Summary: Message for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
When the Going Gets Rough...
November 13, 2005
I’m going to start off a bit differently than normal, and I’m going to ask you to just hang with me, okay? In fact, the bulk of this message will be a little different than normal, okay?
When I was in college back in the days of the Cold War, I had a dream one night. I don’t think I’ve never shared this in public before, but it’s very appropriate today.
In that dream I was walking through a mall somewhere, when all of a sudden the Russians came and took over.
They herded all the Christians into a jewelry store and began to torture them by taking a knife and just cutting them all over for every time they refused to deny Jesus.
As they were bringing people into the store, they would say to them, "All you have to do to avoid this is to simply walk away. Just walk away. We’ll take that as saying that you deny Jesus, and you won’t have to go through this."
Well, being the fan of pain-free living that I am, I started to walk away. But just then I noticed someone I knew.
It was Joe. Joe was on staff with the Navigators at SDSU and had invested his life in me for three years to help me be a real follower of Jesus.
Anyway, Joe was sitting on the floor of the jewelry store, with his hands tied behind his back and his feet tied up in front of him. And he was just covered with dozens of cuts. He was bleeding all over.
Joe lifted his head and saw me. And he looked at me with the kind of look that I think Jesus must have looked at Peter with that night after he had denied Jesus three times.
Joe didn’t say anything. He just looked at me. And before I knew it, I found myself sitting down next to Joe, ready to take the cutting. I woke up just as the blade was coming toward me for the first cut.
Obviously, this dream impacted me grateful, and since then I’ve had to ask myself a tough question: would I sit down in real life?
Today is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. And to my shame, I confess to you that I have not given this the emphasis I should have. As I was working on this message, my heart broke, not only for those facing persecution, but because I was convicted that I don’t do enough to lift up and intercede to God and government for them
The passage that comes up next in our walk through Matthew addresses this a bit, but we’re going to look at that in a week or two, because I wanted to spend some more specific time on this topic.
I approach this topic with much fear and trembling. Not because I’m afraid of persecution so much, but rather because I haven’t gone through the fire that millions of people have since the time of Christ.
But we need to be aware of the fact that being a follower of Jesus brings with it the very real possibility of persecution. And we need to be aware of the fact that approximately 160,000 people are killed each year for being followers of Christ.
All the statistics I can find point to an increase over the foreseeable future. It’s incredibly important that we recognize that while we have it pretty easy here in America, it may not last forever.
So let’s look at a few passages of Scripture addressing this whole issue, and we’ll see if we can gain a bit of perspective.
Let me just warn you up front here that this won’t exactly be the most joke-filled message you’ve heard me give. But we’re talking about a very serious topic.
So let’s dive in as we look at just some of what the Bible says about persecution. First...
Persecution is a "normal" part of the serious Christian life.
...everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...
Notice I said that this is part of the "serious" Christian life. If you’re not a serious follower of Jesus, if you’re a Christian in name only, then you probably won’t have to worry about it.
Why is this part of the serious Christian life? Because serious Christians, those who love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, make an impact on those around them.
And often that impact isn’t exactly in line with the way society wants to go. This brings trouble.
For instance, it’s not very politically correct to say that a person has to have a spiritual birth through faith in Jesus Christ, because he’s the only way to heaven.