The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

What Can We Learn from Persecuted Christians?

Posted on: April 26, 2016


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In the Winter volume DTS Magazine, the official publication of Dallas Theological Seminary, Tom Doyle wrote an article entitled “Persecution: The New Normal.” (Page 10) In it, he makes the case that persecution of Christians worldwide is having the opposite effect that many people expect and the impression given by the media. Instead of putting Christianity on the run, threatening its very existence, believers are being transformed by a “passion to live or die for Christ” that is a powerful example to those of us in the West.

Our brothers and sisters who live in prison, persecution, and danger have learned to cling to Christ. Like a drowning person clutching a life preserver, the believer has only Jesus. And what have these believers discovered? That Jesus alone is always more than enough to take them by the hand through trial after life-threatening trial – not around the pain, but all the way through it.

As a result, Christianity is exploding in places we would least expect it. He reports that the fastest-growing evangelical church per capita is in Iran. The second fastest is in Afghanistan. More Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the past 14 years than in the past 14 centuries. Muslims worldwide, over recent decades, are coming to Christ not by the thousands, not by the ten-thousands, not by the hundred-thousands, but by the millions!

In his DTS Magazine article, Doyle continues, “Church leaders in insecure places – outposts for the faith – are fully aware that passionately following Christ has them on a collision course with hardship. They will be beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and maimed. Some will be killed. But unfazed, they move forward, even more in love with Jesus Christ. Stories of victory from that part of the world sound like something straight out of Hebrews 11. The battle is fierce, and it is not letting up. Yet this is one of our finest hours.” (emphasis mine)

Then, there is this excerpt from his book, Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe, that is mind-blowing:

“A group of underground church leaders has committed to reach both Muslims and Alawites for Christ in Syria until those leaders are martyred. To seal their commitment, they gathered money together to buy a graveyard in which to bury each other. Farid is the leader, and he tells us in Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe, ‘As of this writing, none of us has died yet. We rejoice by greeting one another with the words, ‘the graveyard is still empty!’ We all know that it will not stay empty, but meanwhile, we’re grateful.

“Satan is on the rampage through Syria, the lion fighting to annihilate the church. Torture and killing continue every day, and each month, we hear of new terrorist groups forming. All seem intent on outdoing one another in committing unspeakable evils. Death on the cross is gruesome, and on top of that, crowds mock and torture the believers, leading up to actually nailing them on to crosses. Some who face such a suffering are new in the faith, and I don’t blame them for being frightened, but it would be an honor to die for Jesus in this way.

“Just think, the Lamb of God went to the cross in Jerusalem only 135 miles from Damascus. Now 2000 years later, the prospect hangs over our heads as a real possibility. Even Paul – who was converted right here in Syria – proclaimed, ‘I am crucified with Christ.’

“I used to think I lived a life of sacrifice, but that changed when the war broke out. What I thought was sacrifice was actually just inconvenience. Once we bought the graveyard, we gave up our right to live as we pleased. We consigned ourselves to a violent death – whether a sudden bullet in the brain, beheading, or a torturous crucifixion.

“Pray for us in Syria, but please do not feel bad for us. We have never been so free. And even though we’re willing to die, our graveyard is still empty.”

Hebrews 11, often called the Bible’s “Hall of Faith,” records examples of people in Bible times who experienced extreme persecution, and said that they were people “of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:38). And now today, we read in a magazine of people of whom the world is not worthy.

God has not called us in the United States to this kind of persecution. But as we see the overt spiritual war being waged in such extreme and dramatic ways in other places in the world, it should challenge and motivate us to three things.

  • First, and most important: pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ
  • Second: be as faithful to our calling as they are to theirs, and
  • Third: use our freedom and resources to do whatever we can for them.

As Farid said, “Pray for us in Syria, but please do not feel bad for us. We have never been so free.May we begin to enter into that kind of freedom as we pursue God’s will for us with the intensity modeled by our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.


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