My heart broke when I read about a recent occurrence in North Korea. That country is second only to Afghanistan in being the most dangerous place for Christians to live (see Open Doors’ “World Watch List”). Government officials raided a secret church meeting of believers. Everyone in attendance was arrested and then summarily executed.
Without warning and without having had the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones, these dear brothers and sisters were removed from the face of the earth. From the moment they gave their lives to Christ, they knew they were living on borrowed time. They knew the risk of meeting together. They prepared for persecution the best they could and found Jesus worth the cost. But the story gets worse.
For these believers, their pain and fear passed quickly. They are now with Jesus, enjoying the rewards of holding fast to their faith. But for their families, the horror was just beginning. As they were dealing with the shock and agony of losing their husbands, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, their grieving was interrupted by the dreaded sound of boots outside their door. Living in North Korea, they knew immediately what was to come. Police arrested every member of the believers’ families, over 100 people in total. All of them were sentenced to life working in labor camps. In these camps, prisoners are tortured, starved, and denied medicine and warm clothing. All this while being subjected to hard labor for long hours every day for the rest of their lives.
The story is sobering and begs the question, are we prepared for persecution? Would we risk our lives to fellowship with other believers? God’s Word instructs us to never cease meeting with fellow Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25). Would we obey, no matter the risk? Is our love for Jesus so great we are willing to risk the arrest of those we love most? I confess it is far easier to resign myself to unspeakable acts than it is to consider subjecting those I love to a similar fate.
My guess is most in the Western world are not prepared for persecution. We take our religious freedoms for granted. But look around you. Once a bastion of freedom, Canada is now jailing pastors simply because they had the audacity to hold a church service. Australia, New Zealand, and most European governments have seized individual liberty from their people and have all but declared themselves gods. Church gatherings have been outlawed. America has not been immune to this abuse of power and infringement on the commands of God. Persecution is coming, no matter where you live. It is only a matter of time.
Look around. Read the times. Things are changing. We have surrendered freedoms and there may be no going back. This is a new day and a new commitment is required. While we should have been devoting ourselves to prayer, fellowship, and the studying of God’s Word, we have instead been drinking of the pleasures of this world. Persecution has always been far away and not our problem. Now it is on our doorstep. We are late in our preparation and must redouble our efforts. We need not fear because God is greater than our enemies (1 John 4:4). The Holy Spirit assures our salvation (1 John 4:13-16). That doesn’t mean the road ahead won’t be difficult.
Pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea and around the world who are standing boldly for their faith. Pray for your country and its leadership. And pray the Lord will prepare you for persecution. Hold fast. Stand strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). Get into a community of believers and immerse yourself in prayer and Bible study. We must get prepared for persecution, and we must do so in a hurry.