Why Are Persecuted Christians So Thankful?

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.

27119899 - open hands holding cross, symbol of christian faith

“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.”STACKED #GT Logo

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.


Related Articles:

Seymore, Julia A. “Christianity Thrives in Iran Despite Severe Persecution.” ChristianHeadlines.com, April 4, 2016.

Lessons from the Persecuted Church: Do You Take Jesus for Granted?

A 9/11 Prayer for American Unity

A prayer for unity between one another…and between us and God

 

At this anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of how much I love America. This country is where I was saved and my life was changed. I got my education here, and I’ve served the Lord here for many years. I thank God for America.

Watch my message here.

But my heart grieves when I see Americans stepping away from God. Here we are free to worship Jesus, but He doesn’t always seem that important to us.

I am constantly humbled by our dear persecuted brothers and sisters in Iran—for them, to choose Christ is to choose to be transformed; it’s not just a conversion to another religion. What good would it do them to be persecuted for Christ but not have His peace? What good to claim His name but not new life?

Suffering Brings Unity

Yes, for these dear brothers and sisters, their circumstances drive them into a closer relationship with the Lord. Suffering can bring unity—both with God and with others who are suffering.

This unity with God and others is what I am praying on this 9/11 anniversary for America.

Disasters Bring Suffering

In the past few weeks, Americans have sadly seen much suffering in terms of fires and flood. Fires up and down the state of California have burned tens of thousands of acres and property.

California Fire
At least 19 large wildfires were burning across the state over Labor Day weekend, including a record fire in the Los Angeles area

 

People in Houston, Texas, are sorting through what remains after Hurricane Harvey dropped nearly four feet of water over a huge area.

Flood-Texas
A wide area along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana experienced devastation and record flooding August 25 to 29

And Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are just beginning to see what must be done after the fury of Hurricane Irma.

Flood-Florida
After hitting hard several Caribbean islands, the record-breaking Hurricane Irma swept over the entire peninsula of Florida and into Georgia and South Carolina

Many, many people have lost loved ones, property, jobs, school, and hope for economic prosperity in the near future. This suffering is similar to what our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in Iran experience on a regular basis.

Are Disasters God’s Judgment?

Some people are saying that all these disasters are a judgment from God. I don’t know if we can make that claim or ever know that for sure. Disasters fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike. The difference is the end result.

So I am praying that through this suffering, more of us in America will come to God—that we will know and love and lean on Christ. I am praying that through this suffering, more of us in America will work to bring peace and comfort to our neighbors.

Romans 8:28 reminds us that God can use everything for our good. May all this suffering in America bring much good to the hearts and souls of America.

And may we always rise above our own suffering to help our persecuted brothers and sisters. If we have each other and God, we have much.

__________________________________

Category: Current Events

Keyword(s): praying for unity

Tags: persecuted church, anniversary of 9/11, God’s judgment, Christian transformation, suffering and loss

Related articles:

“Hurricane Irma’s Path of Destruction Retraced.” NBC News. Accessed September 14, 2017.

Shariat, Hormoz. “Lessons from the Persecuted Church.”

Wang, Amy B. “Largest Fire in Los Angeles History Forces Hundreds to Evacuate.” Washington Post, September 2, 2017, sec. Post Nation.

Lessons from the Persecuted Church: Do You Take Jesus for Granted?

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Lessons from the Persecuted Church

A couple weeks ago I asked if you were ashamed of the Gospel. Today I have another question: If you truly appreciate what Jesus has done for you, you will love what He loves. If not, you may be taking Him for granted.

 

  1. For many in the West, experiencing Jesus daily is not a desperate need but a mere option.

 

For the persecuted church, walking with Jesus and experiencing Him daily is not an option but a desperate need. Their lives are so empty of hope and joy that Jesus is the only source and strength they have.Family in front of TV 2

 

In the West, we have many resources for comfort—something that most of the world only dreams about. We live with abundance and rarely feel a desperate need to spend our waking moments in Jesus’s presence. Yes, sometimes in our troubles we cry out to Him, but this is rarely a daily thing.

 

  1. Our relationship with Jesus is often based just on need, not true love for Him.

 

The persecuted church not only has a continuous need to experience Jesus, but also it has a deep love for Him. Coming from darkness, they appreciate light. Coming from the depths of hopelessness, desperation, and loneliness, they value His constant presence. Understanding well what He has done for them, they are ready to live and even to die for Him. Someone has said, “You don’t know Jesus is all you need until He is all you have.”

