We had a great sermon this morning which focused on the plight of the persecuted Christian church abroad. The testimonies we heard about how our Christian brothers and sisters are suffering for their faith in places like Iraq, Syria and North Korea, were both shocking and incredibly sobering.
The fact that the Christian Church continues to grow in these countries and under such appalling circumstances is a stunning testimony to their strength of faith and conviction. People are openly declaring their faith in Jesus Christ in circumstances where to do so carries the very real risk of imprisonment, torture and even death. Not only for themselves, but often their families as well.
Contrast this with our reticence in safer countries to speak openly about our own faith simply because we fear a little ridicule. Considered in that light, it makes us look pretty pathetic really. This vain fear and apathy of ours speaks volumes about the reason that the Christian faith is declining in our society and yet growing in the world’s more hostile places.
The bible speaks many times of the fact that we can expect persecution when we choose to be followers of Christ.
In his second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul writes,
“You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it. Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Jesus himself spoke of the need for his disciples to sacrifice everything by taking up their cross to follow him. He further urged them to count the cost of this decision before undertaking the journey.
Fellow Christians are paying the price for following Jesus with their lives. Please pray for them and get informed by following an organisation like Barnabas Fund (www.barnabasfund.org) or Open Doors UK (www.opendoorsuk.org). If you can afford to give a little, I’m sure that wouldn’t go amiss either as they seek to fund their vital work with persecuted Christians around the world.
And please count the cost of your faith when compared to theirs.
Compare their scale of their faith and boldness to your own.
Then be inspired and speak up to live out Christ’s message in your own communities.