A response to suffering and persecution

Some of you may have seen the link I posted of the videos of Francis Chan responding to a video of the death of Christians in Orissa, India. Now, the videos have been disabled so that the church can confirm that the people being killed in that particular video were actually being killed for their faith. However, whether or not that one video proves accurate or not, the simple….haunting fact is that our brothers and sisters are dying horrible and disgusting deaths all over the world.

If you’ve never seen or read about the sorts of things that happen, you should watch these video: http://www.commissionstories.com/stories/54, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXjlkaM-ikY

or visit these websites: http://www.persecution.org/, http://www.persecution.com/, http://www.persecutionblog.com/

Being reminded of these things, and having visual depictions of people being martyred…I am convinced that every Christian (ESPECIALLY in the USA) should watch some of these videos and read these news sources of how our brothers and sisters are being treated. The reason is this: until we have seen with our eyes and been tormented by the sight of martyrdom happening, we will never be as affected as we should be; we will never pray like we should. These videos/stories, if we allow them, will change the way we pray for Christians around the world. It will change the way we pray for missionaries. It will change the way in which we beg God that the river of life would flow to all peoples everywhere. It is right and good for us to know what is happening to our brothers and sisters around the world, and it would be sinful for us to bury our heads in the sand and pretend like the situation couldn’t really be all that bad.

An appropriate response to this is NOT to hate the men who kill our brothers and sisters. First, our prayer should be that those wicked men who have done this would repent and believe the gospel that they might not stand before God with the blood of His saints on their hands. Our prayers should be that they would come to know the glorious Savior who those men they killed were willing to die for.

How should we respond?

  1. We should be encouraged/emboldened

In Philippians 1:12-20, what did Paul say happened to the brothers who heard about his suffering? They were made bolder to proclaim and defend the gospel! Now that we have seen the actual suffering of some of our brothers and sisters, now that we have seen the faithful example of those who would rather die a horrible death than renounce their love for Christ, we should be all the more bold in declaring the salvation of Christ! Why? Because we know that there isn’t a mob outside with stones and poles waiting to murder us for doing so. When we come into situations where we have the opportunity to share the gospel, and consider letting it pass us by, I pray that we will feel ashamed! Because our brothers and sisters proclaimed the gospel in the face of their DEATH, and we fail to do so because we’re embarrassed or just don’t feel like it. No, may we be BOLD in proclaiming the gospel!

2. We should be convicted

How many of us, in the situation of those men and women, would hold to our faith. How many of us would renounce our faith? How many of us would fail to share the gospel or come fulfill the command to be a part of the Church fellowship of God if we knew that might happen to us? If there were men waiting outside on the front steps of your church Sunday morning taking note of who came and went so that they could find your house and burn it later…would you be there? If your family was threatened and you yourself were threatened with physical harm, would you continue to boldly live out your faith? For many, perhaps even for some of us, that question isn’t even applicable, because there are many of us who don’t even live a bold Christian lifestyle now. There are some “Christians” who wouldn’t even be in danger from these mobs because nobody knows that they call themselves Christians, and their life is so similar to the world that there is nothing to differentiate them from anyone else. Do you begin to see what a blessed example is our brother Paul? He EXPERIENCED all these things, and still sang hymns in prison, and said “Don’t worry! The gospel is spreading!” So, if it were us, would we say with Paul, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by my life or by my death.”(Php. 1:20)?  Those brothers and sisters were ready to glorify God with their death because they refused to submit to the shame of failing to honor Christ. Would we do the same? Could we say, with Paul, “…to live is Christ and to die is GAIN.” (Php 1:21)

3. We should be driven to our knees in prayer

  • For our brothers and sisters: for courage, for perseverance, for comfort
  • For their killers: that they would repent and believe the gospel!
  • For ourselves: that we would be bold in following their example of faith

4. We should be reminded again that there is more than this life

As we are reminded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, if this life is all there is, we are to be pitied. But it isn’t! Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 4! There is a promised eternal glory. We should not feel sorry for those martyrs! Yes, we weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn…but their suffering has gained them a glory that far outweighs anything they suffered! Christ Himself said, “Blessed are you when people persecute you for righteousness’ sake…”(Matthew 5:10) They are now in the arms of Christ in complete joy and satisfaction. They would sooner feel sorry for us because we’re not in heaven than we should feel sorry for them because they were given the privilege of imitating Christ. Yes, weep…but do so knowing that these men have been blessed far beyond what most of us will ever experience – martyrs hold a special honor in heaven, by the way.

5. We should be reminded that our God is a God of justice

Do not think that God turns a blind eye to this. Do not think he will let the guilty go unpunished. If these wicked, murderous men who have struck down God’s people will not repent, they WILL be condemned with a horrifying sentence. (See the book of Revelation) You see, one of the reasons that those men can accept persecution without renouncing their faith is that they FIRMLY trust that the Lord is a Just God, and that He WILL avenge their blood and punish those who shed it infinitely more than we could ever imagine.

6. Finally, and most importantly, it should point us to Christ

If you want to know what the sufferings of Christ were like, look right there. If you want a picture of what our Savior endured for us, look right there. The truest imitation of Christ is a brutal death. Our Lord Jesus was subjected to flogging. I would describe it in detail but for the fact that I would spare your minds the gruesome images after what we’ve already seen and endured. It was worse than what we’ve seen here. He was beaten. Then, metal spikes were driven through the flesh and muscle of his arms and legs, into some pieces of wood, and He was hoisted into the air to die a slow and agonizing death. He endured that for God’s people. He endured that for us. And Paul tells us that those suffering are “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s sacrifice.”(Col. 1:24) He certainly doesn’t mean that Christ’s sacrifice was in any way insufficient, so what was he saying? He’s pointing out the fact that what is lacking in the sacrifice of Christ is really what is lacking in us. We are sinfully forgetful, and unless we forget so quickly or, like Thomas, refuse to believe unless we have first seen with our own eyes. And so the sufferings of the saints give us a visual reminder of the glorious, all powerful, beautiful, horrible, eternal, merciful, gracious sacrifice of Christ. If these images do not turn our minds to what Christ suffered, and if we do not THANK God for what He did for us on the cross because of it, we have missed the point in why God allows this to happen.

So, for the sake of your brothers and sisters: pray. Pray earnestly that God would give our brothers and sisters courage! Pray earnestly that they might realize and TRULY believe and agree with Paul as he says: “…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, l whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

For your own sakes: allow your heart and soul to be convicted, so that we might be spurred on to do EVERYthing in our power to spread the gospel and thus honor Christ, whether by life…or by death.

For the sake of the kingdom: pray. And may our glorious Lord and Savior receive all honor, glory and praise in His eternal dominion over all things.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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