Psalm 69:26 For they persecute the ones You have struck, And talk of the grief of those You have wounded. (NKJV)
This weekend I was at a Missions Conference and something I witnessed really made me stop and think.
A young, petite, Caucasian female got up and gave testimony about her ministry work in North Africa. The area she works in is 95% Muslim, 5% Buddhist. She knows of 10 other students (that’s who she ministers to) that are professing Christians. TEN.
A female. American. White skinned. Young. Single. 95% Muslim population. Getting the picture? She just spoke of her work there with the students as if she was talking about working with the local youth group at the Baptist church down the road. I was amazed, confounded and frankly, embarrassed. Why? Because I thought to myself, “what if I was asked to go to any Arab part of the world to minister?”. Truthfully, the thought of it scares the pants off me.
I have long been a student of Islam, from its religion, to it’s politics, to the reality of life in a Muslim society. I have no politically incorrect misconceptions about what it means to be Christian, female or American in the Islamic world. I read every day of Christians who are beaten, murdered and otherwise persecuted in Islamic countries (as well as Buddhist and Communist countries, among others). Oh, you won’t hear this truth on American campuses, in the Western media and sadly, not even in most churches but make no mistake Brothers and Sisters… our Christian family lives in mortal peril in great portions of this world.
So I sat there in genuine amazement at this young sister who ministers to lost souls in a country where they hate her for where she was born (America), hate her for her skin color (white), subjugate her for her gender (female), constrain her for her marital status (single), and quite literally want to kill her for her religion (Christianity). Now I realize that not EVERY person in all Islamic countries feels this way, but to deny that it is the general political environment of today is simply to deny reality.
I also sat there in personal embarrassment and soul searching knowing that the thought of even visiting an Islamic country absolutely scares me speechless. Maybe it’s American naiveté. Maybe it’s spiritual cowardice. Maybe it’s an appropriate emotion knowing what I know about the turmoil in Islamic countries and the hatred for all things American and Christian.
Then I thought about the times in my life where I was “scared” to witness to someone here in my own country, with my own people, where the level of persecution might be a rude response, maybe some cursing or a well know finger gesture. Where does that fear come from? No one gets killed in America (yet) for sharing the Gospel. We don’t walk down the street worrying about getting severely beaten because we just left church. I’m not worried about my single, teenage daughter having acid thrown on her, or her throat slit because she’s walking alone or reading a Bible.
Mark 8:37-38 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (NKJV)
That verse really comes home when you witness something like I witnessed this weekend. I compare the danger and possible persecution she accepts with the pitiful little we might face here in this country, and truly, we should be embarrassed when we find ourselves afraid to share our faith. Is our fear tantamount to being “ashamed” of Christ? Is embarrassment to talk about Jesus the same as being “ashamed” of Him? Is a fear of going into a hostile country the same as the fear of sharing the Gospel in a non-threatening environment? Is one of them an appropriate reaction and the other simply cowardice? Tough questions to wrestle with.
The Lord knows how we feel (Heb 4:15). He understands what scares us, what makes us uncomfortable and what produces genuine fear for us. Some of it is legitimate, some from ignorance, some from lack of faith, and yes, some from cowardice. No matter.
It is not our fear or concerns that define us spiritually.
It is our choices despite fear or concern.
This young lady chooses to minister where God has lead her, and no matter how “scared” we may be, it is our choice to act in spite of fear that determines our character. I would be lying to say that I’m not scared of going to an Arab country at this phase of our political history. It’s a dangerous and scary place for an American Christian. But… if God called me to do that, it would be a choice to obey, a choice to have faith and a choice to trust God (even if death was the outcome) that would be the defining ingredients of my spiritual walk. Being scared, apprehensive and doubtful are earmarks of humanness; just ask Moses, David, Peter and Thomas to start with. Stepping out in faith despite those feelings is the earmark of Godliness; just ask Moses, David, Peter and Thomas to start with.
Life is all about perspective. The next time you are “scared” to witness to someone, or nervous about saying the name of Jesus publicly, or hesitant to bring up spiritual topics in a group – think about your Christian brothers and sisters who live in REAL danger for their faith. If they can step out in trusting faith into an environment where the reality of injury and death are very real, then perhaps it won’t seem too much for us to risk a little personal ridicule for Jesus sake. Here are some verses to consider about persecution:
- Mark 10:30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. (NKJV)
- Luke 21:12-14 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; (NKJV)
- 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (NKJV)
- John 15:20-21 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (NKJV)
- 1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (NKJV)
- 1 Corinthians 4:12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; (NKJV)
- Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (NKJV)
Lord God, Help us to make the right choices in the face of fear or uncertainty. Help us to be spiritually courageous even when our fleshly feelings say otherwise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: Life is all about perspective. The next time you are “scared” to witness to someone, or nervous about saying the name of Jesus publicly, or hesitant to bring up spiritual topics in a group – think about your Christian brothers and sisters who live in REAL danger for their faith. If they can step out in trusting faith into an environment where the reality of injury and death are very real, then perhaps it won’t seem too much for us to risk a little personal ridicule for Jesus sake.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?