Burdened is the only way I can describe my heart recently. I have this constant feeling in the pit of my stomach that something is very wrong. It’s a feeling like one of my children is in danger and I am helpless to protect them. I go to sleep at night with the feeling and I wake up with it.
Around the world, Christians are suffering for their faith. They always are, but lately it has been overwhelming to watch and hear about. The headlines on Christian persecution do not end right now.
- Over 250 schoolgirls were kidnapped by a terrorist group named “Boko Harem”. These girls were kidnapped because they attended a “Western”, “Christianized” school in Nigeria. The Islamic extremists forced most of them to convert to Islam, raped some, and sold some as child brides.
- In Iraq and Syria, an evil, twisted faction of Al Queda named ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is currently waging war without rules on Christians and minority groups. They are beheading children and adults and placing their heads on poles around the country (if you have a hard time believing this there are some really insane and unreal pictures of it on the internet). They have chased thousands of families from their homes and into the mountains where they are dying of thirst because it is a better alternative than being raped and beheaded. Many have pushed their children off the mountain to save them from a worse fate. They are calling it genocide and what else can you call it when over 1500 are murder in one day??
- In Gaza, Hamas, another Islamic terrorist group is using innocent civilians as shields and setting up rocket launchers in public places. They are also shooting rockets into Israel every day which threatens innocent Israeli families. This kind of evil has stated things on the record like “we love death like Israel loves life”.
- Ebola is a disease with worldwide repercussions. Though it is wreaking havoc so far away, we still feel the shockwaves like they are right here in the US. Ebola does not play favorites and it leaves only 40% of its victims with life still in them. It has wiped out over 1000 people and does not look to be slowing as people hide when they are sick rather than seek medical attention.
- China is cracking down on churches as we speak and many have been demolished by the government. While this may pale in comparison to some other threats, imagine showing up at your church on Sunday morning to find it flattened.
- There are rumors of war in Ukraine again as Russia lies in wait for another opportunity strike. And with the focus turning toward Israel/Gaza and Iraq, it could be days or weeks before we see casualties once again in this region and our Christian brothers and sisters are once again in harm’s way.
With so much travesty happening to people of faith all over the world, I have found it difficult to carry on as normal. I mean, what if it were me? It could just as easily be my family? What makes us, as American Christians, think that we are above facing life threatening circumstances? And how should we respond, as Christians, to this heart-wrenching news that we are facing every day?
I struggle, I really do. I struggle because the way that I want to respond…what my human nature wants to do is to feel guilty… for everything. It wants to feel guilty that I am swimming in a pool when so many children are dying of thirst. It wants to feel guilty that my children are all healthy while others are dying of the blood loss that comes with Ebola. It wants to feel guilty that I live in a country where I can post on Facebook what I think about Jesus without fear that someone will be knocking at my door in 15 minutes to take me to prison. It wants to feel guilty that I am not on a plane to serve internationally…that I am not on the mission field…that I am not in a position to contribute to a solution on any of these fronts. So with this guilt, I went before the Lord.
I sat outside and looked into the blue sky and cried out to my God. “What in the world, God? WHAT IN THE WORLD? Why are you allowing the nations to rage? Why are you letting them say ‘Where is your God?’ Why aren’t you doing something? Rise up and defend Your NAME!” And here is where He took me almost right away.
“For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in Asia: we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life. Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.” 2 Corin 1:8-11
Did you hear what Paul just said? He didn’t lay a guilt trip on his fellow Christians. He didn’t say, “Why weren’t you with us in Asia?” He didn’t say, “While you all were getting to live your life in peace, WE were in Asia despairing of life.” He didn’t say, “God had to deliver us because you all were unwilling to come to our rescue.”
NO, he said these two things… The grievous trial that made them despair of even living was given so that they would not trust in themselves, but in the God who raises even the dead (He became their ONLY hope) AND the PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS HELPED HIM! Can I just shout it again? THE PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS DELIVERED A GIFT TO HIM THAT EVEN THEIR PRESENCE COULD NOT.
American Church!!! Awake, oh sleepers!!! These things are meant to shake us awake. God is giving us an opportunity to watch Him do great things AND to be prepared for the days that WE will need the prayers of the saints!! I will take it as far as to say, if you are not in a time of desperate need of prayer, you should be desperately praying for someone else. THERE IS NO TIME FOR SLEEP! There is no time for wasting away in recreation. It is time to WAKE UP and PRAY!
As I meditated on this Scripture, I began to realize… I began to see with different eyes… I began to get a zoomed out view of these happenings around the world. When do people cry out to God? I don’t mean followers of Jesus. I mean, the normal, average person…when does he/she cry out to God? When no one else can save. And you know what? No one can save all the people in Africa that are perishing from a vicious disease. A cry is going up to a Higher Power. And you know what? Thousands of Christians and minority groups are seeking refuge together on a mountain and in churches and in small villages in Iraq. These people are watching children leave for eternity together. I cannot imagine that the Gospel is not really powerful when spoken in such situations. And you know what? China’s underground church is GROWING. Despite strong resistance from the Communist party, Christianity in China is on the rise as people devote not just their time and money, but their VERY LIVES to Christ in order to share the Word. Theirs is no shallow Christianity that ducks at the slightest shadow. It is brave and strong and firm. And you know what? We see Jesus working all over the world. In the evilest of evil, He is working. HE IS THE HOPE and many people are starting to see that. Unfortunately, it has always taken “shock” to call people back to God…even from the very beginning when it took a worldwide flood.
So now that we have established hope in the midst of articles filled with horror…now that we have established that guilt is a useless distraction from your real job as a Christian…let’s talk action.
Stop feeling helpless and start crying out to God on the behalf of these people who need help from Somebody far more able than any of us.
Stop wishing you could be the hero and start joining your cries with those of these suffering saints who need miracles beyond our capabilities.
Stop wandering around in guilt and start asking where the Lord wants you positioned in this battle…is it in your church leading a prayer meeting? is it on your knees in your bedroom? is it in one of these affected countries?
Stop reading articles that make you feel sick and start printing them out and laying them before the Lord, asking Him to intervene in specific situations.
Stop wondering if you could ever make it through the reality that saints in other nations are facing and start taking active steps to search out Christians, missionaries, and pastors in these nations to pray for them…to write encouraging words to them…to give money or resources to the cause of Christ where they are.
Whatever you do, STOP SLEEPING. There is no time left for snooze on the alarm clock. These people NEED our prayers. Our prayers are the best gift that we can give to them. Whatever you do, don’t just read this! Get with the Lord and ask Him where He wants you in this battle formation. ASK HIM what you can do to serve these people around the world. May they, one day, be able to say, “He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.“