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Dear brothers and sisters, peace to you all! Millions of believers around the globe are celebrating Christmas, the birth our Lord Jesus Christ. For some, this is a time anticipation of getting together with family and friends. For others it can be a time of stress, loneliness or grief. Yet, some reject the Son and the story of his birth altogether. But for Christians who know the joy of the Savior in their hearts, every day they are cherishing the peace and the love of Christ. With great hope, they await the day when they will see Him face to face, in all His glory and might. And the most precious gift, in Christ alone, of eternal life to spend with Him. This amazing gift, God has given in His grace for those who love Him and believe.
I encourage all of you, my dear brothers and sisters, to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. Rejoice! Only God knows the true hearts of men, but we will keep sharing the Good News of the Gospel. Pray for those struggling and for unbelievers to come to know our Christ.
We will not be gathering tonight on the prayer conference call, but we will resume the call on Thursday evening, 9 p.m. Eastern. Until then, please continue to lift our persecuted brothers and sisters in your prayers as if you are with them sharing in their trials and afflictions. Please pray for the precious harvest. May hearts be opened to the saving message of faith in Christ alone, our dear Lord and Savior!
Merry Christmas, our hearts and love are with all of you.
Nadia Dybvik, Prayer Leader and the Persecution Watch Prayer Team
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:12-14(KJV)
Rejoice! In the name of the Lord, Rejoice!
In the words of Corrie Ten Boom, “Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”
The true joy of Christmas is in the everlasting love of Christ.
All over the world, persecuted believers are worshiping God for the greatest gift ever given to mankind. They count their suffering worthy to be in Him as part of the Body of Christ. As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, please take a moment to remember and pray for those who are suffering in the name of Jesus.
This Christmas, let us reflect not on the trials, but on all God’s blessings in our lives. Let us praise the Lord for His faithfulness to give hope to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, bring liberty to captives and life to the lost. We thank God for comforting all who mourn, giving them strength and peace instead of mourning, and the ability to praise instead of a spirit of fainting. He is always with us in the storm.
Though nothing we could ever give or do will compare to the rescue mission of Christ, because of your prayers and faithful support, persecuted believers have been given hope. From all of us at Voice of the Persecuted and on behalf of persecuted believers, thank you for standing with us in the mission! We pray for the Lord’s guidance and the ability to do more in the coming year.
To all our persecuted brothers and sisters, our advocates and workers in the field, to all friends of Voice of the Persecuted—and to you who have supported our ministry and make it possible for us to care for our persecuted family… MERRY CHRISTMAS!
May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all through the year.
From all of us at the Voice of the Persecuted, God bless you!
Recently we have noticed a growing trend that disturbing to us. The news lately has wrenched our heart and souls. we’ve spent countless hours in prayer and tears over the slaughter in the Middle East. The persecution of our brethren in not so distant lands has disturbed us all. But there is a growing trend that’s very troubling. Not to say that people can’t defend themselves against terror or evil that is encompassing the world. With that said, we can’t stoop to levels that represent the very evil that is coming against us. We have all seen the campaign by demonic entities to present themselves as honorable warriors for their god. But to take on the very protocol that they are doing is not honorable.
We have witnessed first hand even Christian sites encouraging and even supporting mercenaries to travel to these lands to fight and kill these evil entities. I call them entities because they and their actions are not human. Are we to resort to inhuman activities as well? Are we not to be separate from this? Are we not to shine a light into the darkness and lead all to Christ? Why not support life saving aid missions that are actually making a difference for those fleeing persecution and slaughter? We have all seen the governmental aid that has been intercepted by ISIS, why are we not demanding accountability from our governments for this aid? Why are we not demanding accountability from our governments who fund and aid in the billions to countries who abuse not only basic human fundamental rights, but the rights of all to have freedom?
Recently there have also been many glamorizing this fight. We applaud any country who makes a stand for freedom, but to glamorize killing in anyway goes against every principal we stand for. We not only advocate for Christians who are persecuted but for everyone oppressed, everyone who doesn’t have a voice or means to rise up and confront evil. We can not condone radicalization in any way, means or form. Recently the movement calling women to join the fight against ISIS is also disturbing. Photos and videos glamorized with women in full makeup looking more like beauty queens than soliders. Not only are they disgusting, they are inciting evil to conquer and kill these women. Another woman was captured recently by ISIS and beheaded. This is not glam, it’s not honorable but neither is the call to join militias to kill in the name of God.
