When Persecution Arises

Dear Servants,
On Sunday, I preached on our Lord’s teaching about persecution and the challenge for us who live in the United States to identify with our sisters and brothers around the world who suffer so greatly for their faith in Jesus. We have to remember that our experience as 21st-century Western Christians is rather unique in terms of the treatment of Christians worldwide. It is estimated that 100 million believers live in countries where there is on-going persecution against Christians.
An excellent source of ongoing information about the persecuted church can be found at opendoorsusa.org. On Sunday I quoted from that site, “Christian persecution is any hostility experienced from the world as a result of one’s identification as a Christian. From verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions, Christians in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith. Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and employment, and even death are just a few examples of the persecution they experience on a daily basis.” The U.S. Department of State says that “Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.” Each month 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches or Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 Christians suffer from some form of violence other than death for their faith in Jesus. (reference)
Can I suggest that the least we, who face so little in the way of persecution, can do is to go to Open Doors or Voice of the Martyrs and sign up for email updates? At these websites, you will also find links to videos of Christians who have undergone persecution for their faith. We can pray for our brothers and sisters to be true to Christ in the face of all they have to suffer. This is how the persecuted church asks us to pray.
Jesus explains the parable of the seeds to His disciples, who like us, often don’t quite understand what Jesus means. With regard to the “rocky ground,” Jesus says there is no root so when persecution arises, they lose their faith. How do we put down deep roots? Discipleship! Continue to read Scripture, meet together to share your prayer needs and receive counsel in the Lord, and attend church as much as possible. These, along with our prayer life, are gifts for discipleship. There is no guarantee that trials, temptations, and even persecution will not come to our lives or the lives of our loved ones. We must all be rooted in Christ. This is also a wonderful prayer for those 100 million Christians who face the real possibility for persecution right now: that they, too, may put down deep roots.
God Bless you all,
Alex +

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