Remembering the Persecuted Church and How You Can Help
|By: Dr. John G. Weldon; ©2012|
|As of February 29, 2012, the innocent Iranian Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, father of two, after unjustly spending 871 days in prison, has once and for all been sentenced to death on trumped up charges of apostasy and other crimes.|
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Salvation the Hard Way
- 3 The Truth about What We Deserve, and the Eternal Perspective
- 4 Broken Necks and Higher Outcomes
- 5 Spiritual Warfare
- 6 Finally: Mainstream Media Recognition
- 7 The Internal War against America and American Christians
- 8 100,000 and 200 million
- 9 Four Ways Christians Can Help
- 10 Helpful Organizations
- 11 Three Things to Remember
- 12 Conclusion
- 13 Recommended Reading
- 14 Notes
- “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” – Psalm 115:16
- “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
As of February 29, 2012, the innocent Iranian Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, father of two, after unjustly spending 871 days in prison, has once and for all been sentenced to death on trumped up charges of apostasy and other crimes. As I write, a vote has been scheduled in a few hours in the US House of Representatives on behalf of resolution HR 556 to help obtain his (and others) “immediate, unconditional release” – and over 170,000 people have signed a similar petition. The tweet campaign of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has reached over 900,000 Twitter accounts each day in 87 nations, while governments and international media are also speaking out on his behalf. Foreign leaders from the UK, Brazil, the European Union, Germany, and the UN have spoken out and the European Parliament, Mexican Senate, Australian Senate and Uruguay House of Representatives have all passed resolutions calling on Iran to free pastor Yousef and to respect religious liberty.
Whatever the outcome, God has already use this evil for good (Romans 8:28) to unite many people around the world in the cause of religious freedom.
This article is written in Yousef’s honor and that of his family – please do pray for them. By the time you read this, the sentence may already be carried out and our brother is now in Heaven, experiencing more love and joy than he ever thought possible. So, it may only be his family we need to pray for. On the other hand, it is always possible God will do a miracle and spare him. Unfortunately, whatever his fate, he is only one of about 150,000 Christians murdered for their faith last year. If we remember Yousef’s family, we need to remember their families also.
Each year between 100-150,000 Christians are murdered simply for being Christians. According to Christian Solidarity International (CSI), more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than at any time since Jesus birth. And that’s only the form persecution known as “death.” If we were to consider all forms of persecution, we could be talking about 100 million Christians who experience persecution globally. This is truly horrible.
But it’s not as if we should never have expected it. For two millennia the world has been fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus: “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…” (John 15:20).
Salvation the Hard Way
But the glory of the gospel is that martyred Christians have the privilege of being unique in how they die, the privilege of dying with genuine love for those who murder them. The Bible tells us we are to forgive those who murder us, even as they are in the process of performing the act. As Jesus was being crucified He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). Stephen likewise: “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60).
Only God knows how many persecutors of Christians have ended up in Heaven because of how these martyrs died and because those they tormented and other Christians around the world were praying for them. Jesus was quite emphatic on this – we are to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44, AKJV).
We can do this because of the great love with which we have been loved by God (1 John 4:10, 19), and the infinite mercy He has shown us. It is good to keep things in perspective – no matter how badly we are persecuted, tortured, or the manner by which we are put to death, we are always being shown more mercy than we deserve. Indeed, “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10, cf. Ezra 9:13). “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22).
The Truth about What We Deserve, and the Eternal Perspective
Perhaps most people typically complain about their aches and pains, but when it comes to real suffering, a lot of people not only get grumpy, they get angry with God – even though the very pain they experience may be specifically intended to break down their pride and secure their attention, that they might find eternal salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ. I have been angry with God, even as a Christian. I was foolish, looking at things from a limited, finite and selfish perspective. I had no idea of how merciful God was being to me even, at one point, in the midst of what I considered a near-suicidal physical torture. Indeed, it was that very torture that made me appreciate more than anything else the fact that I would escape Hell forever, and helped me to understand at least some part of the infinite depths of God’s mercy.
