In recent years I had the privilege of teaching middle school history to homeschooled students. We were studying the early church and the Middle Ages, which is truly a fascinating time in history. Quite honestly, I’ve been shocked by how little I really knew about the early church. I feel that, as the modern church, we are missing something…something deep in the roots of people, our brothers and sisters, who came before us. A life and time so radically different from ours that I can’t help but be awed and inspired and troubled and unnerved. I read their stories:
The bold courage in the face of death and torture
The radical love towards real enemies and radical generosity with each other
The miracles and healings
The complete abandonment of homes, families, plans, and comfort to proclaim the truth of grace…
I am humbled and convicted
I wanted to tie the persecution of Christians in the first 300 years of the church to what is going on in the world today, and I was struck. Struck across my head and my heart with my own selfishness. Yes, I knew Christians were being persecuted around the world today. I got updates this Summer about Meriam in my Facebook feed. I hear the reports coming from ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But I was deeply convicted with the starck truth that I really didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to know what was really going on. And I had to ask myself, “why?” After praying and processing and watching countless youtube videos trying to find one that was tame enough to show my class, I realized the truth. I didn’t want to know because when I encounter the suffering my brothers and sisters are going through I’m convicted….
Convicted with my idolatry of comfort
Convicted with the lukewarm status of my faith
Convicted with my lack of boldness in proclaiming Christ
Convicted with my non-persistence in prayer
Convicted with my quickness to complain and not seek joy in trials
I didn’t want to know, but I’m so glad I do! Because seeing the realness of this persecution, that has changed ME! Remembering and praying for THEM, has changed ME! Reading their stories has challenged my thinking and deepened my faith in the amazing power of God.
If you are like me or just want to know more, here are a few places to start:
1. This video is 2 years old, but gives a good overview of the persecution in Asia and a testimony to the power of prayer
3. You can sign up for VOM emails at https://www.icommittopray.com
4. The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church is November 2. Spread the word
5. Read the stories. I have read several missionary biographies this summer which I highly recommend:
On my list to read next-
6. PRAY!!!! I wasn’t really sure what to even pray for or if prayer really made a difference. Then I saw the stories. I read countless believers saying how they were encouraged to stay strong and have hope because of the prayers of others. I read of miracles and healings and jailers coming to faith, and I knew that praying is not in vain!
Here is a list of ways to pray for the persecuted church:persecution
Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV)
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.