Jesus’ words, “there is coming a time when they will kill you thinking they are doing a service to God”, which not only applies to this inhuman evil, but to us as well. This ideology is dangerous, dark and false. So are we to participate in it? No. This is why we can not and will not be a part of this in any way. Think long and hard before you condone or become complicit in these types of activities. We have prayed long and hard about this, and this is what the Holy Spirit lays on our hearts.
“How far do you go to stop evil, before you are also evil?”
Pray for Knowledge, Wisdom, and Guidance, pray for our brethren and all innocent and lost souls in the world facing evil. Pray for God’s mercy. Pray for world leaders to turn to God and use righteous judgements and actions. Pray for the world to turn to Faith instead of fear. Pray for God’s almighty hand of judgement and protection.
One month ago thousands to millions of people across the globe gathered to pray for our Brother Pastor Saeed Abedini’s release. Today Saeed has been imprisoned for 2 years and 1 month, this article is a reminder to continue to pray for his release.
If you look back to the 7 points of prayer of the vigil the first prayer request is for Saeed’s immediate release. As Colossians 4:2 (ESV) urges us to “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” I humbly request that you continue to pray for Saeed and for his immediate release.
Recently, on October 24, 2013 an article was written encouraging us to pray for a minimum of 2 minutes a day for the immediate release (http://freeallthree.com/2014/10/24/thirty-days-to-november-24-deadline-for-p51-iran-to-reach-final-nuke-deal-can-you-pray2minutes/). This is one worthy of being read.
Encouraging 2 minute prayer, one that might look like this;
“Dear God, thank you for allowing me to pray for my brother Saeed Abedini, and the persecuted church. You encourage us in Matthew 21:22 (ESV) “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. “to ask in faith as well as in James 1:6 (ESV), “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” without doubt I ask with faith for Saeed’s release and the many other refugees and believers in Christ that you know.
I thank you God for the growth in my faith through the persecuted trials, thank you that I can pray earnestly night and day for our brother and sisters in Christ who suffer, through this fill what is lacking in my faith. You tell us in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 (ESV), “ as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?”, show me where I can grow, challenge me and comfort me in times of growth. I love you God and thank you for your son Jesus who died and rose for my salvation.
I ask that in my life I can be a testimony for you, that those in persecution will be an encouraging factor in my life to share Christ with boldness. As Apostle Paul has done in Phillipi may I have the same boldness in my household, town, and beyond? I am reminded of that boldness in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 (ESV), “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” As Paul has done and my persecuted brothers in Christ have done. Prepare me for the persecution in my life, your Word tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV) “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” All who desire to live godly lives in your son will be persecuted, let my life reflect you, I welcome the persecution and count it joy when these trials come, as you say in James 1:2 (ESV), “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,”
I pray this in your precious Son’s name: Jesus Christ, may I glorify Him in everything, Amen.”
Setting an online timer, the prayer above is a little over 2 minutes. I encourage you to pray that daily. I also encourage you to add to it, as the Lord leads you, add to it.
The shared attachment is an opportunity for you to participate in a worldwide prayer meeting. This year, Voice of the Persecuted is uniting together in prayer with other organizations and in promoting the International Day of Prayer, or IDOP, among Christians in the U.S and around the world. In the spirit of oneness that Christ commanded: For, if one suffers, we all suffer (Hebrews 13:3).
I challenge all of you, as it is written in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV), to “pray without ceasing,” Join me and thousands around the world on Sunday November 2nd between 8a and 8p and again on Sunday November 9th between 8a to 8p to do one thing and that is PRAY ON.
by Dr. Jim Seward
(VOP) I was introduced to Naghmeh Abedini, on a cold December 2012 morning, while getting ready, I turned the television on to find a woman speaking of her husband who was imprisoned in Iran, for nothing more than being a Christian. I stopped everything and watched more. Naghmeh, whom I learned was his wife, shared that Saeed was in Iran to start an orphanage and how the Iranian Guards forcibly took him. It wasn’t until I learned of Rebekka and Jacob, his two children that I thought, there must be something I can do?
As a father of three young children, in similar ages, my heart hurt for Saeed. Naghmeh shared of the upcoming January 27, 2013 sentencing and how confident she was that he’d be home. I ran into the living room to find my wife preparing my girls for school, i.e., brushing hair, etc. I told her of the story I heard and said I was going to start a prayer facebook page to encourage others to pray for Saeed. The facebook group page “Praying for American Pastor Saeed Abedini” was born.
After inviting all my friends and my wives friends to this page, it began to attract others. It wasn’t until I noticed Naghmeh’s name requesting to be a member when I thought I have a responsibility to encourage this woman and trust others will with this group page. As I encouraged her, I was being encouraged, I noticed more people submitting encouraging prayers, verses, and thoughts. Through this facebook group, we assisted in yellow page letters campaigns to the Secretary of State office, we’ve shown support by having yellow within your profile picture. The most memorable was the “Endure for Saeed” 5K that Boise, Idaho hosted. My wife Amy stated something about it in May 2013, we both said “we should do that?’ 5 months later, in October 2013, we hosted one here in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where Naghmeh came and spoke.
Endure for Saeed 5K was held October 19th at Northfield Church of Christ, Fort Dodge. 160 people endured the 40 degree weather, the drizzle, and the 15 mph winds for Imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini. Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed, was there to share his story: on September 26, 2012, Saeed, an Iranian born American citizen, was jailed in Iran and thrown into one of the worst prisons in the world – Evin Prison – simply because of his Christian faith. Saeed has been beaten, tortured, and put under great psychological and emotional pressure. Pastor Saeed has stood strong in his faith in Jesus Christ and has become for many the face of the persecuted church around the world and a symbol for religious freedom and human rights. This message was presented by a woman who has received peace from God. 160 people from Fort Dodge and surrounding communities and as far as Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa and Overland Park, Kansas came to support, love, and encourage Naghmeh.
It was an exciting time to meet and hear the woman I have been praying for. My whole family prays for Saeed, and we still do. We circle up in the morning to “pray in” and always close with Saeed’s immediate release and safety. It was this visit from Naghmeh to see and hear her passion and love for the persecuted church, it was an awakening for me. They were brothers and sisters in Christ who for their faith had to find refuge in other lands. So I prayed steadily for Saeed and the persecuted church.
I admire Naghmeh, I respect her, and love that she is Saeed’s voice. I truly believe God is using her as the face to the religious freedom in the United States. I enjoy what Dr. Charles Stanley has said,
God isn’t looking for impressive people; He wants willing ones who will bow the knee in humble submission. Being weak and ordinary doesn’t make you useless. Rather, it positions you for a demonstration of divine power in your life. He takes insignificant ones and delights in making them great.
If you’d ask Naghmeh, she’d tell you that she was not “impressive” but meek, quiet, humble. Not a fan of public speaking, enjoyed being supportive, but now God is using her. He has allowed her to speak to 196 nations about Jesus Christ, while sharing Saeed’s story. Therefore I add her to the praying points. I am confident she’d probably not want the attention, as humble and grace filled as she is. Even in the midst of concerns, there are many praises to God for the situation that Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini find themselves in. Psalm 143:1 (ESV), reads “Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness.” Although there has been many changes in Saeed’s situation, one thing I know that is constant, our prayers. I’ve taken the privilege to extend seven prayer points that was prayed at vigils across 500 cities and 35 countries adding detail to them for guidance in praying for Saeed and the persecuted church. Please pray for the following;
- For Saeed’s immediate release.
- For the Abedini support, for one another that we may never tire on waiting for the Lord to be glorified.
- For Saeed’s Health; for medicines to be received.
- For the pain to cease from his injuries.
- For Saeed to receive treatment for his injuries.
- For Saeed’s peace of mind, for his mental regulation and his wellbeing.
- For Saeed’s safety in prison, that cellmates will not danger him.
- For prison guards, wisdom and discernment as they oversee Saeed’s ward.
- Pray for cellmates and guards to come to know Christ through Saeed’s testimony. For spiritual support.
- For Naghmeh’s faith in Christ to grow, to remain strong and humble in spirit.
- For Naghmeh to know when to rest. Her peace of mind, and emotional regulation.
- For Saeed’s children, Rebekkah & Jacob that they will enjoy life and know their dad is safe in Christ.
