Summary: Message about how we can remember and become involved with those suffering for the faith.
Remembering the Persecuted Church
International Day of Prayer for the
November 9, 2008
Me: This is one of those real somber topics that we’d really rather not think of, at least if we’re honest about it.
Talking about persecution doesn’t evoke a lot of joy and happiness, and I doubt if anyone here will leave today looking for an opportunity to be persecuted because it sounds like a lot of fun.
I don’t like to think about it, either. I kinda like be insulated here in the United States, where being a Christian is not only allowed, but encouraged in most parts of society, and where freedom of religion is guaranteed, at least for the time being.
And it’s even better here in the Midwest, where it’s almost assumed that you are part of some group calling itself Christian – a church, a campus ministry, or whatever.
I like that.
We: I would also suspect that I’m not the only one here who doesn’t like to think about persecution, either that which takes place in other parts or the world, or the prospect of my own – a prospect that at this point would almost seem laughable.
I think a lot of people think of persecution like they think of those kids on the infomercials for organizations that feed hungry children around the world.
We know they exist, but we’d rather not think about them. It makes us uncomfortable, even if we’re barely making it ourselves.
Unfortunately, the persecuted church around the world doesn’t get the kind of exposure that starving children get.
And because of that, our brothers and sisters around the world face many brutal hardships hidden by a cloak of secrecy.
Today, according to the best statistics I can find, between 300 and 400 people will die because they are identified as Christians.
Others will be imprisoned, tortured, discriminated against, and otherwise put in hardship – because they identify themselves as Christians.
Can you imagine the horror of having armed men break into your home and threaten you with death or torture, then taking one of your family members away, maybe to never be seen again?
Folks, it happens all time around the world.
And we can’t just stand by and pretend it doesn’t really exist.
God: Persecution is nothing new.
Jesus said that the world would hate His followers because they hated Him as well. The apostle Paul said that all who wish to lead a godly life would be persecuted.
That persecution might be as small as a dirty look or insult, to discrimination from a job or promotion, or to death.
Most of my remarks are going to focus on those who are being imprisoned, tortured, or killed for their faith in Christ, and I want to base them on two passages of Scripture.
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
The common element of these two verses is the idea that persecution isn’t suffered alone. We are actually called to join in that suffering by remembering and praying for them, understanding that this is our family they are hurting.
This isn’t an issue of “those people far away.” It’s not a “them” issue. It’s an “US” issue.
It affects all of us because we’re all part of the Body of Christ.
And it’s important for us to recognize what is happening and to pray for the sake of those suffering for Christ, even if it’s way across the earth.
You: So what can we do to be involved with the persecuted church?
* Pray for those already facing persecution.
> Strength and courage.
> Limited suffering.
> Protection for their families.
> Their lives would serve as a testimony to the truth of Christ.
I hope you’ve had a chance to read through the story of Alex in the bulletin insert from The Voice of the Martyrs.
Alex’s biggest concern as he lay there, shot in the face, was that he would die without sharing Jesus with the men who were trying to kill him.
This guy is in the fire of persecution, yet he knows that he is called to share Christ in the midst of it.
* Pray for those taking the gospel to hostile areas.
In some of these places, it is legal to be a missionary and to be converted to Christ, but it is not accepted by the people. And so there is “unofficial” persecution – meaning that the government isn’t sanctioning it.
By the way, this does happen here in the US, and even here in South Dakota.