The coronavirus is having a wide-reaching impact on all of our lives. Many will be worried. Offices are closing, and people are self-isolating. A lot has changed in a short space of time. But our God has not changed! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And He told us “Do not worry about your life,” but rather “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6).
That certainly isn’t easy. We need God’s grace. And, as so often, we can learn a lot from the faith, strength and perseverance of the persecuted church. People who are persecuted for their faith live the reality of isolation and danger every day. They experience fear and uncertainty, pain and suffering – and yet they see the hope of Christ in the midst of it! Here are some lessons from our persecuted family during these uncertain times:
In John 17, Jesus prays for His followers – not just those He was speaking to at the time, but for all those who would follow God in the future: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [My disciples’] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” We can love and help one another. It’s more important than ever.
Jesus wants His Church to be unified. This reality plays out for persecuted Christians around the world. Rikiya, in northern Nigeria, had nothing left after Boko Haram attacked her village. Practical help from the church means she is getting back on her feet – and she recognises the necessity of support from her brothers and sisters: “You are the ones who brought hope and healing back to me,” says Rikiya. “Honestly, if not for the loan I received to rear these goats, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Isolation in the midst of a pandemic does not mean we are alone. Instead, we have a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12:1), both here on earth, and who have gone before us.
Eun Hye escaped persecution in North Korea – her worship had to be done alone and with great secrecy. When she finally reached safety, she was deeply touched by the prayers of believers around the world. “I had no idea so many people were praying for us,” she says. “Those prayers are really important. They will lead more people to Jesus Christ in North Korea.” Knowing that there is a worldwide family praying for each other can be a great source of encouragement to all of us too. Do keep praying for each other and for persecuted Christians – who are often among the last to receive emergency relief in times of crisis.
It can be hard to see where God is during moments like these. We can trust that He will accomplish His perfect will, and that He invites us to participate in His plan for the world.
For Christians who have experienced persecution, suffering for Jesus can make this lesson plain. Time and again, we hear from believers from the persecuted church that they trust God and His care, whatever suffering there are enduring. “I am always amazed by how God worked in mysterious ways to answer our prayers and meet our needs,” explains Aditi. She is a 16-year-old believer from India whose family experienced severe persecution for following Jesus. “All this time, God just wanted to teach us how to trust in Him, and now, in the end, we know that He is trustworthy. He never abandoned us or put us to shame.”
God is there, even when it can be hard to see His hand. We can pray to ask God to help us have eyes to see His work in our lives, even in the midst of a global pandemic. This time of uncertainty is an opportunity to have the courage to follow Him, love our neighbours and live for Him, no matter what happens.
To read the full article please click here. Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, updates us on the current World Watch List which ranks the 50 countries where persecution against Christians is most intense, and where saying “yes” to following Jesus is truly a life-or-death decision. She shares need-to-know facts, amazing testimonies of muslims encountering Christ, and prayer requests for the brave believers sharing the Gospel in a hostile world. Watch the full episode below from our programme "The Persecuted Church."
Article & images | Open Doors UK
Video | The Persecuted Church
24 Mar 2020