- For Saeed’s imprisonment will point to Christ and souls saved around the world, changed hearts.
- For the Iranian country that many will come to know Christ and their world view will change to Christ.
- For the unity of Christians, for revival to occur, for our voice to be stronger in Christ for souls to be saved.
- For President Obama’s voice to be louder and stronger for the release of Saeed.
- For Secretary of State John Kerry that he will begin to consistently ask for the release of Saeed.
- For the Iranian Supreme Leader’s heart and mind to be changed and clemency to be given.
- For the preparation of Saeed’s release when that time arrives that events are in order.
- For the persecuted church, around the world, that God will provide a hedge of protection around them as they worship and share Christ.
I am confident all of you have been praying (Col 4:2); as we continue, let us watch and as each prayer is answered let us praise God and rejoice. As detailed as the above requests are for Saeed, I encourage you to continue to pray for the persecuted church in this manner:
- That the Lord would give them Grace and strength to endure the abuse and persecution that they may be a shining light for Jesus wherever they are at.
- Families of persecuted Christians. That their children would grow strong in their faith in Jesus and not be resentful. That the Lord would give the spouses strength and patience to wait and to be light of Jesus to their communities and to the hurting world.
- Revival in our cities as we gather in unity to pray for the persecuted Christians. That the Lord would use this time to awaken the churches and the Body of Christ in our cities and in our countries.
These prayer requests provide a concrete foundation for prayer for Saeed and the persecuted church, as well as for us the church. To find unity and revival in our hearts, who are we that we should pray earnestly for Saeed and Persecuted Church and not for revival in our hometown. Encouraged by Naghmeh to share Saeed’s story to share Christ, as strange a concept, it can be done. Some Christians may have an easier time sharing Saeed’s testimony then Christ’s gospel. But as you tell Saeed’s story, peppered in it the love he has for God, and the joy he finds in being imprisoned, the gospel is shared.
I pray that as you pray that you will grow in your prayer life and know that in doing so, you will have a better opportunity to resist the devil (James 4:7). The benefit of prayer is drawing closer to God and as you draw close to Him, what does He do? He is drawing closer to you (James 4:8), your relationship with God is strengthening and your love for Him deepens.
Rom 12:12 (ESV), “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Phl 1:9 (ESV), “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,”
I leave you with this charge: continue to pray, for Saeed, the persecuted church, and for each other that through our experience of prayer our relationship with God grows, and we surrender to His will for our life, that His Kingdom in all that we do is glorified. Pray on.
by Dr. Jim Seward
Voice of the Persecuted would like to welcome Dr. Seward to the team! His heart breaks for and is called to serve the persecuted Church. For this reason and for the commitment he has shown, we have asked Jim to press forward with us in the mission. He will being joining VOP by sharing a monthly call to prayer helping us to remember and stay focused in our much needed prayers for our persecuted family. Please keep him in your prayers asking the Lord to lead him, as he embarks in this extremely important part of our mission, the power of prayer.
Lois Kanalos and the VOP team
CENTRAL ASIA (BP) — “Dad, I think we’re being followed.”
Meleeka* drummed her fingers nervously on the car door. Her father kept on driving the familiar route to drop her off at English class, singing a praise song to Jesus as he drove.
Meleeka turned around and looked back.
“Dad. We’re being followed.”
He sang louder.
“Would you take it seriously?”
Not missing a beat, he changed his lyrics mid-verse and belted out a song of his own: “I’m going to prison today!”
Ahsan* knew the signs. He’d already been in prison once for his faith in Jesus. That day made it a second.
In the region where Ahsan and his family live, people bend over backward to show hospitality. Go to your neighbors’ home, and they spread out a feast for you and heap your plate high with special food. Leave your wallet somewhere, and people will guard it until you return.
“In lieu of an armored car, I’ve seen cars left unattended with the trunk open and piles of cash inside. No one would dare bother it,” a friend of Ahsan says.
In his country, they take care of each other.
But share Christ openly, and they may torture you.
“Ahsan has been blindfolded, handcuffed and held in solitary confinement,” his friend says. “During the day, he was confined to a room where there were three compressor units blowing hot air on him, and he was not given any water or food.”
Officials interrogated him, asking why he left his former religion.
“I am on this way because of Jesus and what He has done for me,” Ahsan responds.
At the beginning of his imprisonment, he was put in a very small jail cell at night, his hands released just long enough for him to eat a small piece of bread and drink one liter of water.
But Ahsan didn’t sleep — he stayed awake praying and singing praises, just as he did in the hot room during the daytime.
He’s lost nearly 50 pounds since being imprisoned.
But he’s seen a lot of people decide to follow Jesus — many of them from places where Ahsan could never get access to go and share. One of them had heard part of the Gospel message nine years ago, and when he met Ahsan in prison, he heard the whole message and believed on the spot.
“This man had been waiting for nine years to hear the rest of the Gospel, just wanting to meet someone who could tell him. He knew immediately it was God’s plan to send him to prison,” Ahsan’ friend says. “He danced for joy.”
And the guards came and began to beat him.
“He cried out for Jesus to rescue him, and he stood firm,” Ahsan’ friend says. “He’s still standing firm with Ahsan in prison today.”
Ahsan is seeing more people come to faith in Jesus Christ during this imprisonment than in the rest of his 20 years as a believer, his friend marvels.
“He is enduring all things, and all the time more people are coming to faith,” says his friend. “He is torn between two things — his release, and the work God is doing there through him. His family is very anxious for him to be out of prison, but he is telling them to be patient, because God is doing great things.”
His wife, Iman,* and Meleeka got to visit him in prison. Tears ran down their faces.
“He put his hands on our heads and said, ‘Why are you sad? God has a purpose for me here and He is not finished with it yet,'” Iman says.
He prayed for comfort for them then told them he had a job for them to do.
“He said a man had come to believe in Jesus and wanted his wife to know. He asked Ahsan to get us to go and share with his wife,” Iman says.
With nerves on edge, Iman and Meleeka loaded up the car and went straight to her house from the prison.
“I didn’t know what we were going to do, how we were going to tell her or how we would be received,” Iman says. “But when we got there, she said, ‘I want very much to hear what you have come to tell me — there is light all around you, and I want to know why.'”
Iman knows the difference light can make.
She herself came to faith when she encountered light during childbirth, seven years after Ahsan had first believed in Christ.
He was a devout Muslim — even to the point of planning terrorism — before someone gave him a copy of the Gospel of John. In the middle of the night he felt someone call his name, shake him and tell him to go read.
He lit a lamp, got the book from the shelf and started reading while his family slept. The words jumped off the page at him. By the following year, he was a wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ.
“I had been so angry with him for becoming a believer. I tried and tried to get him to return to Islam. I got my mat out and prayed with the kids in front of him on purpose,” says his wife.
He didn’t change his mind, or his heart.
“Finally after years of trying to get him to come back to Islam, I was at the lowest point in my life. I decided to divorce him, even if it meant I had to leave the kids,” Iman says.
Then she learned she was pregnant.
She headed straight to a clinic to have an abortion — she didn’t want to have the baby of an infidel.
“But the doctor said I was too far along to abort, so I decided I would have the baby, but that was it,” she recalls.
She packed her bags and left to live with family until she had the baby. Ahsan didn’t see her again until he got a call while she was in labor. It wasn’t to let him know she’d had the baby — it was to let him know she’d decided to come home.
During labor, she met Jesus. “All I could see was light,” she says.
And now all her children have met Jesus, too, which has helped greatly with understanding why their father is in prison.
But they still struggle with his absence.
“As the trial with Ahsan has continued, remaining upbeat has grown increasingly harder,” Ahsan’s friend says. “His family struggled greatly with sadness and frustration. That being said, however, the Father has been working powerfully to strengthen their faith through it all.”
And the Father has made such an impact on Ahsan’s fellow prisoners that many of them, after their release, have traveled great distances to let Ahsan’s family know he’s safe, his friend says. “His wife and kids are encouraged by the reports from the former inmates, but they are also dearly missing their dad and spouse.”
But they know that God put him in jail with those men so that their families could also know the truth, his friend says. “Keep Ahsan lifted up so that the spirit of love pours from him into their lives and his light burns ever brighter every day.”
