There is an expression that we’ve all heard. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Same with the Body of Christ and its growth throughout the world. It all began with the persecution of our Savior, Jesus. He endured it even to the point of death on the cross. But we know that he was victorious and was resurrected. Then the Church in Jerusalem underwent persecution and God scattered them throughout the known world taking the gospel message with them. That’s just how it works in God’s kingdom. It is an upside-down kingdom and it always will be until Jesus comes back.
For us here in America, it is virtually impossible for us to understand what is happening in Ukraine. But the reports from reliable sources give evidence that the Church is being the Church, serving the people in numerous ways with many thousands trusting in Christ for their salvation. A certain group has begun ‘bus evangelism’ for those who are escaping the war and riding on the buses. The gospel of Christ is the only true remedy for the suffering.
Paul said he had to complete the sufferings of Christ. “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1.24). He endured great hardship of almost every nature for the sake of taking the gospel to the world. Isn’t it interesting that he was the chief persecutor of the church as an unsaved Jew. But once he encountered the living Christ on the road to Damascus, he became an evangelist of all evangelists. What did Christ ask him right off? I find his choice of words very revealing. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 22.7b)
Persecution is like a cleansing fire that burns all the unnecessary flack from our hearts. We then are left with only that which is necessary and important. My several experiences over the years in Cuba, which is a persecuted church, has shown me that in light of everything they encounter, the church is expanding and becoming the salt, light and leaven for that country in spite of the Communist government’s dictates. And more Christians have died for their faith over the past one hundred years than the previous two millennia. But the blood of the martyrs is still speaking. And the Church is growing most where persecution exists.
The Church in America has at times experienced persecution, but not to the point that other parts of the world have and even today are. However, if you have been awake over the past few decades, you have seen the American Church slowly encountering governmental and societal abuse and rejection. Laws are being passed to create a restraint on Christian values and beliefs. We are being made to appear as bigots in our Biblical positions, such as marriage, gender and abortion. There is an expression—‘cooked like a frog’. I contend that is what is happening.
Take comfort in Jesus’ words. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt. 5. 11,12).
I/we need to purge our hearts, yield to the Spirit in every aspect of our lives, be about building up the Body. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10. 24, 25).