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What does the Bible say about persecution?



  • October 13, 2018
Kelsey Campbell

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Blessed. Strong. Loved. Comforted.

These are not words that come to mind when I think about persecuted Christians. Honestly, I tend to see them as forgotten people who are sad, lonely, and broken.

But in reality, these Christ-followers persevere because we are praying for them and because God delivers on the promises He has made to those who are faithful.

Many of our fellow believers face a different kind of persecution from what the Bible tells us happened during Jesus’ day. It takes many forms, including social marginalization, slander, loss of opportunity, racism, gender discrimination, and more. And every day the situation seems to grow bleaker.

But while those suffering for their faith may experience sorrow, and while their physical bodies may be broken, their spirits are strengthened as they cling to God’s Word.

As we draw closer to the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, reflect on these Bible passages for a better understanding of how God views persecution — and how we should view it, too.

Persecuted Christians are …

1. Strong, even in weakness

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Corinthians 12:10, NIV 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. — Romans 12:14, NIV

In North Korea and Nigeria, Christians face relentless torture. Anti-Christian groups tend to lash out at believers by destroying churches, burning down homes, or physically attacking individuals. In North Korea, believers can be sent to a labor camp just for owning a Bible — and few will make it out alive.

But in these Bible passages, Paul writes encouragement to different churches of his day. Despite the hardships he and other followers faced, they were called to remain strong. Not only did they endure their persecutors, but they also were called to bless those who hurt them.

Today, when we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, we’re also commanded to pray for their abusers, that they will eventually repent.

2. Included, not forgotten

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.Matthew 5:44-45, NIV 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37, NIV

Countless Christians overseas must keep their beliefs a secret from even their closest friends and family members. This means they often feel isolated and lonely.

But the best part of being in the body of Christ means that you are never truly alone. Even if it is dangerous to assemble as a church in some places, believers are united by their faith in Jesus Christ. And as Romans 8 says, nothing, not even persecution, can isolate us from the love of God.

And as scary as it may sound, all Christians will face persecution during their lifetime. In fact, God’s Word promises it will happen. But when believers face opposition for their faith, they are assured that God considers them as righteous — and from that they draw strength to press on.

3. Comforted in God’s hands

But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. — Psalm 31:14-15, NIV

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. — Psalm 23:4-5, NIV 

It’s hard to say that persecuted Christians who have been physically and psychologically attacked are protected in the darkest valley. But, in a sense, they are safe within God’s divine plan. The danger and the fear may be real, but so is God’s love for them.

Some Christians are delivered from pain in this life, while others are not. It’s hard to understand why some are spared and some are not. But the Psalms are full of praises of thanksgiving to God even in the midst of hard times.

The early Christians — and the persecuted church today — know that God is always with them. And one day, He’ll bring them out of these earthly trials of persecution. But it’s important to remember that those living through persecution do not ask for prayers for the abuse to stop. Instead, they seek the strength to endure it, because it is through persecution that God grows His kingdom.

4. Promised eternal glory

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:10, NIV

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.’ — Luke 6:22-23, NIV

Even though a persecuted Christian’s life may be filled with physical and emotional pain, there is eternal glory waiting for them in heaven. Jesus never promised any follower an easy life. He even tells us to expect pain and trials. But He also promises that one day there will be peace forever with Him. Not only will we receive crowns of righteousness for our faithfulness, but we also will receive the greatest gift of all: an eternity with Christ.

During the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov. 4, meditate on some of these verses as you pray for Christians undergoing hardships. Sometimes we have no words for what to ask God; that’s when we need to search His Word and see what He says about persecution.

Check out our website for more resources and prayer guides to help you as you intercede for fellow believers. There, you’ll also discover another powerful way you can help your persecuted brothers and sisters — by providing Bibles where few exist.  

Your prayers and your support will bring incredible comfort to Christians who are longing for strength and endurance as they suffer for the cause of Christ.

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