Published November 7, 2017

Paul's Epistle
"Strong Enough?"

Do you feel "persecuted" as a Christian?

I – and most of you reading this newsletter – live in countries that still at least give some lip service to freedom of religion. And, although we've seen an erosion of that in recent years, it's not nearly so bad as elsewhere around the world.

In fact, while 30 percent of the world's population identifies as Christian, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination are directed against Christians. One scholar, quoted by Dr. Jim Denison of the Denison Forum, estimates that 90 percent of all people killed on the basis of their religious beliefs are Christians.

The United States Department of State has identified 60 different nations where Christians face persecution from their neighbors or from their government – simply because they believe in Jesus Christ.

The statistics, compiled by the organization known as Open Doors, are astounding:

Todd Johnson of the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary documents that one hundred thousand Christians have been killed, on average, every year of the past decade. That figures out, on average, to eleven per hour!

Researchers say that, since the time of Christ, there have been at least 70 million martyrs. 45 million of them were in the 20th Century alone. That means that more Christians died for their faith in the last century than in the previous 19 centuries combined. It's getting worse.

In the USA, persecution is much more subtle (although not as subtle as it used to be). Every time a Christian businessperson is charged with a crime for refusing to go against his or her Christian beliefs, that's persecution. Every time Christians are refused rights gladly offered to others in the name of political correctness, that's persecution. Satan is wise enough to know that persecution here has to be subtle. If it's too overt, Christians would rise up. But increase it slowly, and Christians remain sleepy. Some are even counseled simply to accept it to "get along."

None of this should come as any surprise. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). And "...if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). Scholars tell us that all of the original Apostles were killed for their witness – except John, the only one to die a "natural" death. The Apostles were persecuted to the limit – martyrdom – for their faith, as were many, many other Christians.

What does this mean to us?

It is a reminder that we need to pray – and pray hard – for our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who face very real persecution every day, especially in Muslim-dominated countries were persecution is worst and most violent.

But it's also a reminder that we each need to be vigilant about what's happening in our own society that amounts to persecution of Christians. We need to see government anti-Christian policies for what they are – not only a violation of the Constitutional rights to freedom of religion but also as a form of persecution against Christians and the cause of Christ.

What we see happening – around the world and in our own society – is, and must be, a wake-up call for each of us. What would happen if someone ran up to us with a gun and demanded to know if we were a Christian? This is a very real choice many have faced. Would we be bold enough to stand for our faith, knowing how it might end?

The reason for persecution of Christians is simple — the world hates Christ. Consequently, the world hates His followers — Christians — and anyone who will take a stand for Him. Jesus said, " will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 10:22).

Overt or subtle, as persecution intensifies, is your faith strong enough to endure it to the end?

- Paul

Note: Last Sunday was observed by many churches as "International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church," an effort coordinated by Open Doors, an organization serving persecuted Christians worldwide.

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