We’re living in some anxious times. We’ve all been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and it’s impact is likely to keep growing for the next while. But as we self isolate, distance ourselves from others and generally stay at home, here’s some key things we can learn from the example of nine Chinese pastors who spent years of their lives behind bars simply for loving Jesus.
When they were put in prison, these pastors continued to worship God and recalled passages of the Bible. They encouraged one another and served other prisoners. Some sang hymns – one has these powerful lyrics: “When we pray, grace of heaven comes. When we pray, the gate of heaven opens. When we pray, power comes. When we pray, victory comes.”
Worshipping, singing, praying, reading or memorising Scripture all do the same thing: they focus your mind and heart on Jesus. The avalanche of news and messages about COVID-19 can easily get to us and bring us down. We need to hold on to what is eternal and true: our Lord God.
All nine pastors believed that suffering and following Christ go hand in hand. One shared, “We felt that was normal – we already knew that it was going to happen, we weren’t shocked. If you want to follow God, you have to accept this kind of consequence.”
Though we are not taken away from our homes, we still need to accept that suffering is part of life, especially when you follow Jesus. The coronavirus doesn’t specifically target Christians, of course, but it is reassuring to know that God anticipated suffering and prepared us for it.
When the Chinese pastors chose to stand firm in their faith, they risked losing everything dear to them. Their decision came at great cost: losses of health, family, future, education and life. They described pivotal moments in their suffering where they had to make the choice to let go of control over their lives and surrender to God.
In our case, we need to understand that God is sovereign. The will of God is one of the most difficult things to understand. Jesus asked His disciples to trust Him – to let go of their life and follow Him, no matter the cost.
The pastors described the support of other believers as instrumental in their ability to survive their imprisonment. In prison they found ways to support each other and to pray together, despite the risks.
Knowing that others care makes a massive difference – even if you can’t see them. We need to stay connected to our churches and youth groups. We’re sure you’re using WhatsApp, FaceTime or Zoom already – just keep doing it… be church!
Several of the pastors described their experience of God’s presence during times of doubt and despair. One recalled seeing an image of Jesus, to remind him of God’s love. These pastors experienced God in a very real way during their experiences of suffering.
God does special things in special circumstances. We should not waste this crisis by entertaining ourselves until this is over. We can experience God in unprecedented ways. As one persecuted believer said, “The love of Jesus cannot be quarantined.” We can experience His love and share His love with others during this time.
We really hope you’re doing ok during this time. We know it’s pretty weird, hard and strange. But these pastors we’ve been writing about were convinced that God had used their imprisonment and suffering to bring others to know Him. Even though we don’t understand what’s going on and why, we can still try and see what God is doing in our lives and the lives of our friends. It’s not all bleak. We’ve a chance to maybe connect deeper with friends and family than ever before. We’ve a chance to be generous, kind and positive – in a time of darkness, we can continue to shine God’s light!
This period of isolation is temporary. Let’s continue to remember our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world and join with them in prayer as we pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done.
To help you through this time of enforced social distancing and isolation, we’re releasing a series of new content every week. Were going to be looking at how the persecuted church can inspire us during this time of lockdown. Sign up for our weekly emails to get fresh videos, stories, reflections, prayers and actions – all of which you can do from home!
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.