We don’t just survive persecution, we thrive. Whether well fed or hungry, rich or poor, in persecution or freedom, east or west, we will be content in Jesus and make disciples.
This is one of our mission statements at Global Catalytic Ministries and we believe it’s not only possible for every Christian to live this way, it’s critical.
When the Western church considers their persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide, it’s often done with a mix of pity and gratitude. Pity for those suffering and gratitude that they themselves aren’t suffering in the same way.
The persecuted church, funnily enough, feels the same way about the church in the West.
It’s human nature to shy away from pain, but a closer look at the Bible shows us that we are intended to not just survive persecution, but to thrive in it.
Blessed are Those
In the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls those who are persecuted for righteousness sake blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. He actually tells persecuted believers to rejoice in their persecution, because their reward will be great.
How have we missed this? Why do so many of us spend such an inordinate amount of effort setting up a safe, comfortable life where we will face as little trials as possible? It’s not possible for the true Christian, and it certainly isn’t Biblical.
Contrarily, we are told to count it as joy when we face trials of various kinds. That passage in James suggests earthly rewards for suffering (perseverance leading to maturity) as well as eternal ones.
Strength for Weakness
When we look at the persecuted church, we see this Biblical truth lived out before our eyes. In areas where the church faces the most severe backlash, we also see the most growth. This is not accidental- it’s a Kingdom exchange: our weakness for His strength.
The persecuted church knows that in their persecution they are being made like Jesus on Earth and earning a share of His eternal reward in Heaven. For the Christian, there could be no greater joy.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should pursue persecution just for persecution’s sake. We are meant to pursue Jesus- wildly, bravely, wholeheartedly, and with complete abandon. When we embrace the Biblical understanding of persecution, we can do this without hindrance or fear.
By making peace with the eventuality that Christians will suffer, and embracing the astounding truth that this suffering actually makes us blessed, on Earth and in Heaven, we can obey the call of God on our lives. In turn, we can impact the world like the early church did, with a faith that changes work places, cities, nations, and even generations.
It’s high time for the global church to redefine our understanding of persecution, and by doing so free ourselves up to thrive in all circumstances, serving Jesus whatever the cost.