It is so very easy to be distracted by personal schedules, commitments and problems, not to mention the global challenges and uncertainties facing all of us today. Hot on the heels of Hurricane Harvey came the ruthless onslaught and devastation of Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia in the Caribbean, the US and Mexico. This was then followed by Hurricane Maria which has recently sent Dominica and Puerto Rico into a tailspin. Of course, there is also the ongoing threat from North Korea as well as the disturbing Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, with 430,000 Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh. Marseille and Edmonton have just experienced terror attacks. But at the time of writing, the “deadliest mass shooting in US history” has just taken place on 1 October 2017, with about 60 dead and more than 500 injured at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Let us remember in our prayers all those who have died or lost loved ones, as well as those who have been injured and/or traumatised by this recent tragedy.
All that has been happening around the world surely highlights the sobering fact that life is precious but uncertain. We cannot assume that each of us has an indefinite amount of time with those around us. It is obvious that many have departed and will depart this world without ever knowing the significance of repentance as well as the joy and peace of knowing a loving and holy God and receiving His amazing gift of eternal life. This uncomfortable realisation should really make us more focused, intentional and purposeful in our lives. It ought to increase our sense of priority and urgency too. We really need to be honest with ourselves: Have we persevered in prayer for the lost? If not, why not? Do we really care?
And what about our brothers and sisters in Christ in the persecuted church around the world? How often do we stand in the gap for them? Again, do we really care? Or does thinking or talking about Christian persecution make us uncomfortable or scared? Let us pause for a moment, and reflect on and pray through these comforting and inspiring words of truth from our LORD Jesus…
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you. No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…”
– John 15: 18 – 20
“They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes, you will remember that I warned you…”
– John 16: 2 – 4
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
– John 16: 20 – 23
“…In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
– John 16: 33
And should we feel tempted to give up or take matters into our own hands when the suffering and persecution seem unbearable, let us draw strength from our LORD Jesus’ prayer to Abba Father…
“My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”
– John 17: 15 – 19
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent me. I have given them the glory that You gave me that they may be one as we are one: I in them and You in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.”
– John 17: 20 – 23
There is undoubtedly much suffering around the world, and followers of Jesus are also not spared from natural disasters, war, famine, drought, poverty, life-threatening diseases, crime, violence, bereavement, financial difficulties, homelessness, joblessness and other personal tragedies. However, those suffering persecution for their faith in Christ are not only facing most – if not all – of the tragedies mentioned above, but also physical torture, psychological abuse, ostracism, isolation and/or imprisonment. Many have literally lost everything. Yet most of them only covet our prayers and they still rejoice that nobody can ever take Jesus away from their hearts. What an incredible testimony!
Every one of us is therefore called to be Christ’s ambassadors, whatever our circumstances. We are called to pour out our lives, to be a living testimony, that others may see Jesus. By God’s love, grace and power, may we offer our lives as a living sacrifice, as a sacrifice of praise, for His glory.
Only by His grace. For. His. Glory. Amen.