Lessons From The Persecuted Church
Every Christian is trying to figure out how to follow Jesus in today’s world. Though we often feel a world away from our persecuted brothers and sisters, their faith and courageous Christianity should inspire and challenge our own.
These are the faith-changing lessons to be learned from the persecuted.
“Imagine if the devil had the barrel of a gun pressed towards your temple and said, ‘Renounce Christ or I'll pull the trigger,’” said Lee Chin, a Christian from China.
“It’s likely you'd find the courage not to deny Christ and the trigger would be pulled.
“But what if the enemy took you to a warehouse and said you can have it all - a big house, money, family, cars, food, riches. You can even have Jesus sitting on a throne. It wouldn’t be long until we were so focused on playing in the blessings of Christianity, we didn’t even realise Jesus Christ had left the room.”
That is the problem with materialism… we’ve seen many Christians survive persecution but very few survive prosperity.
Which is of greater danger to your faith, ISIS or an iPhone? We see one of those driving people to God and one of them drawing them away from Him. It’s the subtlety of distraction that is suffocating our faith whereas the pressure of persecution brings faith to life.
A wealthy Christian man and his family lost everything when the Islamic State attacked Iraq.
“Before ISIS, I had more money, a big house, was a rich man but had no love,” he said. “ISIS was a gift because I now know the love of God more than ever before.
“One of the greatest challenges you face as Christians in the West is that you’re more in love with life than you are Jesus and it makes you unwilling to die for Him.”
We asked a pastor from Baghdad, “What does a lukewarm Christian look like?”
He smiled to himself and said, “That’s easy, they’re selfish. It’s where faith becomes more about what Jesus should do for you than what Jesus offers the world around you.”
Faith in Jesus is simple, but we often make it complex so we don’t have to do it. What if we spent less time talking and debating the idiosyncrasies of the gospel, and truly lived it out?
The scriptures talk about the 99 and the one.
“Have you ever thought you might be the one?” asked Ozod, a believer from Central Asia. “I see people in the West who claim to know God but when He asks them to do something, they ignore Him.”
How often do we ignore God unless what He’s asking is safe, comfortable and guaranteed to work? How often do we sell Jesus out for the hope of hearing a ‘yes’ or to protect against the fear and embarrassment of receiving a ‘no’?
If we take Jesus out of our language, all we’re doing is paving the wide road to hell with generosity and good deeds.
These lessons from the persecuted church cut at the very heart of our own faith, showing us what it means to follow Jesus no matter the cost.
We’re all trying to figure out how to follow Jesus in today’s world. When we connect with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, in learning about their faith, we learn about our own, too.
After all, “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith… one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:4-6
There are always things that will try to stop us from following Jesus. We can’t avoid that, but we can overcome it, together.