Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 2 Corinthians 11:23-30
As a believer living in a country that still allows religious freedom, I know that I am blessed to be able to attend worship services, pray for people in public, carry my Bible (on my phone), listen to Christian music on the radio, etc. I know that I can do all of those things to worship and serve my God without fearing for my life.
I also know, that before I began spending time in a country that doesn’t offer the same freedoms, I didn’t really even think, other than peripherally, about the persecuted church. I never quite understood having to hide my faith or having my life threatened for standing up for my belief in Christ.
I am always amazed by the stories of persecution that I hear from the native missionaries and pastors that my husband and I work with in India. And, I am amazed by their strength, found in Jesus, to carry on and make a stand in the face of death.
Some stories of persecution are horrific; the outcome is martyrdom, told by survivors. They are stories of stabbings on the street side, beatings, being held hostage in their home only to be burned to death. But many stories become testimonies to God never-failing mercy.
One story hit close to home for me. Many years ago, my husband experienced one of these life or death situations. As he preached the Gospel in a remote village, some Hindu extremists threatened him, told him to leave their village and never come back. They never gave him the chance to stay away as they began trying to beat the life out of him. They smashed his face in and battered his body; then left him for dead. A good ‘Samaritan’ took him to the hospital, where by God’s grace his body healed and he was able to continue being a witness from his bed and eventually go back into the villages to share the stories of Jesus’ sacrifice, despite the threats that are continually issued by deceived men.
Another story gives me courage every time I go into a village to share the message of hope. Native missionaries, Ambika and Susilla, in their old age, would go into the villages every day to conduct children’s ministry and pray for the people. One day as they were walking from one area to another, a drunken man accosted them. He began screaming at them, threatening their lives with a machete. All of their faith was in their Lord and Savior; they stood strong in Christ and told the man that they would never stop telling people about, even if he killed them. He was even more angered that they were not daunted by his threats and lunged at them. God’s hand protected them, and when he came nearer to them, his whole demeanor instantly changed. He lowered the blade and was sobered. Instead of killing them, he instead asked them to pray for him.
Just like Paul, there are countless Christians who are continually faced with making the choice between their lives and their faith. Those believers who stand in steadfast regardless of the consequence are testaments to the goodness of God and the strength that He offers in times of need.
Yesappa, Thank You for always being there, by my side; for giving me strength when I am weak. Thank You for offering courage, for supplying protection for my spirit. Help me stand strong for You and the sacrifice that You made for me, in the face of persecution as the end days draw nearer and nearer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.