For years and years, we have lived in relative comfort as believers in the Westernized world. This is actually rather an unusual circumstance, if you study any history at all. True believers have been persecuted throughout almost all of history and many are being persecuted today in other parts of the world, as well. We have been so blessed.
Or have we?
While I do think it is an awesome blessing to not have had to suffer the loss of our lives, well-being, and material possessions, I do wonder if we can really know how spiritually strong we are without persecution?
I just finished a book over the weekend entitled Things We Couldn’t Say by Diet Eman. In it, Diet tells of her experience in the Dutch Resistance Movement during World War II. This books unfolds a little-known and fascinating piece of history and I highly recommend it.
But what really surprised me — or maybe really did not surprise me — was the fact that so many people who called themselves Christians didn’t do a thing to help the Jews. To them, the lives of God’s chosen people were not important enough to risk their own.
And I just have to wonder…
What would I have done?
I want to think that I would have gladly dug a little hidden basement or false wall in order to save a few from a horrible death. And I do think I would have. But then I have to ponder– would I really have been courageous enough?
Or let’s turn our thoughts to Africa and the Middle East, to any Muslim country, where a profession of faith in Jesus Christ is a death sentence. I just heard of a young, pregnant woman who was sentenced to death for her choice to follow Christianity. This is not uncommon. When Muslims accept Jesus Christ, they are basically saying that He means more to them than their life. Could we say that?
What if you knew that tomorrow you would be arrested and imprisoned for following Jesus Christ? What would you do? What if you knew that your life and the lives of your family members could possibly be at stake. Would you still choose to call yourself a Christian?
You may say, “Well, why even bother talking about that? That isn’t my situation.” Sure, this is purely hypothetical at this point so why even bother discussing it? But I do believe this discussion can help us to think through some things. I want to think about this right now in my own life for two reasons–
1) I want to be prepared if (or should I say when?) persecution comes. And so I have to think what I can do right now to prepare myself for it. I believe that to stand strong in suffering and persecution I need to have very deep roots grown in the soil of biblical Truth. I want to study God’s Word and hide it in my heart. I want to know God well and be trusting Him now, in the small stuff of life. I want to lean on Him, fellowship with Him, and have Him as my highest priority right now so that my relationship with God is mature and my faith is built on the solid foundation of The Word when suffering comes.
2) The winds are a-changing and the persecution that we have eluded for so long seems to not be such an impossibility anymore. Clouds are appearing slowly (or not so slowly) on the horizon. The sky is darkening and we can feel the heaviness in the atmosphere. Unless something changes drastically, it won’t be long now.
And I have to ask myself: Will I be ready for it? Will you be ready for persecution? Will our children be ready to face what comes?
Let’s dig deep into the Word of God. Let’s memorize scripture. Let’s get to know God on a deep level. The time for casual Christianity is over (not that there is ever a time for that, truthfully) and we need to put on our armor and prepare ourselves for battle.
I want to stand with courage and confidence in those days. The third verse of the old hymn “Stand Up for Jesus” may just say it best–
Stand up, Stand up for Jesus! Stand in His strength alone; The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own. Put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer; where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.