Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)
Whether it’s ridicule from coworkers, the mocking of Christians in TV and movies, increased restrictions in public schools and colleges, legal attacks on Christian business owners who stand true to their faith, or a constant assault on the senses from a culture that has lost its moral bearings; we are experiencing in America an increased hostility toward Christianity. Yet, we are still largely protected, isolated, and often unaware of what many of our brothers and sisters are experiencing in other parts of the world.
When we think of martyrs we frequently think of 1st century Christians facing lions in Roman coliseums. Although the numbers vary widely depending on how Christians are counted, there is evidence that the majority of all Christians killed for their faith over the past 2000 years died in the 20th century. In large part that was due to communism. Today ISIS, civil wars in Africa and the Middle East, persecution from other predominant religions around the world, and hold out communist countries like North Korea continue to increase those numbers.
Persecution, however, is not just in the form of martyrdom. Churches are burned. Young women are sold into slavery. Men lose their jobs resulting in poverty. Children are taken from families. Families reject their loved ones. And people live in fear every single day. Of course, we should not be surprised. Our Lord told us it would be like this.
“Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:20)
What we’ve experienced in America is not the norm in the world or in time. Our God has been very gracious to us, but that gives us an even greater burden to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering for our faith. And the first thing we need to do is to pray for them.
On Sunday, November 1, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Prayer will be offered in the service that morning. We also encourage you to pray throughout the day…and beyond. And, if you wish, you can join us after the 2nd service that afternoon in Room 8 to pray for our friends and partners in Turkey and for the persecuted church around the world.
Here are some recommendations for prayer from Voice of the Martyrs:(http://www.persecution.com/idop)
-Pray that persecuted believers will sense God’s presence (Heb. 13:5).
-Pray that they will be comforted by God when their family members are killed, injured or imprisoned for their witness (2 Cor. 1: 3-5).
-Pray that they will have more opportunities to share the gospel (Col. 4:3).
-Pray for their boldness to make Christ known (Phil. 1:14).
-Pray that they will forgive and love their persecutors (Matt. 5:44).
-Pray that their ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence them (Acts 9:25).
-Pray that they will rejoice in suffering (Acts 5:41).
-Pray that they will be refreshed through God’s Word and grow in their faith (Eph. 6:17).
-Pray that they will be strengthened through the prayers of fellow believers (Jude 20-25).
And pray as well for the persecutors! Remember, at one time the Apostle Paul was the chief persecutor.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44)