Summary: This message was preached during a Month of Missions emphasis and illustrates the need for awareness among evangelicals regarding those who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ.
Jesus, Hope of the Nations
“The Persecuted Church”
Month of Missions - 2003
Various Scripture Texts – © Dr. Larry L. Thompson (2003)
John 15:20 (NIV)
“Remember the words I spoke to you: ’No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
Alarming reports are streaming in from all over today’s world -- believers in many countries are being tortured and even killed because of their stand for Jesus.
An attack upon any part of the body is an attack upon every part of the body because it is an attack upon Christ with whom we all identify. There is no Biblical model to endure persecution if one has the ability and power to do something about it. ( Peter, Acts 5; Paul, Acts 16; Acts 25).
Facts of the Persecuted Church
• More than estimated 160,000 believers were martyred in 1996, and countless others were subjected to unimaginable horrors. (David C. Barrett, "Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission." International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Jan. 1997, p. 25)
• There are close to 100 million martyrs in this so-called "modern" 20th century. (World Mission Digest)
• There have been more people martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ in the 20th century than in all the previous nineteen combined. (James and Marti Hefley, By Their Blood)
• More people have died in circumstances related to their faith in this century than in all the 20th century wars combined. (statistical research of the WEF Religious Liberty Commission)
• Pakistan recently passed a blasphemy law that forbids speaking or acting against the prophet Mohammed. The punishment for violators is death. A 12-year-old Christian child was recently sentenced to death under this law and was freed from Pakistan only by international pressure. He is now hiding in a Western country with a bounty on his head similar to that which keeps Salman Rushdie on the run. -- Mona Charen, Washington Times
• The United Nations reports that the militant Islamic government of central African Sudan has declared a systematic battle against Christians. Since 1982, 300,000 Sudanese Christians have been killed. Each year hundreds of Christian believers are sold into slavery and taken where they have to work as slaves or as concubines for their Muslim masters.-- Religious Liberty Commission of World Evangelical Fellowship
• Lai Man Peng was a 22-year-old Chinese Christian evangelist. In 1994, at a meeting of one of China’s "house churches" (a non-government-sanctioned prayer meeting), he and four other evangelists were seized by agents of the Public Security Bureau, China’s KGB. In front of the congregation, Mr. Lai and the others were beaten severely. The security officers next handed the rods to the congregants and ordered them to beat the preachers, on pain of being beaten themselves. Mr. Lai was so badly injured that the security team feared he would die in their presence (leaving too much to explain), so they released him. He crawled and hobbled for several miles attempting to reach his home, but finally collapsed and died on the road. Such persecution is commonplace in China, where only a fraction of the estimated 30 million to 70 million Christians belong to government-approved sects. Amnesty International reports cases of Christian women hung by their thumbs from wires and beaten with heavy rods, denied food and water and shocked with electric probes.-- Washington Times, 1997
Why is this happening? Is this a new occurrence? What does the Bible say about the persecution of Christians? What are the responsibilities of believers like us who may not be facing the same type of persecution…at this time?
I. Why Is the Church Persecuted?
Persecution of the Church today is…
A. DIRECTED BY SATAN: It is Satan’s way of attempting to usurp God’s authority. (1 Peter 5:8)
1 Peter 5:8 “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Satan is seeking to devour believers -- devour in the Greek means to swallow or destroy.
B. DESIGNED TO STRENGTHEN: It is also one of God’s methods of strengthening His children. (James 1:1-5)
James 1:1-5 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Our faith is tested to produce endurance in our walk with the Lord.