THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
14 NOV - INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
Over 400 million Christians live under 66 governments which restrict religious freedom and persecute believers. Every year an average of 200,000 Christians are killed for their Faith…
THE AIM OF PERSECUTION…
The aim of persecution is not really to kill Christians… There is no victory to the kingdom of darkness for Christians to go to Heaven. The aim of persecution is to intimidate Christians into silence. To persuade believers to compromise. To terrify Christians, to giving in to cowardice...
If the devil cannot stop us being converted, he at least wants to divert us and distract us so that we are not effective in fulfilling the Great Commission and winning other souls to Christ. As long as you refuse to be intimidated into silence, neutrality and compromise, persecution fails.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
1. CUP OF SUFFERING… MATT 20:20 - 23
2. YOU SHALL BE WITNESSES… ACTS 1: 8
3. BIBLE PEOPLE WHO SUFFERED… HEBR 11: 36 - 38
Many of the Apostles suffered severe persecution for Christ:
Peter was crucified upside down in Rome after much outreach.
James the Elder was beheaded by Herod in Palestine after fearless preaching.
John, after a life of evangelism, was boiled in oil and banished in exile to Patmos.
Andrew was crucified in Greece while spreading the Gospel there.
Philip died as a martyr in Asia Minor after preaching the Gospel to the Gauls.
Nathaniel preached the Gospel in India and Armenia before being flayed alive and beheaded.
Thomas established churches throughout Babylonia and India before being axed to death.
Matthew was burned to death while preaching the Gospel in Ethiopia.
James the younger was crucified while evangelising in Egypt.
Jude preached the Gospel throughout Syria and Persia where he was finally martyred.
Simon the Zealot preached the Word of God throughout Syria and Mesopotamia and was sawn in half in Persia.
Matthias was crucified on a missionary outreach in the Crimea (in what became the Soviet Union).
The Sufferings of Paul: 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION…
2 Timothy 3:12…"Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." The Scripture does not say some, nor does it say many, nor even most… "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." The Scripture does not say may or could suffer persecution. "Will suffer persecution."Yet, surely, if we are seeking to be faithful to our Lord Jesus, we will suffer some persecution for it? By God's grace, perhaps, not the violent and vicious persecution which Christians in communist and Muslim lands have suffered. However, if we remain faithful to the Lord, there will be times when we will be misunderstood, slandered, discriminated against, threatened and abused. Whether from family or friends, neighbours or co-workers, whether at school or at the work place, those who maintain a consistent testimony for the Lord are bound to suffer some abuse…
On numerous occasions, Cuban soldiers in Angola have placed the heads of cattle, or an AK47, on altars or pulpits demanding that the Christians commit idolatry and bow before them. They have walked into services, and taken the Bible off the pulpit and thrown it by the door and demanded: "You may all leave - one by one - just spit on the Bible and you can go free. If you don't - we will kill you!"
Communist troops have burst into church services declaring: "You Christians - you say that you worship the Lamb - well here is a lamb!" The Cubans taunted the worshippers as they started pouring the blood of this lamb over the believers saying "the blood of the lamb is shed amongst you - worship the lamb!" The head of the lamb was placed mockingly on the pulpit and people were dragged and forced to their knees to bow down before it.
Christians who have escaped from communist concentrations camps and prisons have told how they were often tortured by the Marxists. One prisoner told of a time in Angola when they were near breaking point and one of them shouted out: "Why don't you just kill us, and get it over with?"
The response of the communist concentration camp guards was most enlightening: "Oh no, we don't want to kill you! We don't want to send you to Heaven to be with God! No, we want you to curse Christ and to come to hell with us, for all eternity!"
PERPETUA - FOREVER FAITHFUL…
Perpetua was a Christian noblewoman living in Carthage (North Africa). In A.D. 202 when Perpetua was a 22-year old mother, she was one of the first to be arrested in a new wave of persecution. When her pagan father visited and pleaded with her to deny that she was a Christian, Perpetua responded that it was impossible that she be "called anything other than what I am, a Christian."
When the governor ordered Perpetua to worship the emperor her response was decisive: "I will not."
"Are you a Christian then?" asked the governor.
"Yes I am!" Perpetua's determined response brought immediate condemnation. The governor condemned her and her friends to be thrown to the wild beasts and to die in the arena.
When Perpetua and her friends entered the stadium they were singing Psalms in such a joyful demeanour that the crowd demanded that the Christians be scourged first. This was done.
As the mob screamed abuse, Perpetua was heard to say: "You have condemned us, but God will condemn you."
Perpetua encouraged the other Christians: "You must all stand fast in the Faith and not be weakened by what we have gone through."
Witnesses in the stands described Perpetua in the arena as "young and beautiful", "a pure and modest Christian lady", "with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a bride of Christ, putting down everyone's stare by her own intense gaze."
Her bold testimony: "I am a Christian and cannot deny Christ" was repeated throughout the Empire. Her example of Christian resolve and Christian courage, choosing to suffer and die with a clear conscience, rather than deny her Saviour, inspired generations of Roman Christians to stand firm in the face of relentless persecution…
"We ought to obey God rather than men."
Let's PRAY for all missionaries, martyrs and the persecuted Church in general all over the world…
"Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."