“As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. ” 1 Samuel 7:10 (ESV)
The following devotion came from Francis Chan’s forward to Last Words of the Martyrs.
More Than Remembering
If you look at Hebrews 13:3 (“Remember those who are in prison. . . since you also are in the body”), you will understand that we are in the same body as the persecuted.
We must do more than just remember them;
So, what does that look like? Let’s say you’re in North Korea right now, in one of the labor camps. How would you want the people in America or wherever you live to act in light of your situation?
My natural reaction, my first response as an American, is to say, “Let’s get those persecuted believers out of danger. Let’s rescue them and get them into Southern California into a house with a pool and get their kids into a soccer league and into private school!”
But, what is the biblical answer?
The New Testament tells us to join them in their suffering. When Paul, was suffering greatly and about to be put to death, he didn’t say, “Help me get to where you are, in comfort.”
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. Because we’re soldiers. Join with me in suffering, share my suffering with me. Don’t just be involved in civilian pursuits, civilian affairs.
2 Timothy 2:3 (emphasis added)
He says, “Join with me in my suffering!”
As you read accounts of martyrdom and suffering, you will probably (out of mercy) want to get these Christians out of their suffering and into your “civilian affairs,” so they can be safe and “all set.” But God says, “Share in (their) suffering.”
Look at 2 Timothy 1:8, where Paul knows that he’s going to be killed. What does he say?
“Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect… If we (die) with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” (emphasis added)
Paul is saying, “Timothy, I’m about to die! This is the end of my life, but if we die with Him, we’re going to live with Him, and if we endure, we’re going to reign with Him.”
Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:8-16 (ESV):
“We (the apostles) . . . are fools for Christ’s sake… we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”
The message in the New Testament is not “let’s get more comfortable,” but rather it is a call to be a good soldier and imitate the lowliness of the apostles, following the example of Jesus and learning obedience through suffering.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”
Hebrews 5:7 (NIV)
The first time I went to Seoul, Korea, I got to meet one of the missionaries imprisoned by the Taliban in Afghanistan back in 2007. This brother shared the real story of what was going on with them during their imprisonment, as they witnessed several of their friends being executed one at a time.
When the captives were released, they went back to Seoul. As they gathered together, they spoke of how they longed for the time that they were imprisoned together on the brink of death because they experienced a transformative period of worshipfulness. Together they clung to Jesus, praying to Him and worshipping Him. In their great need and weakness, He became their strength.
How great must Jesus be for these men to long to be in prison, on the verge of being murdered, just so that they could be close to Him?
Suffering & Comfort
There is something incredibly special about suffering with Jesus that we miss out on. We think that comfort is everything. We want to pull everyone into our comfort zone, into our “civilian affairs.” But by joining in the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters and losing our life, we would actually find something so much stronger.
To remember the persecuted well, we must care for them and try to ease their pain – but to remember them well means that we must also enter into their suffering.
The Journey Ahead
It is hard for Christians, including me, to deal properly with persecution. The truth is, we can’t get God’s perspective unless He does a miracle in us, because we naturally think too much about ourselves and our comfort.
We need God to transition us from our fleshly mindset to His eternal mindset when we hear about imprisoned Christians, families torn apart, and the ones who are martyred for their faith. I seriously want you to ask God for a miracle. Ask Him to help you think correctly about persecution.
As Christians, we need to be so much more than just a bit nicer to our loved ones, friends, and neighbors.
Ask the Lord to open your eyes and help you to hold nothing back from Him, to learn from the persecuted and to be transformed in the way they are being transformed.
I’ll be praying that for you. God can do anything. Anything!
Do you believe it?
For Further Reading:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4: 12-14 (ESV)
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12 (ESV)
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:26-28 (ESV)
“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Psalm 34:15-17 (ESV)
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15 (ESV)
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months, it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” James 5:16-18 (ESV)
By Jeff King.