 

I don’t want to put down the faith of my brothers and sisters in the West. But this is a reality we must face: The persecuted church desperately needs Him and continuously seeks His presence; we don’t think we need Him as much and continuously do not seek His presence.

 

That is why for us walking with Jesus must be intentional. We must make a conscious decision to read His word, obey Him, and walk in the Spirit. We must choose to be faithful to His Church. We must decide to love what He loves and who He loves.

 

  1. The Church in the West is experiencing Jesus less and less because it is obeying His command to “Go” less and less.

 

In Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus promises His continuous presence when we obey His commandment to go: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…And surely I am with you always.” It is in the going that His presence goes with us. In the comfort of us staying and focusing on our lives—to make them a little more comfortable—it is hard to experience deeply the presence of Jesus. The Church in the West is experiencing Jesus less and less because it is “going” less and less. The persecuted Christians have a zeal to share their faith even when they know they may end up in jail or be killed for it.

 

We are moving toward worldwide chaos and violence. The Islamic State (ISIS) and militant Islam will not fade away. Muslims have a mandate by Quran to take over the world by violence. ISIS is actively doing it, and more and more Muslims are waking up to that call. Members of ISIS are not fanatic Muslims but committed and obedient Muslims.

 

The disturbing point is that ISIS is obeying its mandate more vigorously than most Christians do. They are commanded to “go,” and they are ready to kill and die to obey that mandate.

 

We Christians also have a “go” mandate. How are we obeying the mandate of our Lord in Matthew 28? As ISIS brings death and the bad news, we must bring life, love, and the good news. The Gospel is much more powerful than the message of the Quran (obey or die)—but only if we share it. We have the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s word. We can defeat any dark spirit and theology of death—but only if we go and get into the action.

Will you decide today to walk with Jesus? Will you love what He loves? God has prepared Iran for a major transformation. The people of Iran are ready.

“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” —2 Cor 5:15, NIV

 

 

Are You Ashamed of the Gospel?

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Lessons from the Persecuted Church

Lessons of Gratitude from the Persecuted Church

As we transition from Thanksgiving to preparing for Christmas, the birth of our Savior, let us ponder about the great things God has given us that sometimes we take for granted.romans-1-16

It is just at this time of tradition and comfort and abundance—even overabundance—that we in the West should ask ourselves:

Am I thankful for my salvation? Am I sure?

People who are thankful share their gratitude with others. When was the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

We hear the Gospel so often in the West that we have gradually forgotten its true meaning and power. We are so familiar with it that it fails to move us anymore. We take the Gospel for granted.

Does this shock or surprise you?

When I, as a student at the University of Southern California, began comparing Christianity and Islam, I had many questions. The more I compared, the more questions I had because I came to realize that both couldn’t be true. Then when I heard the simple message of the Gospel, it changed my life dramatically.

The Gospel has power.

The simple Gospel has three simple truths:

1) God created you, and He loves you.

2) He is perfect, but you are not. To reach Him, you must be perfect because He is perfect. You can never be perfect; therefore, you can never reach Him on your own.

3) Because He loves you, He did for you what you could not do for yourself. That is what Love does. You could not reach Him so He reached out to you. He came on earth to meet you and save you.

It’s that simple.

In the persecuted church, we see how this simple Gospel has the power to transform individuals, families, and even societies and nations. We see drug addicts being set free; hopeless, desperate people at the verge of suicide change into persons with joy and love for others. They discover not just a reason to live but find a mission to live for: to love God and to share this life-changing Gospel with others.

The apostle Paul also endured beatings and imprisonment, death threats, and even martyrdom. He travelled far and wide to share the simple truth of God’s gift of salvation. Yes, he saw God’s power transforming lives! So on his third missionary journey, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16, ESV).

In the West, if we are honest, most of us are ashamed of the Gospel. We may not call it “ashamed,” but we are shy about it. And if we are shy and ashamed of the message we have to share, why would God show us its power? We must be confident that the Gospel is THE ANSWER to personal, family, and society problems. I am not saying we must be rude, but we must be bold.

If you are thankful for your salvation, show it by sharing the Gospel with love and humility—but also with confidence—during this Christmas season.

Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you more lessons of gratitude we can learn from the persecuted church—from the people who must live their faith on the front lines of spiritual battle.

In the meantime, give thanks for the Gospel and pray for the persecuted church everywhere, especially in Iran.