On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:1, 4
Again and again we see that in many countries, right before persecution comes, the church grows rapidly. This happened in northern Korea one hundred years ago just before the Japanese occupation and persecution.
It is helpful to remember this theme from the book of Acts: persecution does not necessarily cause church growth but church growth appears to cause persecution!
Church leaders among the many house church networks in China (the fastest growing church in the world) repeatedly share that suffering for Jesus often brings about a greater harvest of souls.
Sariman was a young student preparing himself to serve the Lord among the thirty million Sundanese of Indonesia, the largest unreached people group in the world. During a violent attack on the Bible school, Sariman was killed and many other students were wounded. Sariman bravely assisted his friends although he could have saved himself. Before his death he was tortured and other students testified how Sariman was slaughtered. He was hit with a bar of wood and iron, then hacked, stabbed and his mouth was cut from the left cheek to the right cheek.
Upon hearing yet another testimony of martyrdom, many questions arise. “Why this tragedy, Lord? How long will you allow this to continue? This is such a terrible loss for this wonderful ministry. What is the sense in all of this?”
Then the dean of the Bible school completes the testimony and indirectly answers our questions: “The victory in this tragedy is that only ten days after the murder of Sariman we had ten new applicants to study at the Bible school. Today, six months after the incident, we have ninety-eight new students who are willing to go where Sariman would have gone. The blood of the martyrs is indeed seed.”
Paul clearly warns the Church in Galatia (Galatians 5:1) to stand firm in the midst of freedom. Freedom is not a time to relax. Freedom often creates a new kind of slavery. There is a price tag attached to freedom and we need to count the cost. It is time to open our hearts to the valuable lessons that we can learn from those that follow Christ in restricted countries—even to their death.
RESPONSE: Today I will accept the biblical teaching and the many church growth examples that suffering often brings about a greater harvest of souls.
PRAYER: Lord, we pray today for Your fast-growing suffering churches around the world. May they be encouraged as they see many more souls added to Your kingdom.