Greetings with love and sympathies.
Everytime we, who live and work in quiet and peaceful areas, receive news of persecution in the mission fields and how you suffer, our hearts bleed for you. We immediately rush to the Throne of Grace to plead before the Lord of the Harvest on your behalf for a fresh supply of grace and strength. We weep with you as fellow-members of the same Body (Rom 12:15; Job 30:25; Psa 35:13,14; 1 Cor 12:26; Heb 13:3). Though we are not able to visit you at once, we assure you we are with you in spirit (1 Cor 5:4). We pray that you would not be in any way terrified by the enemies of the gospel (Phil 1:28). It is only natural to lose heart when hit or threatened. But we would like to remind you of what Jesus said while sending forth His twelve disciples—
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s will. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore!” (Mt 10:28-31).
What this passage actually means is: We are precious to God. He knows all about us and is deeply concerned about every detail of our life. Under normal circumstances He will protect us as the apple of His eye. But in His sovereign will He may at times let us suffer in the hands of evil men. He may even allow us die of persecution. But His presence will ever be with us. Therefore we need not fear.
It was this conviction that made the three Hebrew young men stand firm with courage and confidence against the threat of being burnt alive. They knew that God was able to deliver them. Even if He would not, they would rather die than deny their faith (Dan 3:17,18). Many are the heroes of faith who were “tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Heb 11:35).
As the Church of Jesus Christ is becoming increasingly aggressive in evangelism the devil is inordinately angry because he knows that he has only a short time (Rev 12:12b). Persecution is actually a reaction. No wonder it mounts up everywhere. In the year 2000 alone, there had been over 40 major incidents of documented violence against Christians across India. Take heart! “Do not think… as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings… knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Pet 4:12,13; 5:9). You are not alone in this battle.
Every stone pelted at you will become a gem studded on your crown! Jesus who had been “sitting” at the right hand of the Father was seen by Stephen “standing” (Mk 16:19; Acts 7:56). This first martyr of the Church was received up in Heaven with such honours! If the persecution is severe the outcome will be sublime. They killed a Stephen but God raised a Saul! The martyrdom of Stephen set the stage for the conversion of Saul (Acts 7:57,58). The prominent opponents of the gospel usually become its powerful exponents (Acts 9:20-22).
Suffering is suffering, but we would like you to know that in divine perspective it is a privilege. Not everyone who preaches the gospel is stoned or martyred. When Peter and the other apostles were beaten for their relentless witnessing, they actually rejoiced that they had been counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name of Jesus (Acts 5:40,41). In another instance when Paul and Barnabas were literally expelled from one region, they and their company were overwhelmed with joy (Acts 13:50-52).
Do you know how you bless the other members of the Body of Christ when you go through persecution? News of persecution stirs them up to step up praying. But there’s something more. They become bolder and more enthusiastic in evangelism. See the response of the Philippian believers to Paul’s imprisonment. He observed, “The things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel… Most of the brothers having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear!” (Phil 1:12-14). Persecution is also a proven method frequently employed by God to scatter His people from their comfort zones into unreached places (Acts 8:1,4).
We understand how your parents and other members of the family feel when you suffer. It is not easy for them to stay peaceful.
Even when Jesus was a baby in the hands of His mother Mary, Simeon told her, “A sword will pierce through your own soul” (Lk 2:35). Mary was known for keeping things in her heart and pondering over them (Lk 2:51). Imagine how she would have lived for over thirty years with such a mental torture! How much she would have convulsed when she saw her son dying in agony! Jesus sympathised with her and comforted her through the gift of another son in the person of John (Jn 19:25-27). Believe that the same Jesus would comfort your family folks because He perfectly understands human feelings and pain (Heb 4:15,16). He will send someone to fill up the vacuum created by your absence.
The Kingdom of God advances by “tears, sweat and blood” — prayer, labour and suffering (Rev 6:9-11). The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. When one grain falls into the ground, a plant grows to yield so many grains (Jn 12:24,25). The martyrdom of Graham Staines and his two sons (1999) filled India with the aroma of Christ. This country of so many religions and philosophies understood the true meaning of forgiveness practically for the first time when Mrs. Gladys Staines openly declared, “I forgive the killers of my husband and sons!”
By being persecuted you are actually filling up in your body what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Col 1:24). The marks of the Lord Jesus are now in your body (Gal 6:17). The Spirit of glory rests on you. On the part of the persecutors Christ is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified (1 Pet 4:14). His grace will be sufficient for every trial and suffering. He will not let you suffer beyond His supply of strength to withstand. He sets the boundary for the raging waves of the sea (Job 38:10,11).
God has given you a spirit of power and not of fear. Stir yourself up every morning! Don’t be ashamed! (2 Tim 1:6-8). Due to pain and imprisonment Prophet Jeremiah decided not to prophesy any longer. There was fear every side. But God’s Word in his heart was like a burning fire shut up in his bones. He could not hold it back! He confessed, “But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome one. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten” (Jer 20:1,2,9-11).
Don’t get angry with the opposers. Pray for them (Mt 5:44c). It is for God to repay those who trouble you (2 Thess 1:6-8). Here’s Christ’s promise to you: “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).
With you in this battle,
Your brothers and sisters.