What I experienced was nothing compared to what is coming for the terminally unrepentant who, in effect, in the words of Jesus, express their hatred of God and Christ, by refusing to bow before the incredible condescension and love they have openly displayed and demonstrated before us (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10; Galatians 3:1). It’s almost as if the world were ruled by one great and good, indescribably perfect King who went out of his way to shower gifts, mercy and grace upon all of his utterly undeserving and evil subjects – only to have many of them refuse to even acknowledge his unbelievable kindness, and, with animosity, return his love by spitting in his face and worse. Now, multiply such inexcusable ingratitude by a thousand times, then a million times, then to an infinite degree. The punishment due a sin is relative to the one sinned against and because we are sinning against an infinite God, the punishment must be infinite which can only be eternal for finite beings.
So, remember that what each of us, in actual fact, deserves before an infinitely holy God is an eternal Hell. (For some of the logical reasons, see note). Indeed, even if we were to experience a thousand years of constant torture of the worst imaginable sort, we wouldn’t even scratch the surface of an eternity of torment. (Please see note.)
But in this life perhaps most people on earth (even if they’re poor) don’t experience constant pain and suffering, and certainly in the West that’s true for the majority of us.
In sum, no matter how difficult our situation may now be, or might become in the future, including persecution of all types, we are all getting off virtually Scott free in this life – because what we deserve is infinitely worse. And if we know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior (John 1:12; 3:16), we get off Scott free forever.
Job, the patriarch Joseph, the prophet Daniel, the apostle Paul and many Christians today such as Joni Eareckson Tada, Michael Easley and thousands of others have powerfully demonstrated that even in the worst persecution, the severest difficulty or screaming pain, God’s grace is always sufficient. Not that it’s easy; it’s not – it can be difficult beyond words. But His grace is sufficient; He said so (2 Corinthians 12:9). Job, Joseph, Daniel, and the apostle Paul all experienced persecution to varying degrees. Many others don’t experience direct persecution, but they do experience a painful equivalent. But they have become victorious over the circumstances, even as the apostle Paul did (Philippians 4:11-13).
Broken Necks and Higher Outcomes
For example, I’ve recently read the stories of twoChristians who have broken their neck, one being a quadriplegic for 45 years – and in either case, looking back, they would not have traded it for the world. (For the other story, see note ) In Joni Eareckson Tada’s A Place of Healing she says what the average person would never think of saying – that the word “celebrate” is actually the most appropriate word to describe her 45-year affliction, and I agree with her: “Honestly, I can’t think of a better word, given all the good things that have happened as a result of my wheelchair.” She titles chapter 10 of the same book, “Thank You, God, for This Wheelchair.” And, “A day in this wheelchair serving him, a day representing him though in the grip of this unrelenting pain, is better than a thousand self-filled days lived pain free and on my feet.” Why? The reason is simple. God has been so incredibly good and gracious to these people in so many ways that they can’t help but rejoice. This good has come to them not in spite of their situation, but because of it. So yes, persecution and martyrdom are horrible. But they are infinitely small compared to the mercy, grace and goodness of God and His promise that all things work together for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28).
Joni observed, “My friends, this is one of a million reasons why I am grateful God didn’t heal me of my paralysis. What if I had been healed at the Kathryn Kuhlman crusade back in the early 1970s? What if God had answered my prayers as a 17-year-old, released me from my paralysis, and returned me to a normal life of a woman on her feet?”
Many of us know the answer. What would have happened is that literally millions of people would never have been positively impacted by her ministry.
As she observes, “I wasn’t healed because God had [good] plans for my life that were wider and higher and deeper and more profound than I could have ever imagined.” And in that she rejoices with overflowing joy. One need only look at her biography to see the incredible things that God, in His grace and goodness, has accomplished through this dear paraplegic Christian woman. (see note )
I’ll never forget of hearing the conversion story of a man in a foreign Third World nation who then sacrificed everything he could to come to America to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. He wanted to get a degree so we could go back to his people and be a missionary, evangelist and teacher. During his four years in seminary he spoke to many churches about his conversion, his deep love for his people, and his desire to return home and reach them for Christ. After four years of arduous study, the day finally arrived when he graduated. Totally unexpectedly, a few days later he mysteriously died and went to be with the Lord in Heaven. Of course, that was perfect for him. But, people who knew him wondered, “Why did God do that? Why was he cut down in the prime of life? Why did God not grant him the good and godly desires of his heart to reach his people? This man could just as easily have been martyred and the same questions might have been asked, as they are, thousands of times. But God was indeed granting him the desires of his heart and had much bigger plans. As we so often forget, His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are infinitely higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8). As news of this man’s death spread, many of the very people he had so powerfully spoken to over those four years about his deep love to reach his people themselves took up his mantle and went to his homeland as missionaries and teachers. God had, in effect, answered his prayer by taking him to Heaven. Perhaps alone, by himself, he might have reached a thousand people for the gospel – but those who went in his place may have reached tens of thousands. This is just one of thousands of possible illustrations revealing why we should never trust in our perception of things or our experience in difficult times (which are often deceptive) but in God’s nature and promises – these will never fail us.
