A few weeks ago I attended a conference that was sponsored by the Voice of the Martyrs. The guest speakers have been persecuted for their faith. Among other atrocities, they have been beaten, imprisoned, kidnapped and had their churches burned, all because of following Jesus Christ.
The International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church is Nov. 14 this year. Hebrews 13:3 says to "remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." One of my pastors told me that this day of prayer was observed in a former church in the following manner: Bibles were confiscated at the door as people arrived on Sunday morning, and the sound system, lights and heat were kept off. Other churches have acknowledged the persecuted church by meeting together at midnight.
I read a story about a 15-year old girl from China who was preparing to be baptized by her father. He first asked her four questions. The first three might also be heard at a baptism in America. "Do you believe in Jesus? Has He forgiven your sins? Do you promise to walk with Him always?" The fourth question seems hard to imagine, but it is a way of life for many believers around the world. "When they come into our house and take us away, when they beat us and try to get us to deny Him, will you still follow Jesus?"
Todd Nettleton, director of media development for The Voice of the Martyrs-USA said, "Our persecuted family is not asking us to pray that the persecution will stop. They're asking us to pray they will remain faithful to Christ in spite of the persecution and pressure they face."
American Christians have enjoyed freedom to worship Jesus however they want and whenever they want. Public schools and the media become more anti-Christian as time goes on, but it is nowhere close to the type of persecution faced daily by brothers and sisters around the world who are tortured by their own family members, beaten, committed to mental institutions and told to renounce Christ. They are put on trial and faced with imprisonment for teaching Sunday school.
In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Would there be enough evidence in my life to subject me and my family to this type of persecution if we lived in a country where Christianity is illegal? I own a Bible and pray. I home school my children and teach them from a Biblical worldview. I attend church with my family regularly and sing in the choir. I am part of a Moms in Touch prayer group and a member of a weekly Bible study group. We listen to Christian radio stations. The walls of our home have crosses and Bible verses. I help my daughter memorize scripture for AWANA. My children are learning Christian Christmas music on the piano. A friend and I meet in public to talk about things the Lord is doing in our lives. My incoming and outgoing e-mails and text messages often contain encouraging Bible verses.
I am guilty. Are you? Would I hold up under persecution? Would you? Please pray for the persecuted believers to be strong and faithful. And let's not take our freedom here for granted.
For more information, visit www.persecution.com.
Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.