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Standing Strong Through the Storm - Friday, May 22, 2015

PERSECUTION CAN HAPPEN HERE!

I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:14b

Colleague Ron Boyd-MacMillan recounts an interesting experience in China:

There’s a house church in Beijing I like to take my friends to visit. The members are all young professionals, about twenty of them, and they meet in a huge, darkened, open-plan office at midnight once a week. It’s totally illegal. Some of them are quite high ranking members of the communist party. If their faith is discovered, it would end their careers…or worse.

At the beginning of each meeting, the leader goes round and asks each member this question – the most challenging question I’ve ever heard in church: What are your wounds for Christ this week?

On one occasion I had brought two pastor friends, and the same question—through translation—was put to each of them. They replied, “Oh, we are not wounded or persecuted, you see, we live in Britain, where we have religious freedom, and we are so grateful for that!”

This reply was greeted with uncomprehending silence by the Chinese house church. Then a young woman spoke up, and without a trace of irony asked, “You mean they don’t let the devil into Britain?”

The house church leader patiently explained to the visitors the biblical understanding of persecution. “In the Bible, to be persecuted means to be pursued by the enemies of Christ. When we become a Christian, his enemies become our enemies, and we are pitched into a battle with the world and the devil, and this fight will draw wounds. So it doesn’t matter whether you are in Beijing or Birmingham, the fight is the same, only the degree and type of suffering may differ. You’re going to get pursued…that’s persecution.”

“But we thought persecution was legal discrimination, or being put into jail for one’s faith” replied the pastors. The house church leader answered, “That’s the extreme tip of it. Look, we may not sit on the same thorn, but we all sit on the same branch.”

Still the pastors did not look convinced. Another Chinese member said, “If you don’t have wounds for Christ, how do you know you are alive in Christ? Wounds bring joy, because then you know you are making a difference.”

This struck a chord with the visitors. As preachers, they knew that nothing communicates like joy. That’s why persecuted churches are growing churches—they are alive in Christ, and they know it because they have wounds! So find the source of resistance to the gospel in your local area, and when you apply the gospel, watch the fight begin.

RESPONSE: Today I will accept negative reactions as a sign that I am making a difference in my community.

PRAYER: Lord, may I also experience the joy resulting from doing right and opposing evil in my sphere of influence.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission.