Jesus said, “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” — Matthew 5:11-12
Tom Doyle is a friend of ours. Dorothy and I first met Tom in Israel when he and I spoke at the same church in Haifa pastored by our Arab Evangelical host, Philip Saa’d. It was then that we discovered we had something else in common besides our being in Israel at the same time—all of us had given our hearts to Jesus at the same church in Albuquerque, New Mexico!
Tom’s ministry was the Middle East and he had just returned from Gaza where Rami Ayyad, the owner of the only Christian bookstore there had been robbed, tortured and killed by Muslim extremists two years before. His mantle had been taken up by the Gaza Baptist Church for a short season and Tom went there to encourage their work. It was our first up close awareness of Christian persecution. We have kept in touch with Tom since then and have followed his ministry, read his wonderful books and his daily prayer alerts on the persecuted church.
It is said today that 80% of the world’s population lives in a country under religious persecution—and 80% of those who are being persecuted are Christians. One has only to think of North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and Turkey, to name just a few. When Dorothy and I returned to the U.S. after that experience in Israel, we felt a call to speak out in behalf of the persecuted church to the American church, so we volunteered with Voice of the Martyrs. It was then that we got a rude awakening—the American church was not ready for that message—they were way too comfortable and most of their pastors didn’t appear to want to change that dynamic. We gained few listeners—and I was one of their peers!
Enter a worldwide pandemic that has allowed government authorities to close down or severely limit church activities—something that has never been done before in the history of our great nation—and it has been done by fiat—while ignoring the First Amendment. This I believe is just a tip of the proverbial “iceberg.” So, are we about to join our brothers and sisters around the world in severe persecution? One only has to read the words of Jesus, who told us in advance what to expect in the last days:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of My name, for they do not know the One who sent Me.” — John 15:18-21
Without a doubt, I believe difficult days lay ahead for anyone committed to the sanctity of human life and marriage, sexual restraint, religious freedom and other conservative values—of which great gains have been made in the last four years. However, with a new sheriff in town and his accompanying posses in many of our states, we can expect our Savior’s words to be amplified to all who call upon His name and still believe in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). So here we go church—ready or not. Are you ready to be blessed? Maranatha!
Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. — 2 Timothy 3:12
To help us walk closer with God and to know Him better