Afghans, seeking refuge in Kabul, now in a state of terror, violence, and oppression.
I recently had lunch with two Christian leaders who serves in the Middle East. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of pastors who serve in persecuted regions of the world- places like India, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. For these pastors, being persecuted, pushed aside, and challenged at every level in society, is normal. Their stories remind me to again, to praise God for the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S., for those who have fought and died for our freedoms, and to encourage and advocate for policy makers who place religious liberty as a priority in their decision-making.
In America we tend to redefine “persecution” for our context, and it doesn’t match what our brothers and sisters experience elsewhere. And yet, the Bible says that no Christian should ever be surprised when we are persecuted for our faith in Jesus Christ. The real surprise should be if we’ve never been persecuted, even in a free society. If we’ve never been persecuted, something’s wrong, and worthy of examination. The Apostle Paul brings a necessary clarification, when he says that, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). All believers will face persecution – that is, IF they, “desire to live a godly life.” Holy living, a life set apart for God, will bring persecution. Count on it, and count it all joy.
Currently, God is refining His Church. Persecution, trials, and struggles will always separate true believers from others. Many who are not genuine believers will fall away under persecution, as it becomes a line in the sand, a point of demarcation. Jesus said one may endure, “for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:21). Persecution draws out those unwilling to stand (Acts 13:50). Paul faced, “insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (2 Corinthians 12:10), and yet, still remained content and committed to Jesus. The Lord rescued him in the midst of persecutions and sufferings (2 Timothy 3:11). Paul had no fear of those who could kill the body. He knew the Lord was with him, even in the worst of persecutions.
I’m inspired by our persecuted brothers and sisters. Let them inspire us all to remain committed to Jesus, regardless of what others may think, say about us, or do to us. But let each of us be certain that the suffering we face is because we are living, “a godly life in Christ Jesus”, holy, consecrated, and separate from those who not yet been transformed by our Savior. May our suffering point them to the God of all Comfort.
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