We're currently engaged in a Sunday morning teaching series from 1 Peter called "Making the Best of the Worst of Times." Peter wrote this letter to believers who were going through very difficult times. They were being harassed and discriminated against simply because they were Christians. Peter encouraged these believers by reminding them of the blessings that they had in Christ, and he urged them to be patient in their tribulation by following the example of Jesus who suffered far worse for them.
This is a good opportunity for us to be reminded that many Christians around the world are suffering severe persecution and yet are standing firm in their faith. They could run away from the persecution but choose to stay where they are in order to win people to Christ. Their faith in suffering is a powerful example to us.
The following is excerpted from an article by Global Catalytic Ministries about Christians in the Middle East who are suffering for their faith in Christ with much courage and a steadfast faith.
“But thanks be to God. He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. — 2 Corinthians 2:14
JESUS NEVER PROMISED HIS FOLLOWERS AN EASY PATH.
He told his disciples the world would hate them. He sent them out as sheep among wolves. Jesus’ words came true for the apostles and are still coming true today. People wonder why don’t the ‘sheep’ escape rather than live in persecution, risking their lives, health, family, etc. to share Jesus with others?
One disciple maker tells us the reason for staying inside her country is due to the “the joy of watching people see Jesus in me.”
There is so much joy in seeing people discover that the God of the Bible is the true God. Many report to our disciple makers, ‘When I read the Bible, I have peace,’ something they are not getting from their god, religion, or by reading the Koran.
Recently, God reminded a disciple maker that love is her only motivation for living in a restricted Middle Eastern nation she calls her ‘child.’ She feels like a mother who would even die for this child because of love. When love is her motivation, it is not as much of a sacrifice, but it still hurts because of love.
The Holy Spirit pours His love out in her heart (Romans 5:5). He shares His joy and His suffering (Romans 8:17 and Philippians 3:10). Over and over, He lets her see through His eyes, which is like a healing balm to her wounds. She does not consider leaving this restricted nation a possibility.
This disciple maker often wonders when she is forced into a situation she does not like, does she complain or ask, “God, can You use this for good?” At one point, the authorities imprisoned her for her faith. And if their intention was to discourage her from sharing the gospel, it backfired. Inside prison, she and others, realized the value of freedom from bondage even more. They are now more open to receive.
But living so close to a neighboring country, she could easily cross over the border without any documents and request asylum. However, she states two reasons why she does not do this.
Some people say that her people convert so they can find an easier way to immigrate—she proves them wrong by staying.
The second powerful reason is that she does not want to escape God’s will for her life. She believes she must stay and bring change by sharing the gospel with her people, who are lost and living in difficult circumstances—like her life until Jesus. Her people are desperately searching for a way out of their misery. And she knows the only true answer is the Word of God and she loves sharing it with them.
So she stays. And endures. And presses on with the strength of Christ.