Such illustrations also indicate that we must learn to look at things from God’s perspective; He is infinitely loving, wise and good and He has had all eternity so to speak, to think about His plans for us. And, as Scripture said, regardless of what happens to us, they are good plans (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28).
Nevertheless, there is a spiritual warfare currently engaged and it is fierce (Ephesians 6:10-18). While Muslim countries typically fill the “top 10” lists of nations that persecute Christians, Marxist nations come in second, and given the size of China and Russia alone (where most churches were intentionally destroyed or converted to other uses), more Christians may have been persecuted and murdered because of Marxist philosophy than Muslim political and religious ideology, at least in the 20th century. Perhaps as many as one million Christians died as a result of Marxist revolutions in the 20th century.
Then again perhaps as many as a million or more Christians have died from war and starvation in the Sudan alone, so its difficult to know. But God knows.
Regardless, “To anyone familiar with Islam’s history and traditional teachings, none of this [persecution of Christians] is surprising. Instead, all of these accounts demonstrate 14 centuries of continuity. With Islam’s resurgence and the concomitant upsurge of anti-Christian violence, however, the very existence of Christian and other non-Muslim communities is under threat. The process of religious cleansing could lead to their eradication within a generation [see CSI’s Genocide Warning].”
Finally: Mainstream Media Recognition
In a rare but very welcome mainstream media publication, we find a Newsweek cover story article (February 6, 2012), “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, even with a fatwa against her (death threats) from Muslim fanatics, has finally informed mainstream media readers about the truth. Hopefully some of them may do something about it.
Ali fled Somalia to escape a forced marriage, served in the Dutch Parliament from 2003-06 and is currently a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Infidel, a powerful memoir. Unable to find safety even in Holland, she was forced to seek refuge in America, being smuggled out in a military airplane, living under armed guard.
She reminds us that Islam is now the fastest-growing religion in the world. As many as 25 million Muslims live in the West. Ali observes that throughout the Islamic world (and even officially at the hands of Muslim governments), “Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm…. The [common media] portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania.”
She also points out that the powerful Muslim lobby in America has been very successful in persuading leading public figures that alleged “Islamophobia” is the real problem, skirting the issue of the murder of vast numbers of Christians. Perhaps Ali’s most powerful declaration is as follows:
- But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake.
For example, the radical jihadist “Boko Haram” Muslim group in Nigeria has asserted its intent to ‘kill all Christians in the country.’ That’s about 65 million people! Along with other radical Muslim groups, Boko Haram is largely responsible for bringing the country to the brink of civil war.
In the Sudan the Muslim Sudanese government-initiated genocide against Christians continues despite Southern semi-independence and its Muslim president being indicted with three counts of genocide by the International Criminal Court.
In Egypt, illustrating the regional transition from a so-called “Arab Spring” to an Islamist Winner, both the government and extremist Muslim groups persecute Christians – so much so that over 200,000 Christians have been forced to flee their homes. “Egypt is not the only Arab country that seems bent on wiping out its Christian minority” – ironically, she places Iraq on the list, which some see as engaging in an incipient genocide. Because of Muslim persecution, 500,000 Christians have fled Iraq since 2003.
There’s persecution of Christians in Iran, Pakistan and “Not even Indonesia—often touted as the world’s most tolerant, democratic, and modern majority-Muslim nation—has been immune to the fevers of Christophobia.”
“It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem. No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.”
Note those words – “a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus…” Now, where did that hatred originate? It originated from interpretations of the Quran and other Muslim writings.
