You may not hear about it much on the mainstream news channels. Your church may not even be talking about it.
If you live in America or another affluent Western nation, it’s all too easy to live a life of comfort, insulated from the suffering that Christians face in places where it costs something to follow Christ.
Whether we realize it or not, disciples of Jesus are being slaughtered, daily.
These are men, women, boys, and girls like us. Like our family members. They have names and faces and dreams for their future, just like we do.
I understand – the burden of knowing, coupled with the feeling of total helplessness, can be debilitating. It can tempt us to stick our fingers in our ears or to sing more loudly so we can’t hear the train going by.
But the good news is, you CAN make a difference.
There are specific ways we can respond that will move us from paralyzed horror to effective involvement. We do not have to be plagued by guilt, overwhelmed by helplessness, or live with our heads in the sand. We can actively do our part with a Biblical and helpful response.
Your Response to the Persecution of Christians: How to be Helpful and Effective
1. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF PRAYER.
Never, never, never. Please, pray for the persecuted church daily. Make it a habit.
Pray for every individual being affected by persecution, that their faith will not fail. Jesus prayed that exact prayer for Peter (Luke 22:32, NIV), and we can rest assured that He is also praying that for His persecuted church. Joining our will to His and praying His heart for these precious people is powerful!
Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the areas of persecution and that the Gospel would change hearts and lives.
Pray for laborers to be raised up and equipped to be effective workers in those harvest fields, full of the power and presence of God.
The fervent prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (James 5:16), and if you belong to Christ, you are made righteous by Him!
Make it personal by becoming aware of actual stories of individuals and families, not just statistics. Last night my daughter and I were able to deliver food from our church food pantry to a Syrian refugee family of 9. These precious people overwhelmed us with kindness and gratitude and even tried to feed us dinner! The factual “Syrian refugee family of 9 needs food delivery” was helpful, but being in their living room, seeing the crowded conditions in which they live, having our hands grabbed and cheeks kissed by the old crippled grandma with gratitude shining in her eyes moved us more than facts on paper ever could have.
There are ways we can make the statistics more personal. Sign up to receive the prayer requests for individuals and families from Voice of the Martyrs or Open Doors. Print them out and keep them in your Bible, praying over them throughout the week. Put them in a jar on the dinner table and pull one out at each meal and pray together as a family.
Becoming more aware is crucial, but the flip side of awareness can paralyze us if we aren’t careful: don’t fall into the guilt trap.
A common reaction (ask me how I know) to hearing stories of persecution is to feel guilty for being happy/affluent/not persecuted ourselves.
This response needs an overhaul fo these reasons:
- It makes it about me and my feelings
- It neglects the sovereignty of God who has placed people where they are for His purposes.
- Suffering is USED by God but is not His intended design for mankind that I should somehow aspire to. The Garden of Eden was His intended design. Heaven is His intended design. We live in the in-between, and our time of suffering may come. Until then, we do not need to feel guilty for living the lives God has granted us if we are using our time, treasure, and talent for the advancement of His kingdom.
3. EMBRACE THE THEOLOGY OF SUFFERING.
If you struggle, as we all do at times, with the reality of suffering vs. The goodness of God, read up on suffering in the Word and grow your faith. Suffering is a result of sin and living in a very broken world, but Emmanuel, God with Us, is present in every moment, and Heaven is waiting. The eyes of faith will see that The Good Shepherd does not abandon His sheep when they need Him the most, no matter what it may look like in the natural. Things are wrapping up down here, and He is preparing for an eternity of showering His abundant love and kindness on His children. That glorious reality will make everything experienced in this sin-sick world seem fleeting and inconsequential.
4. BRING AWARENESS TO YOUR CIRCLES OF INFLUENCE.
Friends, family, church and small groups – take up an offering for the persecuted church, share prayer requests, share links to places like VOM and Open Doors, share this post, and get the news out that an individual CAN make a difference.
Invest in one of the ministries working on the front lines, supporting the families of martyrs and aiding those affected by persecution. Perhaps, after all, this is why we who are living in the affluent West have been blessed with the resources we have. I know many of you do this already, and my heart sings with gratitude in response to your commitment!
If I get a bad headache, I immediately grab my go-to bottle of peppermint oil. If that doesn’t do the trick, the ibuprofen may come out next, or a cup of coffee…but I make a concerted effort to alleviate the pain. The Bible says if one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. Part of our body is suffering.
What will you do today to bring the comfort and Kingdom of God into their pain?
With faith, hope, and love,
PS – for even more great resources and ideas, you may want to check out the following article: