Jody note: This is reprinted from January 25, 2011. I have had a burdened in this week for the persecuted. I may not know their names, but God does. Let us pray for them.]
[Jesus said,] â€œGodâ€™s divine care is on those who are persecuted for standing up for their relationship with God. They will surely have a place in His Kingdom.â€ Â Â Â Matthew 5:10 (my paraphrase)
I want to say from the beginning that I, personally, have never been persecuted for my faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, people have made fun of me. I have been ignored and disliked but never anything close to persecution.
For me, persecution describes the Holocaust, Jews and Gentiles alike who stood for God and went through horrific suffering and death because they would not deny who they were and to Whom they belonged. Persecution describes those in parts of Africa and Asia and the Middle East who live where belief in Yahweh and His Son, Jesus, have evoked hatred dating back to Isaac and Ishmael. â€˜Theyâ€™ say, â€œJihadâ€ means holy war. â€˜Theyâ€™ said â€œCrusadesâ€ were holy wars. How can hatred be holy?
It is the insidious virus that slides under my door to woo me away from my conversation with God (prayer), study of His Word, and worship that is my identifiable persecution. I am drawn in ten different directions with plenty of excuses as to why God is not the #1 priority in my life. I â€˜wimpâ€™ on peer pressure so that I do not come across â€œtoo holyâ€ or as a â€œJesus fanaticâ€, smiling at suggestive jokes around the workplace and shrugging my shoulders when people ask about my faith. I do not want to offend so I stand for nothing.
I believe everyone should go on a mission trip. Whether it is in the hills of Appalachia or in a more distant land in Central America or eastern Europe or Africa. It is in leaving my comfort zone that I learned what others continue to sacrifice daily to stand for God. Traveling 1-4 hours to worship on the Sabbath is normal. Meeting in secret in a home church that, for safety reasons, changes every week is normal. When a teacher comes to share about Jesus from America and you volunteer to translate his words for your friends and family, do not be surprised to run for your life from the local police. You may even be asked to renounce what you believe â€¦ or die.
Just like the martyrs of the first century Church, these followers of Jesus Christ are assured by Him that He has prepared a place for them. If I stand as a disciple of Jesus Christ, He will stand for me through all eternity. If I am ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of me (Luke 9:25-27). It was that point that brought me to my knees 15+ years ago. That night I said that I would face a firing squad and still kneel before Jesus in repentance. I havenâ€™t changed my mind or lost my resolve. May Jesus find me faithful through plenty and persecution, just as He is faithful.