The word convicted is usually carries a negative meaning. For example, when a person is ‘convicted’ of theft or assault. But, for me, in hearing the stories of those brave enough to lay down their life for their faith in God, I have been convicted about my own faith. Would I be willing to give everything for the Jesus?
We attend church, we read the bible, we worship God, maybe raising our arms in a song every once and a while, and of course we remember to pray… when we need something. Up until now I had this was enough, that Jesus was satisfied with my own version of Christianity. I mean I did all of these things, plus I served in the worship team at youth group – I thought I had my version of Christianity down pat. Then I heard about the persecuted church.
Their churches are burned to the ground, they are threatened with beatings, imprisonment and death just because of their beliefs, and yet their faith and trust in God is still strong – much stronger than mine. They are the church, and they are the ones who changed the way I view my faith in God.
I don’t want to settle for a mediocre version of Christianity.
I was at a prayer meeting – the theme was our response to persecution? Even the title got me stuck. Did I even have a response to persecution? I’d heard the stories of extremists, the punishments and the cruelty towards Christians in other countries, but I’d never really taken action or had much further thought about the impact I could make.
When events occur so distant from us it can be hard to imagine them actually unfolding, so it wasn’t until I heard the personal stories of those who had experienced persecution did the realisation hit me that it was real. Not only is it real but it’s still happening every day to thousands of Christians just just like me.
The story that had the most profound impact on me about a man named Peter in North Africa. He was put in jail for 6 years, simply for being a Christian. The guards of the prison would often ask him to sign a contract forbidding him to talk about Jesus or meet with any Christians. And even after being locked up for 5 months in a cell so narrow he could only lie down, he still would not sign it. I’m not sure I could endure even a single day of that torture, let alone five months, and after that, still trust God.
This conviction is re-awakening the passion in my heart for seeing people won for Christ, while not being ashamed to do it. The fears I have about asking people to church or telling them about Jesus now seem ridiculous compared to the hardships the persecuted face every day in order to make Christ known.
I want the same faith as the Christians in countries like North Korea, where there is the highest level of persecution and yet still tens of thousands of people are still staying strong in their belief in Jesus. I don’t want to settle for a mediocre version of Christianity.
But how? How am I supposed to be like this when I can’t get over the thought of people judging me because of my faith? The answer came in 1 Corinthians 12:12 –26. It’s the passage that explains that as the church we are all part of one body, the body of Christ. In the passage Paul, the author, talks about how as a body has many different parts, so does the church, and each of these parts have a unique function that is essential to making the body work. He goes onto say how we must not compare ourselves to other parts of the body (or the church) because the body cannot operate properly with just one part, it needs all of them.
This conviction is re-awakening the passion in my heart for seeing people won for Christ, while not being ashamed to do it.
This made me think about the Christians in all different places around the world facing all different types of situations. About how even though the churches in countries like Iraq and Syria may experience an extreme amount of persecution, God has put us where we are under different circumstances for a reason. We should be using persecuted Christians like Peter as excellent examples of faith, and we should aim to have an equal amount of trust in God. But it doesn’t mean we have to be in their position to still serve God and the body of Christ.
“But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it (1 Corinthians 12:18).” Though sometimes I know I can doubt this, God has me in this part of the world with the people who are around me for a reason and as a church we are called to help those in persecution and those who live and walk with us every day.
In the long run we all have the same goal, and that’s what makes us a body in Christ, we want to see people all over the world experience His love and have the opportunity to ask Him into their lives as their Saviour.
And just as we are one body “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it… (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).” So we must not ever forget or dismiss those in persecution because although they may be physically far away, as believers we are united in our common belief in Jesus Christ.
We must always be praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ, believing that their struggle and the persecution they face is not in vain, yet for a greater purpose. Matthew 5:10 says, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.