What the apathetic and slumbering Western church needs is some real persecution to wake them up from their slumber.
Yep, you read that right. Persecution. Mention that word in some churches today and you get blank stares and “what in the high heavens are you talking about” looks. For Christians here in the Western World this concept is a totally foreign one. Seriously, “how can persecution be good for the church?” you might ask. How can followers of Christ in enslaved nations be truly jubilant in the face of terrible suffering?
“Whoever has known the spiritual beauty of the Underground Church cannot be satisfied anymore with the emptiness of some Western churches. I suffer in the West more than I suffered in a Communist jail because now I see with my own eyes Western civilization dying. Oswald Spengler wrote in Decline of the West: You are dying. I see in you all the characteristic stigma of decay. I can prove that your great wealth and your great poverty, your capitalism and your socialism, your wars and your revolutions, your atheism and your pessimism and your cynicism, your immorality, your broken-down marriages, your birth-control, that is bleeding you from the bottom and killing you off at the top in your brains —can prove to you that there are characteristic marks of the dying ages of ancient states—Alexandria and Greece and neurotic Rome. This was written in 1926. Since then, democracy and civilization have” ― Pastor Richard Wurmbrand,
I believe that God is using persecution to purify and build His church in powerful and extraordinary ways.
If you haven’t read Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand before, I would highly recommend that you read it. It will change your perspective on persecution forever.
Real persecution produces truly joyful Christians. James 1:2-8 says “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. …”
“I have found truly jubilant Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground Church and in prison.” – Pastor Richard Wurmbrand
Churches in countries where reading the Bible or worshipping in public is forbidden are growing and thriving well… they are growing much faster than churches here in the Western World and the quality of their faith is much deeper and stronger than anything we have probably experienced here. Pastors, preachers and evangelists in these enslaved countries always say that “persecution is good for the church” or “more persecution, more growth”. Just ask Pastor Samuel Lamb.
In this article I have compiled a list from lessons I have learned from the persecuted church of Jesus Christ.
#1. They are unified and close to each other
That is something that is so beautiful to see because that’s how Christ has commanded the body of Christ to operate…. in a community where we all support and uplift each other. Persecution bonds these Christians together. These Christians don’t put up walls or have prejudice to other Christians. You don’t need a “letter of commendation” or to agree on hyper grace doctrine or calvinism to be a member. If you want to join their house church or prayer group they will accept you with open arms. They will back each other up and stick together side by side when all hell is thrown at them. That my friends, is what it means to be unified in the body of Christ.
#2. ‘Fair weather’ Christians and wolfs are eliminated very quickly
Persecution allows no room for “fair weather” Christians or wolfs in sheep skin. They just don’t survive because the hostile environment is not conducive to such activity. Persecution strengthens these Christians. They are there for the long haul.
“It must be understood that there are no nominal, halfhearted, lukewarm Christians in Russia or China. The price Christians pay is far too great. The next point to remember is that persecution has always produced a better Christian—a witnessing Christian, a soul-winning Christian. Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands. These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet.”
—Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, in Tortured For Christ (1967)
I have read many books an articles about persecution of Christians and the underlying theme seems to be the amazingly strong faith that these brothers and sisters in Christ have. It is just astounding.
#3. They accept persecution with gladness
The very fact that they have been counted worthy to suffer for Christ is enough to make persecuted Christians to be glad and rejoice. Wow, I wish my faith was as strong as theirs.
“Often, after a secret service, Christians were caught and sent to prison. There, Christians wear chains with the gladness with which a bride wears a precious jewel received from her beloved.”
― Richard Wurmbrand,
#4. They encourage and uplift each other
Whether it is in a secret basement, in the forest or in a cold, dark prison these dedicated followers of Christ never cease to encourage and lift each other up before the Lord. They pray, they sing aloud and they recite Scripture together.
#5. They are so passionate in spreading the Gospel and making each day count for Christ
Persecuted Christians possess an amazing passion for reaching the lost. They don’t know how long they have before they are kicked out of a village, thrown into jail or hacked to death and so they make each opportunity of every day count. Every day is a gift and they are always thankful for another opportunity to share the love and transforming power of the Gospel of Christ.
They preach on the streets… out in the open or in the middle of a village, they sing aloud and pray knowing full well the consequences of their actions… consequences which are sometimes the death sentence.
#6. They have a God-centred not self-centred approach to ministry and everyday life
To them, it’s all about God not themselves. They live in hunger, thirst, poverty, constant rejection, suffering, beatings, imprisonment yet God is the focal point of their lives not themselves. The work of God is more important than anything else to them. In suffering, they look beyond their present afflictions to the joys of heaven.
#7. They are always ready to serve
A pastor of a small church will walk 25 kms on foot in the night to visit a sick member of his congregation. These guys are there to serve and they make sacrifices. Many of them don’t have cars or 4×4’s to travel in to make these visits. Instead they travel on foot or via motorbike on dirty, dusty, muddy, rutted tracks filed with peril of all sorts along the way. They risk being caught by authorities or mauled by animals. The willingness and readiness to serve others (believers or non-believers alike) is so profound.
So, I hope these 7 lessons bolster your own faith and challenge you to live a life that is totally sold out for Christ…. a life that is filled with sacrifice and obedience even in the face of hardship. The persecuted church is by no means perfect but they’re a fine example of the power of God being made perfect in weakness.
Oh and one last thing… it’s a book recommendation. I strongly recommend that you read Faithful Unto Death by Wolfgang Haede. That book challenged me to my core. I reckon it’ll probably leave you in tears and a desire to be closer to Christ.