You have probably read stories of persecuted Christians who have said with all sincerity that they were “honored to be tortured for Christ.” How is it that the persecuted church can be so thankful in the face of such horror, even death?
Persecuted Christians can indeed inspire and challenge us to be thankful no matter what circumstances we are in. But how do they do it? What motivates them to have that attitude of thankfulness? Here are some reasons that they are thankful even in hard situations. Maybe we can learn something from them.
1. They have first-hand experience of the transforming power of Jesus.
You see, when you come from darkness, you appreciate the light even more.
In America and the West, we often don’t realize how many Christian values have become an expected part of the culture. Yes, Western society has many problems, but we still value kindness, mercy, love, and human dignity as a part of our framework. We notice and are even outraged when these points of spiritual light are missing because we are used to them and take them for granted.
“You see, when you come from darkness, you appreciate the light even more.”
In Islamic countries, there is such spiritual darkness. People live with cruelty, judgment, and death as expected norms. In Islam, individual lives do not have much value. This kind of dark environment creates such hopelessness in people that Muslims who become Christians experience major change and joy.
From hatred to love, from hopelessness to hope, from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom—many Muslim-background Christians experience change in an extreme way.
This extreme change from darkness to light creates a great appreciation—thankfulness—for the One who brought about that change. And so these believers are willing and ready to suffer for Christ and not deny him, no matter how harsh the persecution.
2. They realize their desperate need for walking with Jesus.
Persecuted Christians easily realize that Jesus is all they need, so he is all they want. Walking daily with Jesus is not an option for them but a desperate need. Being willing to suffer for Christ is tied directly to thankfulness.
For many of us in the West, we know what Jesus did for us, but we do not see our desperate need to walk with him daily. If we do not read the Bible daily, pray regularly, or go to church weekly, we often don’t notice an immediate, negative impact in any kind of major or tangible way. For us, a vibrant, deep spiritual walk with the Holy Spirit seems optional. Therefore, for us in the West, we have to be intentional about remembering what Jesus has done for us. When we do that, we will be more thankful—and as a result, make a decision to walk with him daily.
3. They see suffering as a way to say “Thank You” to Jesus.
When persecuted Christians suffer for Christ, what they are doing is actively saying “Thank You” to Jesus in the best way they can. They are replying to his sacrifice with sacrifice of their own. And they are honored to do it!
Many persecuted Christians are even willing to give their lives for Jesus. Of course, Jesus does not ask such martyrdom from every believer. But we can still welcome suffering for him out of our thankfulness. The giving of time and finances is a sacrifice that the Lord recognizes and appreciates—especially when it is a result of our thankfulness for what he has done for us. It truly blesses him! Can you imagine the joy it is to know that Jesus feels blessed by something you do? The thanks you give him by willingly choosing to sacrifice your time, talents, and treasure for him?
In this season of thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to give your time and finances—not because you should, not because of obligation—but out of thankfulness.
Consider the darkness Jesus has delivered you from with his sacrifice. If you are thankful for the light, then reply with sacrificial thanks giving.
“We have to be intentional about remembering what Jesus has done for us. When we do that, we will be more thankful.”
Tuesday, November 28 is #GivingTuesday, a global thanksgiving movement that is helping to spread light throughout the world. If you are thankful for Jesus, would you partner with us and give sacrificially to what he is doing for Muslims and persecuted Christians in Iran?
Imagine the joy of Jesus when you say to him, “Thanks, it is an honor to serve you.”
To receive stories about persecuted Christians in Iran and learn more about how to support them and reach other Muslims hungry for the gospel, text “Iran” to 74784.
Seymore, Julia A. “Christianity Thrives in Iran Despite Severe Persecution.” ChristianHeadlines.com, April 4, 2016.