Illustration results for persecuted
Few men of this century have understood better the inevitability of suffering than Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He seems never to have wavered in his Christian antagonism to the Nazi regime, although it meant for him imprisonment, the threat of torture, danger to his own family and finally death. He was executed by the direct order of Heinrich Himmler in April 1945 in the Flossenburg concentration camp, only a few days before it was liberated. It was the fulfillment of what he had always believed and taught: “Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. Following Christ means passio passive, suffering because we have to suffer. That is why Luher reckoned suffering among the marks of the true Church, and one of the memoranda drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg Confession similarly defines the Church as the community of those ‘who are persecuted and martyred for the gospel’s sake’… Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer. In fact, it is a joy and a token of his grace.”
John R.W. Stott, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1978), 53
Those of us who pray for the persecuted church, mourned the loss of Cardinal Ignatius Kung who died last month at the age of 98. Though I’m not a Catholic, I admire Cardinal Kung who stood by his convictions, and withstood persecution for his faith.
He was ordained as a Bishop of Shanghai in 1949, shortly after the communists took over China. The Chinese government pressured him to align his loyalties to the "Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association," he refused, choosing to remain loyal to his church’s chain of command. In 1955, the authorities brought he and 200 other priests to a stadium in Shanghai. The government ordered them to "confess their crimes." Instead, Kung shouted "Long live Christ the King! Long live the Pope."
Shortly thereafter, he received a life sentence, where he spent the next 30 years in prison, most of the time in solitary confinement. He was freed in 1987 and finally arrived to his final resting place last month.
Dr. M.R. DeHaan put it this way:
In the early days of the church. . . , baptism was a declaration that the believer was definitely identifying himself with that group of people who were called Christians and were despised and hated. To be a Christian meant something. To identify yourself with those who were called Christians meant persecution, maybe death; it meant being ostracized from your family, shunned by friends. And the one act which was the final declaration of this identification was BAPTISM. As long as a man gathered with Christians, he was tolerated, but when once he submitted to baptism, he declared to all the world, I BELONG TO THEIS DESPISED GROUP, and immediately he was persecuted, hated, and despised. In baptism, therefore, the believer entered into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. A person might be a believer and keep it strictly a secret and thus avoid unpleasantness and suffering, but once he submitted to public baptism he had burned his bridges behind him. . .” (Pamphlet, Water Baptism, p. 27).
In a letter from Mils and Sandy Becker, April, 1995.
“In the 1920’s Stalin ordered a purge of all Bibles and believers. In Stavropol, this order was carried out completely. Thousands of Bibles were taken and believers were sent to the gulags, where so many died for being enemies of the state.
Last year (1994), a Commission team was sent to Stavropol. They didn’t know about the history of the city at that time. But when the team had difficulty getting Bibles shipped from Moscow, someone mentioned that they knew a warehouse existed outside of time, where these Bibles had been stored since Stalin’s time.
“The team prayed together and one member had the courage to go to the warehouse and ask the officials if the Bibles could be removed and distribulted again to the people in Stavropol. The answer was “yes”.
The next day the Commissioners returned with a truck and several Russians to help load the Bibles. One helper was a young man- a skeptical, hostile, agnostic university student who came only for the day’s wages. As they loaded the Bibles one man noticed that the student had disappeared. Finally,
they found him in a corner of the warehouse weeping.
“Of thirty Roman emperors, governors of provinces and others in high office, who distinguished themselves by their zeal and bitterness in persecuting the early Christians, one became speedily deranged after some atrocious cruelty, one was slain by his own son, one became blind, the eyes of one started out of his head, one was drowned, one was strangled, one died in a miserable captivity, one fell dead in a manner that will not bear recital, one died of so loathsome a disease that several of his physicians were put to death because they could not abide the stench that filled his room, two committed suicide, a third attempted it but had to call for help to finish the work, five were assassinated by their own people or servants, five others died the most miserable and excruciating deaths, several of them having an untold complication of diseases, and eight were killed in battles, or after being taken prisoners.
Among these was Julian the Apostate. In the days of his prosperity he is said to have pointed his dagger to heaven, defying the Son of God whom he commonly called the Galilean. But when he was wounded in battle, he saw that all was over with him, and he gathered up his clotted blood and threw it into the air, exclaiming, thou has conquered, O thou Galilean.” (Boise 25)
Blessed Are The Persecuted
Matthew 5:10-12 says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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."
We are not to be surprised if people in the world hate Christians. (1 John 3: 13) Matthew Henry wrote, "Whom Christ blesses the world curses. The heirs of heaven have never been the darlings of this world, since the old enmity was put between the seed of woman (Eve) and of the serpent (Devil). Why did Cain hate Abel? Because Abel's works were righteous."
