This is Not Normal
Hebrews 13:3 “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (NIV)
According to Nik Ripken, a leading research expert on the persecuted church and a veteran missionary of over 30 years in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, nearly 70% of Christians worldwide live in environments in which they are persecuted for practicing their faith. Furthermore, according to Open Doors USA – a ministry seeking to raise awareness and support for the persecuted church – nearly 1 in 7 Christians worldwide experience high levels of persecution. These Christians face daily threats of being jailed, attacked, abducted, and killed for the practice of believing that Jesus is Lord.
Let that sink in. YOUR experience of the Christian faith is NOT normal.
By and large, in the United States we are free to practice our faith without the threat of persecution. It is within our abnormal experience of the Christian faith that the author of Hebrews calls out to remind us that the body of Christ is not divided between the persecuted church and the free church. WE are the church. The Christians in North Africa are our brothers and sisters! The Christians in North Korea are our spiritual siblings! The Christians in India are our kinsmen! As the author of Hebrews says – remember them as if you were together with them! Remember them as if you yourself were suffering the same things.
Church, one of the most important things we could ever do in our abnormal Christian experience is to link arms with our brothers and sisters across the world in prayer. To be burdened for their mission, and for the effectiveness of their witness. To plead with the Lord to use their testimony for the building of His Kingdom. To petition on their behalf that the Lord would deliver them from persecution, and continually recall to mind their eternal hope in a heavenly home.
This last weekend we heard from pastor Elijah Francis about the perils of Gospel ministry in India – a country that’s hostile towards Jesus followers. His main plea to us was to pray for more laborers in the harvest. That prayer request rightly humbles me. Elijah has the right perspective – he knows that, against the backdrop of persecution, the gospel shines bright. Elijah believes that God has good and awesome purposes in India.
Church – lets get behind this man, and other ministers like him, and PRAY.
In His Mercy,
Pastor Ryan Aufenkamp