Colossians 4:18 – I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 4:11 – Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don't have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. (NLT)
Some years ago, I purchased a "martyr's cross" to remind myself and others about the price that many have paid for their faithfulness in following Jesus. The symbols depicted are striking: they include a spike, an ichthus (fish symbol) and a crown of thorns. Contrary to the beautiful design of a golden pendant, this cross does not portray a comfortable image. Its points are piercing with a message aimed to spur believers into action. Today, or on another Sunday in November, Christians around the world are taking action by observing an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church: they are remembering, praying, giving, and encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering persecution.
In anticipation of this important event, I came across some ideas for getting involved that caught my attention because they allow individuals to try to experience what life is actually like for members of the underground church. These creative suggestions were described on an IDOP website and a previously published Daily devotional:
- Identify with the plight of the persecuted by turning out the lights and holding a "secret" Bible study by candlelight. Remember that many believers do not even have an entire Bible.
- Turn off all church lights and use only candlelight during the worship service.
- "Confiscate" Bibles at the door and challenge your congregation to rely on memorized Bible verses or read Scripture passages from crumpled pieces of paper.
- Sing songs by memory, without songbooks or video projection.
Many Christians have been so persecuted that they needed to leave their country and become refugees. Someone raised this thought-provoking question: "Would you pray with the same earnestness if you had no house to live in, no pillow for your head, and no one to lead you into His presence?" What is our response?
Consider the cost of following Christ in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to the gospel. May we never think that it cannot happen to us. Instead, let us remember the millions in chains, and earnestly pray for them as if our own lives were at stake.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, we pray for Your people in every place who are persecuted, in many cases, to the point of death. Give them the strength and courage to endure, as well as the hope of deliverance. We take comfort in Your promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against Your church. Still, we pray also for the oppressors and for persons of other faiths whose lives are affected by this evil. Move us to compassion for everyone involved, and allow us to enter their suffering, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whose precious name, we pray. Amen.