The coronavirus will have affected you. Schools, colleges and uni’s have shut. If you work, it’s likely what you do, where you do it and how has changed massively. And then there’s church. Things are looking very different from a few weeks ago.
But God isn’t different and he hasn’t changed! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And He told us “Do not worry about your life,”, but rather “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6).
That’s hard – we need God’s grace. But we can also learn some incredible lessons from our persecuted family. They know of isolation, fear, uncertainty and pain and suffering – and yet they still find God’s love and hope through all of it.
Check out these quick lessons that’ll give you some inspiration and encouragement in these tough times:
Image: Mohan from India
In John 17, Jesus prays. He says: “I pray… that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.” Jesus wants His Church to be unified — to be one family of God.
When Mohan, an Indian Christian, saw his home destroyed because of his choice to follow Jesus he was shaking with fear. “But then I was reminded of our church, and that in the church we share love, we help each other.” Remember, like Mohan, you’re not alone in this!
Though fear and uncertainty about a virus are obviously different than persecution for following Jesus, Mohan helps us remember we’re part of a bigger family that loves and helps each other! As we try to figure out the next few weeks, let’s work out how we can share love and help one another during this pandemic!
Image: Eun Hye from North Korea
We’re all having to stay at home and isolate to some extent – but just because we might be self isolating, doesn’t mean we are alone.
Eun Hye* escaped persecution in North Korea – her worship had to be done alone and with great secrecy. When she finally reached safety, she was deeply touched by the prayers of Open Doors supporters around the world. “I had no idea so many people were praying for us,” she says. “Those prayers are really important. They will lead more people to Jesus Christ in North Korea.”
Knowing that there is a worldwide family praying for each other can be a great source of encouragement to all of us too. Do keep praying for each other and for persecuted Christians – who are often among the last to receive emergency relief in times of crisis.
Image: Achiam* from Chad
In Acts 17, Paul quotes an ancient poem that says: “‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’” In God, we have our security – not in our health, safety or comfort. God promises He will be with us – He doesn’t promise we won’t suffer (quite the opposite!) but he assures us that during times of suffering and fear, he is near.
Achiam*, a is the only Christian in her village in Chad in West Africa. She’s blind, and has been beaten by her brother and ridiculed by her family for her faith. But she still follows Jesus. “I know the end of this situation is not for tomorrow, but I also know my God will continue to sustain me,” she says. “I was very clear with my family about my faith. I told them I am with Christ and that nothing in the world would make me change my mind. My God has been sustaining me since then, so I fear nothing.”
In the midst of persecution or global pandemics, God sustains His people. Lean into Him today. He’s got you.
Image: Rev. Marcus from Nigeria
In John 16:33, Jesus says: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In hardships and fear, we can have hope and know he is with us, no matter what!
In Nigeria, Rev. Marcus’ church and community were attacked by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. People were killed; churches were burned; houses were destroyed; lives were changed forever. And yet, Rev. Marcus lives in the knowledge that Jesus has overcome anything that might hurt him or other Christians. He says: “We do not pray that God will take away the hardship, but that God would give us the grace to be able to stand.”
Rev. Marcus can show us that with God’s grace we can face anything. It’s hard to remember that Jesus has overcome when times are tough or we’re faced with a global health crisis. But today, pray for his grace to help you stand and that others would know his hope, love and care.
Image: Kirti from India
How is your church meeting today? Is your youth group going digital? These are uncertain times where we’re being isolated and separated from each other. But remember, nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). Not persecution, famine, violence, self isolation or even a global virus.
Christians like Kirti, an Indian believer whose husband was killed because their family chose Jesus, daily count the cost of being a Christian. And they choose Jesus’ love, anyway. We can, too.
“I have committed everything into the hands of Jesus,” Kirti says. “When I feel sad, I remember the Word of God. In all my trials, He helps me. I cannot read or write, but I memorise what the pastor teaches me.” Kirti’s reminds us that we can’t be separated from Jesus and that His love is always there, even in the scariest circumstances!
Image: Street scene in Uzbekistan
It’s hard not to let fear and anxiety control us in these uncertain times. But check out this story from Lazar, a church leader in Uzbekistan. His church was raided by police. They took all the Bibles and Christian books.
“The evening after the raid, I read Psalm 91. God is my refuge and my strength. I can hide in Him. I don’t want to allow myself to be governed by fear, because that doesn’t help you at all.”
We’re all a bit fearful of what’s going on at the moment, but Lazar’s example can inspire us. Read these verses from Psalm 91:1-2 now:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Read over those verses and take them to heart today. Try and memorise them, write them out and carry them with you in your heart and head wherever you go today…
Image: Aditi from India
It can be hard to see where God is during moments like these. Why didn’t He stop the virus from spreading? Why won’t He intervene to save every life? Why is this happening?
These are hard questions. They’re also not new questions and God is big enough for you to ask them and He’s listening to your worries and concerns.
Time and again, we hear from persecuted Christians that they continue to trust God through times of pain and suffering. Sixteen year-old Aditi from India, whose family experienced severe persecution for following Jesus, says:
“I am always amazed by how God worked in mysterious ways to answer our prayers and meet our needs. All this time, God just wanted to teach us how to trust in Him, and now, in the end, we know that He is trustworthy. He never abandoned us or put us to shame.”
God is there, even when it can be hard to see His hand. We can pray to ask God to help us have eyes to see His work in our lives, even in the midst of a global pandemic. This time of uncertainty is an opportunity to have the courage to follow Him, love our neighbours and live for Him, no matter what happens.
We are praying for all of you. Here are some ways you can be praying with us:
Want to learn more about, and get inspired by, the brave faith of Christians living in some of the places most opposed to following Jesus? Get our awesome new 2020 World Watch List prayer map and stickers – it’s free. Plus we have a new session outline for youth leaders which includes a massive A1 map too. Get them for free at the link below:
*Names changed for security reasons
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.