“As Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, pointed out in an interview with Newsweek, Christian minorities in many majority-Muslim nations have ‘lost the protection of their societies.’ This is especially so in countries with growing radical Islamist (Salafist) movements. In those nations, vigilantes often feel they can act with impunity—and government inaction often proves them right. The old idea of the Ottoman Turks—that non-Muslims in Muslim societies deserve protection (albeit as second-class citizens)—has all but vanished from wide swaths of the Islamic world, and increasingly the result is bloodshed and oppression.”
Boko Haram and similar jihadist groups have launched holy wars across the globe against non-Muslims; millions of people are living in fear, uncertain of their futures.
In Nigeria we have the same situation as in the Sudan, without full-scale genocide. Northern Nigeria is largely Muslim; southern Nigeria is predominantly Christian.
Radical jihadist groups such as the ones above won’t stop their deception, co-opting, murder, violence and/or intimidation until sharia law rules all Nigeria, Sudan or whatever country they and similar groups are active in – sharia law is already operational in 12 Nigerian states across most of North.
The Internal War against America and American Christians
What most Americans haven’t yet recognized is that there is a “soft,” internal jihad (war) being proactively waged against the West, especially Europe and America, and against Christianity specifically, where Muslim radicals are using wealth from the Middle East plus the West’s submission to political correctness and Western freedoms against it toward the long-term goal of Islamizing the non-Muslim world. Britain, for example, already has so many Muslims and Muslim radicals that Christians can go to jail for speaking critically against the prophet Mohammed or Islam or telling biblical truth about homosexuality. American Christians could someday end up experiencing the same situation.
But the brief information above is, unfortunately, only the tip of the iceberg. Persecution comes in a hundred different forms, not just death. Millions of additional Christians are currently persecuted globally.
100,000 and 200 million
Writing in the National Review online for February 9, 2012 Conrad Black’s article, “Global Persecution of Christians,” observes that over 100,000 Christians a year are murdered for their faith (it was an estimated 150,000 in 2011). Incidentally, 100,000-150,000 murdered Christians is equivalent to cities the size of Berkeley, California (100,000) or Pasadena, California (143,000) disappearing each and every year.
- “Perhaps the gravest under-publicized atrocity in the world is the persecution of Christians. A comprehensive Pew Forum study last year found that Christians are persecuted in 131 countries containing 70 percent of the world’s population, out of 197 countries in the world (if Palestine, Taiwan, South Sudan, and the Vatican are included). Best estimates are that about 200 million Christians are in communities where they are persecuted. There is not the slightest question of the scale and barbarity of this persecution, and a little of it is adequately publicized. But this highlights the second half of the atrocity: the passivity and blasé indifference of most of the West’s media and governments.
- “It is not generally appreciated that over 100,000 Christians a year are murdered because of their faith. Because Christianity is, by a wide margin, the world’s largest religion,… the West is not accustomed to thinking of Christians as a minority, much less a persecuted one.
- “The ratings of offending countries always put North Korea as the worst, followed by Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Laos, Pakistan, Sudan, and, farther back but still prominently odious, Libya, Syria, Oman, Egypt, Kuwait, the Palestinian Authority, Vietnam, Cuba, and China. While there is no shortage of incidents in India, where there is serious religious friction between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs as well, most offending countries are Islamic or Communist. The reluctance of the leading predominantly Christian countries to speak out against these outrages is remarkable. Many of the delinquent countries are ostensible allies such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Oman, Egypt, and Kuwait.”
Four Ways Christians Can Help
So, what can be done? First, pray. The prayer of Christians for their persecuted brethren is perhaps the most important. Again, God tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16) A brief article on how to pray for our persecuted family may be helpful. (See Note)
There is, thankfully, an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, November 13 (http://idop.org/), but perhaps it needs to be turned into an international special week for both prayer and fasting. If Muslims can partially fast for an entire month each year, can’t Christians partially fast for a single week? On the other hand, who needs a special day or week set aside when we can do it any time the Lord leads?
Christians can pray because, to reemphasize in another translation, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16, NLT). We find examples throughout the Bible. For example, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5) — and we know the results. Similar prayer being offered for the saints today is doing comparable things – releasing them from prison, protecting their lives, leading them to safety, converting their persecutors and captors, etc. We began this article with the story of pastor Yousef – there is no doubt in my mind that the prayers of many Christians are responsible for the international outcry and that, whether he is spared or not, God will continue to use the situation for much good in ways most of us never realize.
One can but wonder what would happen if every Christian prayed fervently?
It may help some of us to pray if we remember the following:
The Bible commands us to empathize with our persecuted brothers and sisters and their children; in fact, when Saul was violently persecuting the church and attempting to destroy it, Jesus, who was in Heaven, told him he was actually persecuting Him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 26:14).
After his radical conversion, the apostle Paul learned to empathize with fellow believers undergoing persecution, perhaps in large part because he had experienced so much of it himself: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:5).”When anyone is weak, I’m weak too. When anyone is caught in a trap, I’m also harmed” (2 Corinthians 11:29, God’s Word). “If one part [of the body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it…” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
We in the West have little idea of how a billion Christians live impoverished in the developing world, but we can at least pray for them. Strangely, in many ways many of them are better off spiritually than many of us, in part because they don’t have all the deceitful distractions and trappings of wealth.
The writer of Hebrews tells us to, “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3). He also tells us how to keep things in perspective: “You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Hebrews 10:34).
Second, Christians can make persecution a subject of their Bible study, or write an article on the subject in high school or college, or begin a fundraiser for one of the groups listed below – or sit down, pray, and think about other ways to help. Our next point includes about 15 organizations that offer many ways to assist the persecuted church.
Third, Christians can learn from and support the various global organizations that seek to help Christians being persecuted. As you read over the following list, if you would, prayerfully ask God if He would have you support one or more of the following organizations:
Open Doors www.OpenDoorsusa.org
Voice of the Martyrs www.Persecution.com.
The Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom http://crf.hudson.org/
Barnabas Fund http://barnabasfund.org
Christian Solidarity Worldwide http://cswusa.com
Christian Solidarity International http://csi-usa.org/
International Christian Concern http://www.persecution.org
Release international http://www.releaseinternational.org/
Forum 18 http://forum18.org/
Compass Direct http://www.compassdirect.org
Aid To the Church in Need http://www.churchinneed.org
Asia News http://www.asianews.it/en.html
Mission Network News Online http://mnnonline.org
China Aid http://www.chinaaid.org
Fourth, the Bible tells Christians that, wherever we live, we are to pray for our government officials. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Note that prayer on behalf of government officials is something that pleases God and certainly, because they are His servants working in a difficult situation, they need our prayers: “… the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing” (Romans 13:6).
Nevertheless, when Christians pray for the governing authorities perhaps they forget to pray that God will work in the lives of those authorities in another specific way – to give them courage and to help them deal specifically with the persecution of Christians and other minorities globally. For example, here are some possible things to pray about.
Governments in the West spend billions of dollars in foreign aid and commit billions of dollars in trade to governments that pursue or sanction the persecution of Christians. Not only could this be a subject of prayer, but Christians in government and appropriate related vocations could help play a vital role in helping to change public policy. Or, we could pray that politicians would pass laws making trade and investment with other nations conditioned upon governments stopping the educational indoctrination of children to hate Christians and Jews and stopping the murder and persecution of those from other religious groups (Christians or otherwise).
After all, if our nation can intervene when protestors are attacked for proposing democratic reform (such as with Libya), why can’t our nation also intervene in the persecution and murder of Christians, at least in some of the most persecuted nations? Unfortunately, such actions will likely only take place when significant attention has been given to the issue. This makes prayer for this and speaking out about helping the persecuted church all the more important.
Three Things to Remember
As they have been in most centuries, Christians today are persecuted throughout the world. As we consider our persecuted brethren, we need to keep three things in mind.
First, we must fight against persecution globally, whether through prayer, time, or finances.
Second, we need to remember that God knows and sees everything: “You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Psalm 10 17). “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15) “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10).
