Open Doors – Open Eyes
The word convicted is usually associated with a negative connotation for example, when a person is ‘convicted’ of theft or assault. Through hearing the stories of those brave enough to lay down their life for their faith in God, I have been convicted about my own faith in God. Would I be willing to give my life up for the sake of Christ?
We attend church, we read the bible, we worship God, maybe raising our arms in a song every once and a while and of course we remember to pray… when we need something. Up until now I had thought this level of faith was enough, that Jesus was satisfied with our own version of Christianity. I mean I did all of these things, plus I served in the worship team at youth group, I was thinking I had my version of Christianity down pat. Then I heard about the persecuted.
Their churches are burned to the ground, they are threatened with beatings, imprisonment and death just because of their beliefs, and yet their faith and trust in God is stronger than anyone else in the world. They are the church, and they are the ones who changed the way I view my faith in God.
First day of work experience at Open Doors and we started with 8:30 devotions, that day’s topic was ‘What is Our Response to Persecution?’ Even the title got me stuck. Did I even have a response to persecution? I’d heard the stories of the extremists, the punishments and the cruelty towards Christians in other countries, but I’d never really taken action or had much further thought about the impact I could make.
When events occur so distant from us it can be hard to imagine them actually unfolding, so it wasn’t until I heard the personal stories of those who had experienced the persecution did the realisation hit me that it was real. Not only is it real but it’s still happening every day to thousands of Christians just like us, just like me.
The story that had the most profound impact on me was on a video on the Open Doors YouTube Channel about a man named Peter in North Africa. He was put in jail for 6 years, simply for being a Christian. The thing that really confronted me about Peter, was that the guards of the prison would often ask him to sign a contract forbidding him to talk about Jesus or meet with any Christians. And even after being locked up for 5 months in a cell so narrow you could only lie down, he still would not sign it. I’m not sure I could endure even a single day of that torture, let alone five months, and after that, still trust God.
This conviction is re-awakening the passion in my heart for seeing people won for Christ, while not being ashamed to do it. The fears I have about asking people to church or telling them about Jesus now seem ridiculous compared to the hardships the persecuted face every day in order to make Christ known. I want the same faith as the Christians in countries like North Korea, where there is the highest level of persecution and yet still tens of thousands of people are still staying strong in their belief in Jesus. I don’t want to settle for a mediocre version of Christianity.
But how? How am I supposed to achieve this level of trust and commitment when I can still hardly overcome my concerns about people’s judgement on me because I am a Christian? The revelation of Thursday morning’s devotion gave me the answer. The message was centred on 1 Corinthians 12:12 –26 the idea, that as the church we are all part of one body, the body of Christ. In the passage Paul talks about how as a body has many different parts, so does the church, and each of these parts have a unique function that is essential to making the body work. He goes onto say how we must not compare ourselves to other parts of the body (or the church) because the body cannot operate properly with just one part, it needs all of them.
This made me think about the Christians in all different places around the world facing all different types of situations. About how even though the churches in countries like Iraq and Syria may experience an extreme amount of persecution, God has put us in this country under different circumstances for a reason. So of course we should be using persecuted Christians as excellent examples of faith and we should aim to have an equal amount of trust in God. But it doesn’t mean we have to be in their position to still serve God and the body of Christ. “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it (1 Corinthians 12:18).” Though sometimes I know I can doubt this, God has me in this part of the world with the people who are around me for a reason and as a church we are called to help those in persecution and those who live and walk with us every day. In the long run we all have the same goal, and that’s what makes us a body in Christ, we want to see people all over the world experience His love and have the opportunity to ask Him into their lives as their Saviour.
And just as we are one body “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it… (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).” So we must not ever forget or dismiss those in persecution because although they may be physically far away, as believers we are united in our common belief in Jesus Christ. We must always be praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ, believing that their struggle and the persecution they face is not in vain, yet for a greater purpose. Matthew 5:10 says, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”