“Christians in other nations are not a topic about which we can be uninterested or a cause that we can occasionally champion. They are our family, our brothers and sisters for eternity,” writes Voice of the Martyrs president Cole Richards. Violence against Christians is ramping up in many nations. As the days grow shorter and evil increases, the people of God are increasingly finding themselves the target of man’s hostility.
Because we may still have a modicum of religious freedom where we live is no excuse to forget our brothers and sisters who are suffering. We should be on our knees every day praying for their strength, perseverance, and deliverance. We must also realize that the same persecutions are coming for us, and we must be ready to stand with the same resolve as our brothers and sisters.
I‘ve been researching how those in heavily persecuted countries prepare for and endure the atrocities they do. I believe the “secret” to suffering well is simply to love Christ more than anything on earth, including our comfort, safety, and security. It sounds simple enough, but we all know what’s simple is often not easy. The reason it’s not easy is we are enamored with the world in which we live. We’ve become so comfortable in our pleasures and ease that our allegiance is now to the material rather than the spiritual (Luke 12:15-21).
There is a curse lurking on the fringes of blessing. Our brothers and sisters who experience less material blessings can more easily rest in spiritual blessings because it is all they know and all they have. Certainly, not every persecuted believer is poor or in need, but many live in cultures that have not embraced the opulence in which most of us in the West have. Satan has used the material blessings in the West to make those who would choose to follow Christ stop short of surrendering everything to Him (Mark 10:17-27). We might surrender most, but we resist surrendering everything, which is no surrender at all.
The courage of our brothers and sisters put us to shame. Not a day goes by when I don’t read of husbands and fathers being killed in front of their wives and children, women being kidnapped, and believers of every age being thrown into prisons and never heard from again. The persecution is real, but so is their faith. These dear brothers and sisters continue to worship and share the gospel from jail cells and in their captivity. They know they probably won’t win tens of people or even a single person to the Kingdom. Their purpose is only to stand firm on the Word of God and the Savior in whom they believe (2 Timothy 1:11-12).
Our brothers and sisters around the world live knowing that their faith will, in all probability, cost them at least their freedom and more than likely their lives. Yet they do not flinch. They put aside the things of this world for the hope they have in the next (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Can we say the same? When I read about the sufferings of these brave saints, I am at once heartbroken and encouraged. They both embolden me to hold fast to Jesus, and shame me as they lead me to recognize how much I cherish the comforts and pleasures of this world (1 John 2:15).
Pray for our brothers and sisters in chains. Don’t shy away from their stories because they make you uncomfortable. They earnestly covet our prayers, so we must be diligent in remembering them. Our day of persecution is coming, but it is not yet here. For now, pray deeply for our family in Christ. Read their stories and pray for them by name. The Lord is with them. Pray they will never forget that truth and that it would encourage them. Pray the Lord strengthens them, emboldens them, and gives them peace that can never pass away. Learn to love Christ as they do, putting behind the things of this world and pursuing nothing but Jesus until our time on earth is done.