Whether that deliverance occurs in this life by any number of means or through death itself, the deliverance does occur and if it is by death, it is an eternal and wonderful deliverance. At that point, we only need pray for the grieving. But let us be encouraged by the fact that often there is deliverance in this life, simply because the persecution is so common. Even 2,000 years ago the apostle Paul could write: “You, however, know all about my … endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,…” (2 Timothy 3:10-12)
And yet God does far more than hear and see everything; He literally indwells the believer, so He is, so to speak, all too aware of our suffering. The Scripture is clear that not only Jesus indwells us, but the Holy Spirit also and the Father as well – the entire Trinity dwells within us. God is our companion in suffering, having gone before us.
Third, on the other hand we must realize that even in severe persecution and martyrdom, the devil still loses, God still wins and the believer triumphs eternally because God promises that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Genuine Christians are the only people on earth who always win and never lose, no matter what their circumstances.
Everything currently bad happening to Christians –the suffering, tragedies, disappointments, evil, loss, physical torture, pain of every type, etc. – all these things, all over the world, are, right now working together for good. What this means is that in the end, all this misery isn’t something without purpose because God is working it for our eternal good and His eternal glory. It’s up to His infinite wisdom and good purposes as to what we experience and when we go home; but because of who He is, we know that in everything we can trust Him.
Plus, it may be good to remember the eternal perspective in another way. Our sufferings, no matter how difficult, are infinitely less than a second compared to eternity and they aren’t even worth being compared to the blissful life with the triune God that we will be privileged to enjoy forever.
The apostle Paul was persecuted as thoroughly as almost anyone in history. For example: “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
And yet he repeatedly affirmed that he rejoiced and was joyful in his sufferings, even in the most miserable and torturous of prisons. If you would, take the time to read just five verses and ponder them: 2 Corinthians 12:10; Colossians 1:24; Romans 5:3; 1 Peter 4:13; James 1:2) Despite his immense suffering, the great apostle concluded, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
At least, if those who suffer are physically able (and certainly they can do so mentally), they can rejoice and “leap for joy” because, not only is everything working together for their good in this life (assuming they survive) – imagine the heavenly rewards for the persecuted; further, the tables will be turned – dramatically and eternally. Many persecuted Christians, especially those persecuted to death, through their prayers and testimony will take their tormentors to Heaven with them – but for the unrepentant they will pay the price for what they have done to God’s children because “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
Regardless, as Jesus Himself promised, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23)
- “Bless those who persecute you. Do not curse them; pray that God will bless them.” (Romans 12:14 NLT) Let us also never forget, “But for the grace of God…
If we love our enemies and those who persecute us, then we will be like Jesus and bring Him glory, as is proper.
Amen and amen.
If you happen to be a non-Christian or are uncertain if you are Christian, please see the two articles on the homepage of JAshow.org for more information on becoming and growing as a Christian.
The New Encyclopedia of Christian Martyrs
Martyrs Mirror: The Story of 17 Centuries of Christian Martyrdom From the Time of Christ to A.D. 1660
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (various editions)
By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the 20th Century
The Privilege of Persecution: and Other Things the Global Church Knows That We Don’t
In the Lions den: A Primer on Mounting Christian Persecution Around the World and How American Christians Can Respond
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs
A Martyr’s Grace: Stories of Those Who Gave All for Christ and His Cause
China’s Christian Martyrs
Muslim Persecution of Christians
Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War against Christianity
Speechless: Silencing the Christians
The Criminalization of Christianity: Read This Book Before It Becomes Illegal!
Clifford May, “The War Against the Christians,” January 14, 2011; http://www.cliffordmay.org/8619/war-against-christians
- End Notes Jordan Sekulow, “Yousef Nadarkhani’s case unites people around religious liberty,” The Washington Post, February 28, 2012;http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/religious-right-now/post/youcef-nadarkhanis-case-unites-people-around-religious-liberty/2012/02/28/gIQAtQDigR_blog.html
- Romans 1:21-22 28-32; John 15:23; remember the parable of the tenants in Luke 20:9-19
- For some of the logical reasons why we deserve an eternal hell, see my three-part article, “Hell – Why It’s Eternal and the Remarkable Ease of Entering Heaven – Part 1;http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php/Hell_-_Why_It%27s_Eternal_and_the_Remarkable_Ease_of_Entering_Heaven
- For a very inspiring 3 minute excerpt from a lecture, especially for young people, see the video by former missionary and pastor Paul Washer, “Live for Eternity,” at IllBeHonest.com.” Look under the category “shortest” video and then scroll through the options until you find the one in blue labeled “Live for Eternity.” In my opinion, I would say that this three minutes of your time could be three of the most important minutes you will spend – if you will take the message seriously.
