“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated…” Hebrews 13:3 (NKJV)
Professing to be a Christian today in some parts of the world can be a very dangerous matter. It’s estimated that around 100,000 Christians lose their lives every year as a result of persecution. Breaking that huge figure down in terms of minutes, we are talking about one Christian being killed approximately every five minutes!
The founder of Christianity 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ, was no stranger himself to persecution. He told his disciples in John 15:18 that “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” He went on to say in verse 20 that they should expect to be persecuted. His gospel of grace and of a better Covenant (Hebrews 8:6) did not sit well with his enemies at the time. Sadly, it still doesn’t in many parts of the world today.
Being a Christian is serious business and was never intended to be an easy ride. Jesus explained so in Matthew 10:38, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Interestingly, in countries where persecution is common, Christians often request their international brothers and sisters to pray, not for the persecution to stop, but rather that we pray for their faith and courage to remain strong, so they can be powerful witnesses to God’s love and grace in their communities.
Persecution is not a particularly comfortable subject to discuss, I realise, but it is a distinct reality in many countries. As such, let’s all pray for our brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution and imprisonment at this time. Better still, we might like to think about supporting one of several charities (e.g. Release International) whose sole purpose is to help the families of those who have been killed, injured or imprisoned for their faith (Matthew 25:34-36). Let’s also not forget to pray for those who are doing the persecuting, that God might heal their stony hearts and grant them repentance to salvation. He did with the one who became the Apostle to the Gentiles—Paul (1 Corinthians 15:9).
Heavenly Father, please bless those who are being persecuted for their faith. Help them to remain strong in the Lord and be a powerful witness to your love, grace and forgiveness.
Study by John Magowan
Grace Communion Lisburn (www.grace-ni.org)
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