Meleeka also was targeted by the police soon after Ahsan’s arrest, but she escaped to the U.S., eventually living with John and Mary Harper,* former IMB missionaries with whom she and her father had partnered in Central Asia. The Harpers were forced to return to the United States in 2012 when Mary was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Ahsan was released from prison in spring 2013. He now resides in Europe with his wife and their children, and is still actively sharing the Gospel among his people there. Meleeka spent six months at the Harpers’ home before leaving for Europe to be reunited with her father. Meleeka says that during her father’s nearly two years in prison, almost 40 men put their faith in Jesus as a direct result of his witness.
by Ava Thomas, writer/editor for the International Mission Board.
(Voice of the Persecuted) “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:12-16).
Some tell us, “There is nothing we can do about persecution, it’s predicted in the Bible.” We disagree.
And, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:18-20)
Yes, it is true, Jesus warned in advance that those who have faith in Him will see persecution. But we believe there is much we can do to help aid in their suffering and is expected of us as their family in Christ.
The topic of persecution can be overwhelming, disheartening and at times very depressing for many to hear or even consider. The Bible says we are one in the Body and special care should be given to every part. It also says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; and if one rejoices, all rejoice with it.”
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”(verses 18-20)
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (verses 21:26)
We are expected to care about each other, to encourage one another for strength and building up in faith and love. Sometimes, it is hard for many of us to know exactly how to pray for those being persecuted. Let’s take a look in the Bible for an example of an early Christian suffering persecution for his Christ-centered faith and his reaction to it.
In prison, the Apostle Paul’s dire situation and his hopeful outlook is shown in one of his four prison epistles. It was a message of joy. The word joy is repeated 16 times in the letter. Having spiritual joy and rejoicing in Christ is the main message.
Paul wrote to concerned believers “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” (Philippians 1:18) while under house arrest in Rome. He also tells them, “for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”(verse 19). Paul was confident in the outcome of his situation. No matter how hopeless it seemed, no matter what or how dark, God’s will shall be done.
He also had faith that the power of the Holy Spirit would see him through his predicament. Through Christ, he could face the worst and come out on top. What may happen to him in the future was not a concern for him.
Paul’s being in prison was not easy. However, that was not the issue for Paul. He learned to be content in all occasions, good and bad. He encouraged others, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”(Philippians 4:12)
Paul was uncertain of the trials before him. He then encourages the church to have hope, joy and peace. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”(Philippians 4:4-5) In essence, commanding the members to feel victorious. Suffering in prison, he tells them: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (verses 6-7).
In another letter, to the Ephesians and with little to look forward to, Paul again is in chains. But he is passionately thankful for God’s spiritual gifts. It is these gifts of joy, peace, faith and hope that got Paul through his trials. Gifts we need to sustain us in life. Paul tells us the source of these blessings. “Praise be to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3) If Christ lives in us, these gifts have been given to us. They are indestructible because they have their source in Christ, who is always with us and our spiritual blessings are secure.
2 Thessalonians 3:2 (NASB) and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
Romans 15:30-31(NASB) Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints;
2 Corinthians 1:11(NASB) you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
Philemon 1:22 (NASB) At the same time also prepare me a lodging, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you.
Romans 1:10-12 (NASB) always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Romans 1:8 (NASB) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.
1 Thessalonians 1:6-9 (NASB) You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to Godfrom idols to serve a living and true God,
1 Thessalonians 3:10 (NASB) as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?
Hebrews 13:18-19 (NASB) Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.
I have heard some say, including Christians that there are those who long to become martyrs. For most of us, our human nature does not welcome pain, abuse and suffering. If we are willing to receive the pain that comes from persecution, it is not for the purpose of achieving a special status. It is because we are grateful for the gift of being called into the Body of Christ!
When praying for those persecuted, pray specifically for the strengthening of faith and God given gifts. “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. (Hebrews 13:3) Pray often as we would want our family in Christ to pray for us if we too were in the same situation.
Be blessed and encouraged, God is with us! The sufferings in life including persecution, can not be compared with God’s purpose and eternal future for each of us. The good news is we can have the strength to endure all the hard times that come into our lives. As believers, we are told that we do not face life’s problems alone, but do so with the Holy Spirit through Christ in us.
Philippians 4:13 (NASB) I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
In other words, We can endure all things through Him who strengthens us. We can overcome!
By L. Kanalos, Voice of the Persecuted