Opposition to those who bear the name of Christ is nothing new. Hebrews 11 tells about those in ancient times who took a stand for their faith and were rewarded with torture, jeers, floggings, stoning, chains, prison, being sawed in two, being forced to wander in deserts and caves and mountains and holes in the ground, and being put to death by the sword.
The Apostle Paul suffered much for the sake of Christ’s gospel. He reports frequent prison confinements, beatings with rods, whippings of 39 lashes, stonings, shipwrecks, constant danger from Gentiles, Jews, bandits, and pseudo-believers everywhere; sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, cold, and insufficient clothing not to mention the daily pressure of concern for his brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Is religious persecution something only of the past? Unfortunately not. We have more reported Christian martyrs in the first 15 years of this century than in all the years combined since the first century.
Headlines in recent publications of “The Church Around the World” include: Christian Teachers in Kenya Quit in Fear of Attacks, Syrian Christians at risk of Genocide; Iran Cracks Down on Christians; Chinese Police Shut Down Christian-Run Shelter; South Sudanese Pastors to Be Charged with Capital Crimes; Vietnam Crushing Christian Minorities, etc.
We have a Pakistani lady attending our church who was severely beaten and tortured by her father and brother when she declared her newly found faith in Jesus Christ. She can hardly walk and can barely hear, but her spirit is sweet and her testimony is strong. She considers it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ. Could I say the same? Could you?
The persecution has come to our own country. Targets of recent shootings on a college campus were religious students. It’s becoming increasingly difficult and costly to take a stand for our Christian faith here in America.
I say this not to produce guilt, despair, or fear. I hope to raise awareness of the plight of our fellow believers all over the world and to ask for your prayer support.
A recent speaker in our church, who is involved with a mission that provides emotional and financial relief to persecuted Christians in the Middle East, informed us that the believers there do not ask that the persecution stop they ask for strength and resolve to endure hardship and that the cause of the Lord will be advanced!
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 8. But any day is a good time to pray for those in chains around the world.