What happens in your heart when you hear of being persecuted for following Christ? Fear? Avoidance? Resolve? As Americans, we have not been accustom to facing persecution for believing in Jesus Christ, worshiping Him in our assemblies or sharing Christ in our communities. However, just because we do not have as much experience with it, does not mean that the persecution of believers is not happening around the world and even within our own country. Jesus finished the beatitudes by helping his followers understand how to handle persecution. If believers live according to the truths Jesus preached in the sermon on the mount, persecution in some form must be expected.
Recently, research conducted by Family Research Council (FRC) indicates that criminal acts against churches have been steadily on the rise for the past several years, and the first quarter of 2023 has continued the upward trend. The first three months of 2023 saw approximately three times the number of acts of hostility perpetrated against churches in the same timeframe last year. The fourth quarter of 2022 saw an additional 54 incidents, for a total of 191 in 2022. In the first quarter of 2023, 69 incidents have already occurred.
As believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, we must be fortified to stand for Jesus no matter the cost. William Wolfe, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon and a director of legislative affairs at the State Department, wrote, “Despite what some may claim, Christians are being persecuted in America. That might be hard to hear, but it’s true. Even though the United States is, arguably, the freest nation on the planet, and offers the First Amendment protection, Christians still face already-and-increasing persecution here between our shining seas. We need to recognize this and prepare for it to get worse.“
Let be reminded of several truths:
- Jesus promises a blessing for the persecuted. He gives divine grace and internal peace to endure through persecution. Jesus reassured His disciples before He went to the cross in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” We should remember that all the grace that we need to stand for Jesus will be ours in the moment. The greatest blessing we could receive is hearing “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy lord.“
- Those that give their lives for Jesus Christ will receive the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 tells us, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.“
- Believers are commanded to pray for those in bonds for their faith. If we are to pray for them, we must know about them. There are many organizations that exist to raise awareness of Christian persecution around the world. Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.“
I have read many books detailing the brave faith of Christians for Jesus Christ. There are two that I would recommend for your consideration. Forward in the Face of Fear by Edgar Feghaly will challenge your heart about the power of God and the Gospel in difficult, hostile regions. The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripkins will open your eyes to the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world.
I pray that our Savior will strengthen you to stand for His sake wherever you are and whatever you may face.
“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”Two Moravian Martyrs