- The other story concerns Dr. Dalrymple who wrote:”I am grateful even for the broken neck and chronic pain. I praise God not in spite of my injury, but for the injury too. God is not primarily interested in protecting me from hardship; God did not become flesh and suffer crucifixion in order to confer on me a life of ease and self-indulgence. I am inclined by nature to pride and the presumption of self-sufficiency. God gave me a thorn in the flesh in precisely the right spot: a moment-by-moment reminder of my weakness, my emptiness, my absolute and inextinguishable need for Him.” For documentation and more see my article on NBA basketball star Jeremy Lin, “Lin-Mania, Romans 8:28 and Even More Fun;” http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php/Lin-Mania,_Romans_8:28_and_Even_More_Fun
- A Place of Healing (2010), 96
- A Place of Healing (2010), 128. For the other example, see my article at JAshow.org: “Lin-Mania, Romans 8:28 and Even More Fun (Feeling God’s Pleasure — Jeremy Lin, His Christian Faith and the Move/s of God).”
- Ibid., 193, emphasis added).
- The two books Joni recommended we study for her television series on the John Ankerberg show (to be aired April 1), were A Place of Suffering: Wrestling with the Ministries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty and When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty. They are excellent books for anyone undergoing various sufferings, trials and tribulations. But as to the point made, consider Joni’s accomplishments after quadriplegia, through the grace of God. She has:– written some 100 books; — become an accomplished painter, having painted over 150 pictures with her teeth, each one taking over a month; –has composed six music albums; –is involved in 12 separate ministries she began with dozens of centers around the world; –has helped people around the world in 25 different disability categories, including Wounded Warriors; — served on the National Council on Disability and the Disability Advisory Committee to the U.S. State Department — is Senior Associate for Disability Concerns for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization; serves in an advisory capacity to the American Leprosy Mission, the National Institute on Learning Disabilities, Love and Action and Christian Blind Mission International, plus on the Board of Reference for the Christian Writers Guild and the Christian Medical and Dental Society. –has traveled to over 45 nations helping the disabled, been on national radio and television, written articles and blogs that have reached millions of people; has her own television series;–received numerous awards, including the American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award; the Courage Award from the Courage Rehabilitation Center; the Award of Excellence from the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center; the Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital; and the Golden Word Award from The International Bible Society. –been inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Christian Bookseller Association’s Hall of Honor and received the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award. She has been named Church Woman of the Year, Lay Person of the Year and voted into the Society of World Changers; — received six honorary doctorate degrees. (http://www.joniandfriends.org/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joni_Eareckson_Tada) Without breaking her neck and becoming a quadriplegic, it’s almost certain none of these things would have occurred.
- E.g., “Persecution of Christians;” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians— and links
- Art Moore, “Sudan Jihad Forces Islam on Christians,” March 4, 2002, WorldNetDaily.com; http://www.wnd.com/2002/03/12985/; The 1983-2002 figure involved all casualties: “Since 1983, an estimated 2 million people have died from war and related famine. About 4.5 million have become refugees.” The exact number of Christian casualties is unknown, but large.
- Raymond Ibrahim, “Muslim Persecution of Christians at a Crossroads,” December 22nd 2011; http://frontpagemag.com/2011/12/22/muslim-persecution-of-christians-at-a-crossroads/2/ (Spoken in the context of the Middle East, however the application is virtually global to varying degrees because of the scores of majority Muslin Islamic nations in the world.)
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World,” Newsweek, February 6, 2012; http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/02/05/ayaan-hirsi-ali-the-global-war-on-christians-in-the-muslim-world.html
- Conrad Black, “Global Persecution of Christians,” National Review online February 9, 2012; http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/290498/global-persecution-christians-conrad-black
- == Grant McClung, “How To Pray For Persecuted Believers,” Global Missiology English, Vol 3, No 8 (2011); http://ojs.globalmissiology.org/index.php/english/article/view/584/1476