A few years ago, I spoke to some followers of Jesus who were living in a country where they were very persecuted. What really struck me about them was that despite the physical scars on their bodies, constant threats, being harassed, continually being checked for religious literature, who were being jailed, taken away from families, not given an opportunity for further education… these were still faithful to the spread of the Good News of Jesus in their country regardless of the consequences. These were the kind of people that I only read about in books. Now, I would come to sit across from them, hear their stories face to face. For them, suffering and persecution is a part of the normal Christian life. I was asked if I wanted to live the normal Christian life. My heart was pierced through like a dagger. Am I ready? Would I be willing to suffer to this extent for being a follower of Jesus?
Another one of our members went to a country where fully following Jesus often meant being beaten, families divided, their houses burned down. For many, their favorite activity was to evangelize, to share the Good News of Jesus to others even when they knew what this could mean for them.
Following are some things that I learned from the persecuted Church.
First, I see a Church wholeheartedly and earnestly seeking after God in prayer. There’s a strong dependence on God for everything: wisdom, guidance, daily sustenance, faithfulness while facing persecution, and for the further spread of the Gospel.
Which leads me to the next lesson that I learned from the persecuted Church. They have a great desire for evangelism and the spread of God’s word even in the midst of danger.
Also, they have a great hunger for God’s Word. Many of these countries do not have easy access to the Bible. They don’t have all of the resources that we have and take for granted. For them, to get biblical training is extremely valuable. They will travel for days—many of them by foot—to go to a Bible teaching where they can learn more.
Another lesson I have learned is that the persecuted Church greatly understands the value of the Holy Spirit and His work to convict the unregenerate, show His power over all other spiritual powers. They depend upon His spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Body and the advancement of the Gospel.
Which leads me to the last lesson about the persecuted Church. The majority Church in our world is mostly poor for numerous reasons. They don’t have the conveniences that we do in our country. What we think we need in our country is very different from other places around the world. When you lose your home, friends, family, or possibly your health because of physical oppression, priorities change. The hope of the Gospel and the treasure of Christ are what has lasting meaning. Nothing else really matters.
I’m not saying that we don’t have our challenges in our own country. We obviously do. However, I believe that true persecution purifies the Church and seriously brings us to a place where we cannot ride the fence. There is no such thing as a nominal Christian. We either are fully committed disciples of Jesus or we go another path. The question now is, how do we prepare? How do we live like the persecuted Church now? May Jesus help us live like we are in a war-time strategy even when we live in peaceful times.