Summary: Persecution is promised to believers; therefore we should not be surprised when we encounter trials of various kinds. In the midst of difficulties, we must continue to increase in love for people as we anticipate the return of Christ.
Standing Firm in Trials
Here are a few breaking prayer needs that have been compiled by a ministry called “Open Doors.” (Taken from the Pastor’s Guide for the “International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church,” www.opendoorsusa.org).
Vietnamese authorities recently arrested a pastor and held him in a cell for 24 hours. The pastor, who leads a church that has grown to 800 members, sang hymns and prayed—despite being chained, deprived of water, and forbidden to use the bathroom.
Fleeing the famine in their country, hundreds of thousands of refugees from North Korea have escaped into China. Many have become Christians through the witness of the Chinese church. Now these new believers live in constant fear of deportation back to North Korea as China struggles to stem the tide of refugees. These Christians would face severe punishment in their homeland.
Extremists recently detonated bombs in a predominantly Christian area of Indonesia. Many Christians who have fled from the violence are still struggling to survive in refugee camps or are hiding in the jungle. In another attack, Islamic militants raided three villages, burned churches and homes to the ground, and shot and wounded men and women. More than 2,000 people were forced to flee for their lives.
Some 500 people died in an outbreak of violence between Muslims and Christians in northern Nigeria. Prominent Christian leaders were among those killed in the tragedy, and more than 10 Christian communities were ravaged and destroyed in the conflict. Nearly 10,000 people were displaced and now live as refugees.
Ten days ago, CNN reported that two gunmen invaded the office of a Christian charity in Karachi, Pakistan, tied up workers and shot seven of them to death, each with a bullet to the head. And, just last Sunday, a bomb exploded outside a church in Pakistan’s largest city, hours after thousands took to the streets asking the government to protect the minority Christian community.
And, not quite 2,000 years ago, a community of Christ followers located in what is now the country of Greece, experienced persecution by religious authorities and ostracism from their own family members. No sooner had they trusted Christ than the bottom seemed to fall out of their lives. Some sought solace in their suffering by turning to the Savior. But because they were so young in their faith, these trials were causing others to doubt and become discouraged. This Christian community needed some encouragement and a lot of intercession.
What do you do when your world caves in? How does a Christian respond when hard times come? All of us will face those questions sooner or later. It may not be from behind prison bars, but we will all go through deep trials eventually. When that happens, everything we believe will be put on the line.
In the first 9 verses of 1 Thessalonians 3, Paul wrote to some new believers who suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves in great difficulty. They were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. Our text shows how Paul reassured them and encouraged them to stand firm in trials. I see 6 truths about trials that can help us hang in there when difficulties come.