Summary: Believers in many parts of the world are suffering persecution ranging from mild oppression to beheadings while we in the west seem to waltz through life without giving this persecution a second thought. What should we make of this disparity?
Matthew 24:4-14 – please look this up in your Bibles. We will read this passage in a moment …
The first and second Sundays of November have been designated as the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
But since we were away the first Sunday of November at a District Pastors Gathering and the Needhams were here last week we have not been able to take the time to seriously look at what is happening to Christians around the world until today. This situation of persecution should actually be something we are in constant prayer about.
On the other hand, this is the Sunday before Thanksgiving and we usually take this Sunday to be especially thankful, which is actually kind of odd for a group of people who are instructed to be continually thankful, right?
So, the question is, “Can we combine a remembrance of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and dying for the Lord and the American observance of Thanksgiving in one service?”
Let’s go ahead and read Matthew 24:4-14 …
Persecution of followers of the Lord Most High is nothing new. The same persecution that exists now took place throughout the Old Testament, it took place during the time of Christ and His apostles, it took place during the reformation, it is taking place now and will grow in its intensity until Jesus returns.
Persecution in the Bible (give a brief overview):
The prophets – the apostles – Stephen
John 16:1-2 NIV
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.”
What was Paul’s name before His salvation took place on the road to Damascus? It was Saul.
What was Saul spending every waking moment of every non-Sabbath day doing? He was persecuting the church.
Did Saul believe that he was offering a service to God by persecuting the Christians? Yes, he did!
What happened to Saul after he was saved and started proclaiming the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus? He was persecuted!
What about persecution since the time of Christ?
AD 70 – the destruction of Jerusalem – the dispersion
AD 500 – Bible translated into over 500 languages – by AD 600 there was
only one – Latin. Anyone found with a non-Latin Bible could be executed!
AD 1597 – In Nagasaki Japan 26 Christians were executed. On was a young boy named Thomas Kosaki. He was crucified along with his father and the others.
This is a letter he wrote to his mother while on his way to his death for the cause of Christ: "Mother we are supposed to be crucified tomorrow in Nagasaski. Please do not worry about anything because we will be waiting for you to come to heaven. Everything in the world vanishes like a dream. Be sure that you never lose the happiness of heaven. Be patient and show love to many people. Most of all, about my little brothers Mansho and Philipo, please see to it that they are not delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Mother I commit you to the Lord."
The emperor thought the Christians would abandon the faith. They did not.
Thomas Kosaki had built his life on the firm foundation of Jesus!
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.” - Jesus
When ISIS took over Mosul they gathered the remaining Christians together. Many were beheaded, starting with the children first.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me.” - Jesus
In China: China is a vast area with a government that ranges from tolerant to oppressive when it comes to Christianity. In some areas Christians may just be looked down upon and in other areas meeting in an “underground” or unregistered church can land you in prison.
Chinese prisons are not like our prisons; there is no cable TV, no exercise yards, no hot meals, no doctors and dentists on call. Instead there is forced hard labor, minimal food and only enough medical care to keep you alive.
I read one account of a preacher who visited an underground church in China.
In the church, the crowd was so packed that no one could sit down. It was so crowded that the preacher was backed up against the front wall and the people in the congregation were so close that he could have reached out and touched them.
The part of the service when the preaching was to begin started at 7:30 in the morning. The visiting preacher asked how long he should preach and he was told to preach from 7:30 AM – 8:00 PM. They also wanted him to come back the next day and do the same thing and if he would be so kind to do so they would like him to do it again.