It’s one thing for me to write about persecution. For me, persecution is only a rising shadow on the horizon.
But it’s quite another for believers to speak to you from within persecution.
So I will step aside and let them talk to you. Here is what I just heard in person from Christians from Syria, Israel, and China. This is what they want you to know about persecution.
This World is Not Your Home
Steven Khoury grew up in Bethlehem, a Christian Arab, son of a pastor. He remembers walking along streets littered with body parts from the latest bombing during an intifada. On Sundays, his father preached with buckets of water on hand to douse Molotov cocktails thrown during services. “I learned that life is short,” Steven said. “So you must live in light of the kingdom of God.”
Nourha, a Christian woman from Syria, fled from the approach of ISIS with her family. Many of their Christian neighbors did not leave soon enough. When the government eventually drove ISIS out, Nourha returned to find only destruction. Their family’s line of restaurants, their home, their neighbors—all gone. After so much loss, a friend asked her if she still thought Jesus was worth it. She answered, “I haven’t lost anything. I have Jesus. When we have Jesus we have everything.”
“Brother John” of Syria asks, “What does the Church look like in the midst of that?” He reported that it looks like a congregation that used to number 200 growing to 1000. It looks like believers meeting fourteen times throughout the week. It looks like people dropping their last valuable possessions into an offering basket because they want to send missionaries to Sudan.
God Is at Work
Sarah Liu of China has discovered, “You do your part, God does His.” When she gave her life to Christ, Sarah’s mother sent her to three months of Bible training. From there, Sarah and another woman went out to share the gospel, supplied with an “emergency fund” of $1.50 for three months. They found a home to stay in, and five people came to hear what they had to say. Soon there was standing room only, and Sarah asked for twenty co-workers to come help disciple all the people turning from Buddhism to life in Christ.
At church in Syria, Brother John said, there are no metal detectors, no guards to keep terrorists from entering. He shrugged, “We have to trust the Lord.” But one Sunday when a man started shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” during the service, people headed for the doors. The pastor kept preaching. The sermon ended with an invitation to receive the gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. The man who shouted was one of ten who came forward. He had been using the only words he knew—“God is great!”—to express his joy over hearing what Christ had done to save him.
Jesus Is Worth Any Price
Sarah Liu went to prison multiple times for talking to people about Christ. During one of these times she was forced to walk all night in shackles, dragging a heavy chain without stopping. Her hands and feet bled from the wounds of her torture. Looking down at the trail being drawn in her own blood, she said, reminded her Christ too had left such a trail when He carried His cross for her sins. Sarah said, “I had wanted Christ but not His cross. If I wanted to be His disciple, I saw I must follow Christ with my cross.” Upon her release Sarah went right back to telling others about Him.
Steven Khoury also knows about the very real presence of Christ during persecution. The relatives of a man he led to Christ attacked him for his “proselytizing.” As they beat him up, Steven cried out to Jesus for help. He felt “a white blanket” cover him until it was over. “Their attack backfired,” he said. “They only made me love Jesus more.”
This same love for Jesus drove three new Christians to brave a dangerous border crossing—five times. Were they escaping? No, they were trying to reach the Bible training offered by Brother John’s ministry. Running barefoot through a bog, dodging bullets, the men already knew severe beatings awaited them if they got caught again. At last they made it. John’s team, seeing their weariness, hesitated to teach them for more than six hours their first day. But the men responded, “We risked our lives to be here. What do we do with the rest of our days?”
To Whom Will You Give The Greatest Gift?
Brother John and his wife dreaded the trip to get papers they needed to pass in and out of Syria. They would have to pass multiple checkpoints, each manned by soldiers. One morning John’s father announced the day had come to make the trip.
John’s father drove, with his mother in front and John and his wife in back. They rolled up to the first checkpoint. John’s father lowered his window and before the soldier could speak said, “I’d like to tell you about the greatest gift the world has ever received.” Then he told the soldier how Jesus loved him enough to die for his sins and rose to give him new life.
The dumbstruck soldier watched as John’s father pulled a New Testament out from beside his seat and handed it to him. Soon other soldiers approached, each asking for his own New Testament. John’s father had brought plenty. Before they waved the family through the checkpoint, they leaned in and asked, “Please pray for us.”
John’s father repeated the scenario at every checkpoint on their route. Then he did the same with every official they met in the government building. They still went home with the papers they’d come for.
John sent out a challenge to all of us. “What are you doing with the best gift the world ever knew? Are you taking it to your friends? Your neighbors?”
How shall we respond to John’s question?
Click here to learn how you can meet these persecuted believers at a Voice of the Martyrs Advance Conference near you.
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