From Faith that Endures, by Ron Boyd-MacMillan, (Fleming Revell, 2006), pages 322-323.
The Biblical scholar William Barclay described a New Testament Christian as having three remarkable characteristics: “One, they were absurdly happy; two, they were filled with an irrational love for everyone; and three, they were always in trouble.” Persecuted Christians are constantly in trouble. As a Palestinian pastor put it, “If you speak truth to power, power always reacts.” An encounter with the persecuted reveals the incendiary nature of this gospel we follow.
Persecuted Christians are not tempted into the illusion that the world is actually a friendly place that does not mind our identifying with Christ. The world for them is unmasked in its hostility to Christ.
Once when visiting Czechoslovakia in the 1980’s, I delivered a Bible to an elderly pastor. He had not seen a Bible in years. He smelled it, kissed it with trembling lips, cradled it, and then with great reverence, opened it. Then he turned to me and said, “Let me tell you of my wounds.” And he poured out his trials for God, which included seven beatings by the secret police and the awful seduction of his daughter by a government agent who then fooled her into betraying him. Then he turned to me, his eyes boring into my soul, and asked, “What wounds have you for the Master?” I was embarrassed to have so few to share.
The questions of the Persecuted Church are simple: Are you in trouble for Jesus? Where are your wounds? If you don’t have any, maybe you’ve forgotten you’re in a fight at all. Whatever culture we are in, we are always being subtly coerced into spending our money, or time, on what is not of Christ. Persecution afflicts us all if we stand up for Christ. The world, the flesh, and the devil will never reach an accommodation with Christ. Like it or not, we are caught up in cosmic warfare. The gospel has landed us in it. We will all be scarred by the battle. We will all experience persecution. The difference is only one of degree and type.
I Peter 4:12-16 — Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
II Timothy 3:12 — Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
John 15:18 — (Jesus said), “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”
I Peter 5:6-10 — Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith,because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong,firm and steadfast.
PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH (By Rev. Norman Olsen, Starbuck, MN)
Merciful Father: Hear the cries of your people who are being persecuted and killed for your Name’s sake; who are threatened with the sword to “deny or die”; who are made to watch as their own children are slain; who are tortured for the sake of a religion; and who must flee their homeland for their lives, if they can.
We join our prayers with their cries for deliverance, O Lord, asking that you embrace them with your nearer presence and provide your promised deliverance in the midst of their suffering. Breathe in them your peace which passes all understanding, and assure them that nothing in all creation can ever separate them from your love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Strengthen them as you did for all the saints and martyrs who went before, with the confidence that death is of no lasting consequence in your eternal Kingdom.
We pray for the conversion of the evil doers, as they hear the compelling witness of the Gospel on the lips, and in the lives, of the persecuted church. And finally we implore your forgiveness for our sins of indifference and apathy towards the persecuted church. With shame we confess that so much suffering has met with so little awareness and response.
Imbue us, O Lord, with your Living Word, the Holy Spirit, that we may stand in solidarity with all who willingly suffer for the sake of Christ. We open our hearts, praying, not only for the suffering church, but that their suffering may teach us faithfulness today, and what it costs to stand for the Gospel in the evil day; confident that while sorrow may linger for the night, joy comes in the morning. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.