Summary: #10 in my Romans 8 - What a Way to Live! series. International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Loads of quotes, statistics and stories.
Romans 8:35-37 – Praying for the Persecuted
(This was a sermon for the International day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, November 14, 2004. I got most of the source material from the book Jesus Freaks, by DC Talk. I found other stuff from the websites like Open Doors and The Voice of the Martyrs. There are tons of quotes and stats.)
Andronicus was a citizen in the Roman Empire in 303AD, shortly before Christianity was legalized. He had been thrown into prison because he was unwilling to deny his faith. Then he was whipped and his bleeding wounds were rubbed with salt. He was brought out from prison and tortured again, thrown to the wild beasts, and finally killed with a sword. Here’s what he said before it began:
“Do your worst, I am a Christian. Christ is my help and supporter, and thus armed I will never serve your gods nor do I fear your authority or that of your master, the Emperor. Commence your torments as soon as you please, and make use of every means that your malignity can invent, and you shall find in the end that I am not to be shaken from my resolution.” And he wasn’t. Andronicus was a brave martyr who stood steadfast to the end.
Today, November 14, 2004, has been set aside as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It’s hard to believe, especially from over here in North America, that there would be persecution in today’s so-called modern age. But in fact, there were close to 100 million martyrs in the 20th century. More people were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ in the 20th century than in all the previous nineteen combined. More people died in circumstances related to their faith in the 20th century than in all the 20th century wars combined. More than estimated 160,000 believers were martyred in 1996, and countless others were subjected to unimaginable horrors. According to a study done by Regent University in Vancouver, there were close to 164,000 Christians martyred around the world in 1999. And according to an organization called The Voice of the Martyrs, based in Bartlesville, OK, in the year 2000, over 425 people a day lost their lives, and the number is actually increasing as we go through the 21st century.
We have been going through Romans 8, and have been watching how it applies to us. Today we are looking at how it applies to others, who have experienced suffering and persecution that we may never see. Let’s read Romans 8:35-37.
Now, we can see that persecution is not new to this generation. Over the years, many godly men and women have died for their faith in Jesus. People since the time of Christ have chosen to be tortured and put to death because of their beliefs in the Savior. And many did it with a surprising peace.
Ignatius, a disciple of John, was devoured by wild animals in Rome in the year 111AD. He said this: “My dear Jesus, my Savior, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel confident that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped into pieces, the name of Jesus would be found on every piece.”
And the confidence they had is impressive. Justin, who became known as Justin Martyr, who was killed in Rome in 165AD, said this: “You can kill us but you cannot do us any real harm.”
Maurice Blanc, who was martyred in 1547, said, “Lord God, these men take away my life full of misery, but You will give me life everlasting.”
These Christians were absolutely convinced that there was something far superior waiting them afterwards, as long as they remained faithful in this life. “We shall not end our lives in the fire, but make a change for a better life.” These words were spoken by Julius Palmer, who was burned at the stake in England, 1556.
You see, ultimately this life is not really ours. We try to cling to it, to milk it for all its worth, but really, we can never keep what it has to offer. You have likely heard these words: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” These were spoken by Jim Eliot, who was speared by headhunters in Ecuador while serving there as a missionary in 1956.
It’s not that these folks had a death-wish. I’m sure they didn’t really want to die. Pastor Li De Xian, of the horribly persecuted Mainland China, just in the last decade said, “Humanly speaking, we know that no one likes to suffer physically. But I know that if the Lord leads me into it, He will give me the strength to survive it.”