I think one of the most memorable stories of persecution in the Bible is the story of Stephen. Stephen is killed because of his beliefs; but thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Later in the book of Acts, we see how Stephen’s sacrifice helps lead to the transformation of a man named Saul — a man who would go on to spread the Gospel to people around the world.
The Word of God is full of encouragement and hope for those who suffer in Jesus’ name. And that is why it is so important that we send Bibles to Christians around the world.
A martyr’s story
In Acts 6, Stephen is one of the seven people chosen by the disciples to oversee the early church’s care of widows and orphans. He is described as a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5, ESV). Stephen quickly went to work, ministering in his community and performing miracles in Jesus’ name. But some of the Jewish leaders did not appreciate his message. They secretly began to build a case against him and hoped to silence him.
Eventually, Stephen was arrested and brought before the High Priest. There, he did not back down. Instead, he began to preach the Gospel and traced the story of God’s redemption starting from the book of Genesis.
When the crowd of accusers heard his words, they grew even more angry. Unafraid, Stephen raised his eyes toward heaven and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” The crowd then stoned Stephen to death.
Today, there are countless persecuted believers around the world determined to stay strong in their faith amid persecution. In Iran, there are only about 20 “above ground” churches. Most believers are forced to meet covertly to avoid persecution from radical Islamic neighbors, family members, and authorities.
And for 18 years, North Korea has been considered the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. If believers are caught with a Bible, they can face up to 15 years in a political labor camp where they are tortured daily. Amazingly, Christians in places like Iran and North Korea aren’t afraid of persecution. They’re only afraid of going one more day without the Word of God.
Persecution is not the end
Saul — the man who oversaw Stephen’s death and the death of many other Christians — had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and his life was completely changed. He became known as Paul and went on to become the world’s first missionary, spending the rest of his life traveling and sharing the Gospel of Jesus with everyone he met.
Over the years, Paul also experienced great persecution. He was chased out of towns, stoned multiple times, and thrown in jail repeatedly. That is why some of the most powerful passages on persecution in the Bible were written by Paul. He knew what it was like to be the persecutor … and the persecuted.
Here are a few examples of what he had to say:
2 Corinthians 12:10
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake …”
2 Corinthians 4:8-12
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So, death is at work in us, but life in you.”
Paul’s words are comforting and encouraging for Christians as they face persecution. They are a reminder that God can use even the worst situations to bring others to Christ. But many persecuted believers have never had the chance to read His words because they live where Bibles are illegal or scarce.
For just $10, you can be the one to help provide a copy of God’s Word to a believer in China, North Korea, Iran, or another spiritually dark corner of the world.
And because of a generous matching gift, your gift will be DOUBLED up to $100,000 — impacting twice as many lives — when you give before International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov. 3!
Will you help send Bibles today?