Ruth and I have sat with hundreds of believers in persecution in approximately 72 countries. Sitting at their feet brings, perhaps, an interesting perspective in regard to the global reach of the Coronavirus. There are many commonalities. Here are a few
- This is not something any would choose.
- This has been forced upon us.
- It’s bad and it’s hard.
- It fuels our deepest fears.
- Our need to live is the center of the universe.
- It separates us from those we love.
- The simple basics for living increase in value.
- Time slows down, almost has no meaning.
- Not everyone will survive this challenge.
- Eternity seems more near.
Yet, there is much believers in persecution can again be our example, our teachers.
- They cannot hoard. Praying for their “daily bread” is a real prayer (forget the luxury of toilet paper!)
- They choose joy where joy is in short supply.
- They choose to witness. They refuse to have other prisoners and their guards without an opportunity to experience Jesus’ love.
- Witness leads to worship. They begin their own “church” by, consistently “loving their enemies.”
- They recognize their imprisonment is hard. They do cry out to God.
- Often they are living off the prayers of others, especially when they can no longer carry themselves.
- They hold in tension the Sovereignty of God and the sin of humankind.
The hardest persecution is suffering by oneself. Being the only believer in their home, or worse, in prison is extremely difficult. Their biggest enemy is fear. The fear of not seeing one’s children grow up. The utter loneliness of being separated from one’s spouse. In these days of “sheltering in place” I’m always aware that I get to shelter in place with Ruth. Worshipping with her allows all of life to become praise. Looking beyond our situation and needs allows all of life to become praise.
It was a revealingly, powerful moment. Believers in Chinese house churches had asked me, “Has Jesus made it to other countries, or is He only known in China?”
I was floored.
I chose to talk about believers in the U.S. and Africa. Spontaneous praise; laughing, hugging, and dancing broke out.
Then they asked, “If Jesus has made it to other countries, are they persecuted like us?” I chose to tell them about believers in Somalia and other countries who often kill believers in Jesus.
To my surprise, no one said a word.
At 6 a.m. the next morning, I awoke to the sound of loud cries and sounds of distress. Thinking that security policemen had found this gathering of believers, I rushed from my bed to the inner compound. There I witnessed approximately 170 Chinese believers, sitting and lying on the ground. As I listened I could hear them cry in the midst of their Han Chinese language, “Somalia, Somalia, Somalia.” They were also shouting out to heaven the names of those other countries I cannot write out loud.
My interpreter came over and said, “Nik, they were so moved by your stories of believers so harshly treated in other countries that they have vowed to God to awake an hour earlier each day to pray for those who are truly persecuted.”
My tears joined theirs.
This is a time of crisis. Use it well. Look in the mirror and see someone who is much loved by God in the midst of a pandemic. Yet also rush to look out your window upon a world where the pandemic of sin results in the imprisonment of followers of Jesus for 1 – 31 years.
Praise mixed with tears is a recipe for turning a time of crucifixion into an eternity of resurrection.