“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”Hebrews 11:3 (NIV)
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” George Patton
Beware, Your Great Enemy
Fear and hopelessness are the devil’s principal tools. He prowls around our campfire at night, lingering in the shadows just out of the light, roaring. Have you ever heard a lion’s roar up close? It is terrifying! You can feel the very real threat of his teeth and claws in that roar.
The campfire is where sensible believers sit around the fire of God’s presence, waiting out the night!
When Satan isn’t roaring, he’s whispering into your ear, that you are forgotten, lone, and without hope.
The objective of his roaring and whispering is to cause you to move away from the campfire and into the darkness.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
Death, Where is Your Sting?
With most believers, fear is a natural first response to extreme persecution and suffering.
Early in my work with the persecuted, I was consumed with pity in response to the plight of the persecuted. I pitied the fear and suffering that they endured.
This response was a natural outworking of my compassion and sympathy.
Over time, I realized that I was viewing the persecuted through a telescope with too narrow a focus. Time and the Holy Spirit adjusted my field of view, and I began to see the bigger picture. I began to view them in a different light.
If you’ve read The Last Words of the Martyrs, then you have personally met the martyrs. Shahbaz, Pastor Ohji, Pastor Kevin, and the others have moved you just as they moved me. They have shown you a way to live that transcends our day to day lives.
Pastors and church planters undergo a transformation after they’ve been attacked and beaten, imprisoned and tortured. They become even bolder in their faith and willing to follow Jesus!
Counterintuitively, the beatings, imprisonment, and torture will often inoculate them against fear, emboldening them!
What did pastor Kevin (Chapter 15) say after his church was attacked and many of his brothers and sisters murdered by Islamists?
“After your church gets shot up, you don’t fear anymore, and you stop caring [about the danger]. We have been through a lot, but we don’t fear anymore… There is nothing human beings can do to you.”
More Than Courage
Persecution does more than make the persecuted fearless. It also causes them to live for the Lord. The persecuted teach us about faith and devotion, at the cost of their futures, finances, and families.
Watchman Nee spent almost half his life in prison. He could have walked away a free man any day by recanting his faith, but he couldn’t walk away from the One he loved and the home he was heading towards.
The persecuted are not super-saints. Fear, suffering, and anxiety forced them to stay fixed at the campfire. They were forced to rely on the light and warmth of the fire as Satan roared in the darkness around them.
That fire, if you stay close to it, does much more than warm you. Long term exposure to God’s fire changes you. It will warm and reenergize your soul.
The fire transforms the believer and, like Moses, causes their faces to glow.
“So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.”
Exodus 34:30 (NASB)
Pray to Be More Like Them
You see, we are surrounded by heroes. Heroes of the highest caliber. These heroes are our superiors in the coming world.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. . .” Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)
While I should pity the persecuted in regards to their suffering and work to relieve it, I think that my real calling is to be humbled by those emboldened believers, to pray that I would become more like.
So, as you go about your daily life after reading this devotion, ask the Lord to transform your heart – that you would be more like His Son, who was the ultimate martyr.
Lord, forgive me for hiding my salvation away and not telling others about you.
Lord, give me boldness to reach the lost in my family and those I encounter.
Lord, let me see the lost as you do so that I would have your compassion for them.
Lord, open my eyes to see the danger the lost are in so that I would look past discomfort to rescue them.
Lord, forgive me for having such little faith.
Lord, help me to trust you even now as I go through the struggles I am going through.
Lord, place this truth firmly in my mind that I can lose all as long as I have you.
Lord, forgive me for giving you such a small portion of my heart.
Whatever it takes, but according to your mercy, take me to the place where you have my whole heart!
Lord, forgive me for being so in love with the world. For living as the world does and for valuing so highly my comfort and safety.
Lord, help me to live for you and you only.
Lord, let me let go of the world, as they have.
Lord, help me to give you anything and everything in my life.
Help me to put all on the altar for you to pick and choose what to take off.
For Further Reading
“More than that, 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)
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18 (ESV)
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3 (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)
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For this, you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” 2 Peter 2:19-21 (ESV)
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Philippians 3:20-21 (ESV)