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Summary: A challenge to live our lives in fuller awareness of those who are suffering and facing death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. (National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church)

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A UKRANIAN BISHOP IS DEPORTED FROM BELARUS FOR “RELIGIOUS ACTIVITES.” TALIBAN GUNMEN SHOOT AND KILL A CHRISTIAN AID WORKER IN KABUL, AFGHANISTAN. ISLAMIC EXTREMEST RANDOMLY KILL 7 CHRISTIANS IN MOSUL, IRAQ. A MAN IN MEXICO KILLS 3 MEMBERS OF A CHRISTIAN FAMILY WHO JUST HAPPENED TO BE HIS NEIGHBOR.

WE MAY ALL AGREE THAT THIS IS NOT THE MOST PLEASANT WAY TO START A SERMON? BUT, WHAT WE MAY NOT ALL AGREE ON IS FINDING IT BELIEVABLE THAT THESE EVENTS HAVE TAKEN PLACE SINCE OCTOBER 2008. YES, THIS YEAR! NO, NOT SOME BARBARIC AGE FROM SOME DISTANT TIME THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO. TODAY!

WHETHER IT WAS 70 A.D. OR AS RECENT AS LAST MONTH, IT SHOULD NOT COME AS A SURPRISE TO ANY OF US THAT PERSECUTION, EVEN MARTYRDOM, HAS BEEN THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP FOR CHRISTIANS DOWN THROUGH THE AGES.

IS IT REALLY ALL THAT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT EVEN TODAY, IN MANY COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD BELIEVERS ARE STILL SUFFERING IMPRISONMENT, DEPORTATION AND DEATH FOR THEIR UNCOMPROMISING DEVOTION TO THEIR SAVIOR.

ALARMING REPORTS CONTINUE TO POUR IN FROM ALL OVER TODAY’S WORLD. EVEN IN THIS MODERN-DAY, CIVILIZED 21ST CENTURY, BELIEVERS IN MANY COUNTRIES ARE BEING TORTURED AND EVEN KILLED BECAUSE OF THEIR STAND FOR JESUS.

THERE WERE ALMOST 100 MILLION KILLED FOR THEIR FAITH JUST IN THE 20TH CENTURY. THIS STAGGERING NUMBER IS MORE THAN IN ALL PREVIOUS 19 CENTURIES COMBINED! IT IS ALSO MORE THAN ALL THE SOLDIERS WHO WERE KILLED IN ALL 20TH CENTURY WARS COMBINED.

THE LITANY OF HORRORS THAT BELIEVERS WITHSTAND FOR THEIR FAITH IS CHILLING. ONLY ONE POWER CAN REDEEM THE COURSE OF EVENTS, AND THAT IS THE POWER OF GOD’S PEOPLE BEING INVOLVED AS HIS INSTRUMENTS. MANY SUFFER IN SILENCE. WILL YOU BE ONE WHO BREAKS THAT SILENCE?

1 CORINTHIANS 12:26, "IF ONE PART SUFFERS, EVERY PART SUFFERS WITH IT…." THAT MEANS THAT AN ATTACK UPON ANY PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST IS AN ATTACK UPON EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US AS BELIEVERS BECAUSE IT IS AN ATTACK UPON JESUS CHRIST WITH WHOM WE ALL IDENTIFY.

THAT IS MY PRAYER FOR THIS MESSAGE TODAY THAT WE WILL STARTS LIVING OUR LIVES IN A FULLER AWARENESS OF THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING AND FACING DEATH BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITH.

EVEN IN NATIONS THAT HAVE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SUCH AS THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE, A PERSON WITH A BOLD WITNESS FOR THE LORD MAY COME UNDER BRUTAL SCRUTINY AND BE SUBJECTED TO ALL FORMS OF RIDICULE AND HARASSMENT.

WHEN WE ARE FACED WITH A FORM OF PERSECUTION SIMPLY BECAUSE OF OUR CHRISTIAN COMMITMENT, NO VERSE OF SCRIPTURE IS MORE COMFORTING THAN THE BEATITUDE SPOKEN BY OUR SAVIOR IN MATTHEW 5:10, "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN."

I’LL BE THE FIRST ONE TO ADMIT THAT NOBODY WANTS TO BE PERSECUTED LET ALONE BE THE FIRST ONE TO SAY THAT IT’S EASY TO FIND JOY AND HAPPINESS WITHIN PERSECUTION.

IT SEEMS MORE LOGICAL TO US THAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE COMPLIMENTED FOR THEIR EXTRAORDINARY BEHAVIOR INSTEAD OF BEING SLANDERED FOR THEIR FAITH!

IT SEEMS MORE REASONABLE TO THINK THAT OTHERS WOULD RESPECT A CHRISTIAN’S LIFESTYLE, EVEN IF THEY DIDN’T AGREE WITH IT. YET, IN THIS WORLD, THAT’S NOT HOW IT HAPPENS! GOOD PEOPLE ARE PERSECUTED IN THIS LIFE!


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