There are places in the world today where following Jesus is basically a suicide mission. To follow Christ may mean losing your job, your home, and your children. It is not uncommon for families to react violently when one of their own gives their life to Jesus. Every day I read stories of new believers who are beaten and thrown out of their homes because of their decision to give their lives to Jesus.
In many cultures, the family is the center of all things, and to leave the family religion brings great disgrace not only on the one leaving but on the ones they leave behind. It takes great faith and courage to follow Jesus in many countries. As their brothers and sisters in Christ, it is essential we lift these people in prayer every day.
While this sort of life can seem hard to imagine for those of us in the West, we must understand it has been this way since the very first days of the Church. After Christ’s resurrection and ascension into Heaven, to follow Him in the first century was indeed a suicide mission. Yet His Church has continued to flourish for over 2,000 years. The love and truth of God cannot be stopped. It cannot be silenced. Regardless of the difficulty or circumstance, God has always and will always prevail.
We should not be shocked at the reaction of others when we give our lives to Jesus. He warned us He did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). Before He left the earth, Christ taught following Him would turn brother against brother and a father against his children (Matthew 10:21). He said if we didn’t love Him more than we did our families, then we didn’t really love Him at all (Matthew 10:37). The Word of God is divisive because it forces us to choose between the Creator and the created. We will serve Him, or we will serve this world.
We can’t have it both ways. If we choose to follow Jesus, we will face trouble and persecution in this life (John 16:33). Don’t assume because you have lived out your faith to date without facing persecution you will never face it. In fact, if you aren’t having to endure some adversity because of your faith, it may be an indication you aren’t living your life wholly devoted to Christ. Certainly, living in a place of religious freedom has much to do with how much persecution we face. But if you are living your life in the way of Jesus, you should be ruffling some feathers.
Following Jesus is a suicide mission, but it is suicide in the best way. We are willing to die in order to live for Jesus (Matthew 16:25). Our brothers and sisters in other countries are in great distress and desperately need our prayers. We need to be lifting them up daily and never letting them be far from our minds. Their courage, boldness, and commitment are things to which we should all aspire. They are setting an incredible example for us and risking everything for the sake of our Savior. The least we can do is commit time each day to lift their trials to God. Don’t let them stand alone. Pray for the persecuted today.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some resources to help you get started in praying for the persecuted church:
- OpenDoors USA World Watch List, calendar, and prayer app
- The Voice of the Martyrs website, daily prayer app, and podcast
- iCommitToPray website and email list
- International Christian Concern website
- The Joshua Project website and app