Sometimes God brings issues to the forefront of our minds. Then, in case we push them to the back, He brings them to us again.
This week has been like that. A number of events have led me to think long and hard about the persecution and murder of Christians around the world.
In the cocoon this great country provides for us it’s hard to comprehend what great cost our faith has to those far away. We tend to think of the martyrs of the church as long-ago, greater than life figures in history. Yet I hear that never has there been a time when more people are losing their lives for the sake of the gospel than now.
This somber issue was recently brought to mind as our church celebrated Reformation Day last weekend. Not only were we reminded of the sacrifice our forefathers made to bring us the spiritual and biblical freedoms we enjoy today, but we were told about those faced with the ultimatum, “Deny your faith or die.” And they chose to die. And I’m not talking about our forefathers. I’m talking about what is going on right now!
The culmination of the several ways God has brought this issue to mind was when I received an email earlier this week with this link:
A courageous, bold German pastor proclaims the truth of scripture in a world that wants to shut him up any way it can. I do not know this brave man personally, but I wish I did. I sent the link to several people because it touched me so deeply.
And I almost wrote, “I guess all we can do is pray for him.” It hit me that I was viewing prayer as a last resort, after helplessly throwing my hands up. No. Prayer should be the first resort, accompanied by faith that it is also the most effective, powerful means we have to meet this or any other need.
I have a sneaking suspicion this man may have a target on him. Some lunatic may find a permanent way to shut him up—but even if that happens, his message will soar to new heights, will impact more people, and will reach who God intends to hear it.
I pray for this man. I pray that God protects him and gives him continued passion and perseverance to stay the course. But if He chooses to bring him home, I pray God equips him with the kind of courage, faith and strength that will enable him to die as bravely as he’s living.
If I could reach out to him, and to the many whose very lives are in jeopardy, I’d want to say to them what God told His people repeatedly in His word—“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go,” Joshua 1:9.
When it’s our turn to be faithful when it costs us everything, will we stand strong? Will we be counted among those who are privileged to die for faith in our blessed Lord? In our own strength, we would fall. But God’s people do not have to rely on their own abilities. We stand completely dependent on our God to uphold us to the end. As Psalm 63:7-8 beautiful states, “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” If He’s holding onto us, falling is not possible.
Please join me in prayer for our brothers and sisters who stand for something greater than their lives. They stand for Jesus Christ, our Savior and King. May we bolster them with our prayers as they, and we, continue in Him.