Persecution is a great paradox and a part of Christianity. Therefore it is put last of the eight Beatitudes. Jesus gives mention of it twice in His opening statements in the Sermon on the Mount because persecution is certain. In fact, "...everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." (2 Timothy 3: 12)
Righteousness, proper living before God, is an offense to people who live for the flesh, the world and the Devil. True holy living by the children of God convicts those who live for themselves.
Persecution, which is seen by an all-knowing God, comes in many forms and is found in every nation. Christians have been fined, imprisoned, banished, stripped of their estates, scourged, tortured, falsely accused and killed. There is no evil so black and horrid as false accusations and the persecution of Christians who truly walk uprightly before God.
Today's text does not encourage Christians to seek persecution. But, neither does it permit retreating from it, sulking or retaliation.
Christians who are persecuted because of righteousness will have a great reward in heaven. They may not understand the purposes nor see the benefits of it down here on earth, but there will be a great reward in the future life. Persecuted Christians who are fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, can be like Peter and the other apostles when they left the Sanhedrin "...rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Christ]." (Acts 5: 14)
Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer were the two American Christian aide workers being held by the Taliban under threat of death during the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America and the resulting U.S. attack on Afghanistan. They open their book, "Prisoners of Hope" with these words, "To the Afghan people whom we so dearly love." These words reflect the heart of Christians who are willing to risk persecution and perhaps death for the sake of taking the gospel to the lost, those who are without Christ as personal Savior and Lord. They also wrote; "To our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Your everlasting love healed our hearts and set us free. May we honor and love you with all that we are for all of our days."
Having the "Righteousness" of God is to have a surrendered heart to His will, regardless of the cost. Blessed are those who will undergo persecution for the sake of the righteousness of Christ.
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: "It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy, which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians--and I am one of them." Moody Bible Institute’s Today In The Word, June 1988, p. 18
Jacob Koshy grew up in Singapore with one driving ambition: to be a success in life, to gain all the money and possessions he could. That led him into the world of drugs and gambling, and eventually he became the lord of an international smuggling network. In 1980, he was arrested and placed in a government drug rehabilitation prison in Singapore.
He was frustrated beyond endurance. All his goals, purposes, dreams, and ambitions were locked up with him in a tiny cell, and his heart was full of a cold emptiness. He was a smoker, and cigarettes weren’t allowed in the center. Instead, he smuggled in tobacco and rolled it in the pages of the Gideon Bible. One day he fell asleep while smoking. He awoke to find to find that the cigarette had burned out, and all that remained was a scrap of charred paper. He unrolled it and read what was written; “Saul, Saul Why do you persecute me?”
Jacob asked for another Bible and read the entire story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. He suddenly realized that if God could help someone like Saul, God could help him, too. There in his cell he knelt and prayed, asking Christ to come into his life and change him. He began crying and co...
IN REGARDS TO "BLESSING THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU," D.L. MOODY, IN ONE OF HIS SERMONS, PORTRAYS THE LORD JESUS GIVING DIRECTION TO PETER AFTER HIS RESURRECTION ON THIS VERY CONCEPT. MOODY SAID, "GO, FIND THE MAN WHO THRUST HIS SPEAR INTO MY SIDE AND TELL HIM THERE IS A MUCH QUICKER WAY TO MY HEART. FIND THE MAN WHO CROWNED ME WITH THORNS AND TELL HIM I SHOULD LIKE TO GIVE HIM A CROWN OF LIFE."
ICHTHYS - THE CHRISTIAN FISH SYMBOL
I’ve got a picture here. Do you know what it is?
<>< (www.epworthsteeple.org/symbols.htm). Yes, it’s a symbol of a fish. But it’s more than that, it’s a Christian symbol going back to the time of the first years of the Christian church. In the first century Christians were a persecuted minority and they had to worship and witness in secret. When a stranger met someone on the road he would draw the top part of the fish symbol in the dust. If the other person drew the lower part, both knew that they were in good company.
But why did they use the fish symbol? The Greek word for fish is Ichthys. The letters of the Greek word form an acrostic: I starts the Greek word Iesous, CH for Christos, Y for Yeos, and
S for Soter, which in English means Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.
There are some Christians today who wear on their labels the symbol of a fish to tell others that they are Christians. Well, that’s fine, but it’s even more important that our lives should be a living witness that we are believers, and like the Christian fish symbol, mean that we love and follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and our Saviour. We must try to bring others to know Him (Mark 1:17,18). So do remember the sign of the fish.