In many parts of the world, especially in Muslim and Communist countries, Christians are persecuted for their faith. We here in the West sometimes wonder how we would cope if our liberties as Christians were taken away. We might experience hostility at times, a cold shoulder and ridicule, but all of this doesn’t even come close to what Christians suffer in lands such as North Korea, Iran, Eritrea or Pakistan.
Marked by Faithfulness
In countries where persecution came at one point, the Christians who remained faithful to Christ were those who were already marked by true faithfulness to the Lord when they still had freedom.
If we are living like “secret agents” now with all the freedom we have, rather than bold confessors of Christ, imagine how we would do if Christian testimony meant going to jail, receiving large fines, losing our jobs or possessions?! I often feel rebuked when I consider that I’m not using my freedom enough to share the Gospel the way I should. We can always do better.
Christians who suffer death for the Name of Christ are called “martyrs”. This word comes from the Greek word “martus”, which means “witness”.
The question we need to ask ourselves is not so much, “Am I willing to die for the Lord?”, but “Am I a witness for the Lord while I’m living?”
Think of the Lord Jesus. It says of Him in 1 Timothy 6:13, “… Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate …” When reading the Gospels what is it that the Lord said to Pilate?
Matthew (27:11), Mark (15:2) and Luke (23:3) record only one little phrase, “It is as you say” in response to Pilate’s question about the Lord being King of the Jews. The Lord’s silence in not defending Himself seems to surprise Pilate more than the words the Lord spoke.
Testimony of the Lord Jesus
John records more of the exchange of words between the Lord Jesus and Pilate (18:33-38; 19:8-11). This is what we can learn of the Lord Jesus in his testimony to Pilate:
— “I do not belong to this world; I belong to the Kingdom of God.”
— “My life’s mission is to bear witness of the truth.”
— “Everyone who is of the truth will listen to Jesus Christ.”
— “I want you to know that God has all ultimate power and He is in control.”
— “All of you who reject Christ are guilty of sin.”
We often equate a good witness with a multitude of words, but a good witness is marked more by taking an uncompromising, consistent and courageous public stand for the Lord Jesus. This does mean that we will say words on behalf of the Lord Jesus, but it does not require a Christian to be a gifted speaker.
We need to constantly remind ourselves and each other that our allegiance is to Christ and Christ alone. We are in this world as pilgrims and strangers (Heb. 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11), and as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor.5:20) . We live in a world that crucified the One who is our Life.
Below are a few things we can do with God’s help to prepare ourselves. Even if we would never experience severe persecution, it is still the Scriptural pathway to be ready and watchful. Ephesians 6:13 says, “Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
1. Treasure and read God’s Word daily and memorize parts of it (Psalm 1:2).
2. Get to know the Lord Jesus Christ in a deeper way (2 Peter 3:18).
3. Take time to pray and praise God every day (Luke 11:1-4; 1 Thess. 5:17; John 4:23).
4. Remember and pray for persecuted Christians. Inform yourself about them (Hebrews 13:3).
5. Be willing to bear reproach for Christ patiently, even if it’s in a small measure. You’ll experience the nearness of the Lord as you stand for Him (John 15:18-21).
6. Learn to deny yourself. Our ultimate goal in life should be God’s glory, rather than our personal happiness (Mark 8:34-38).
7. Stand in faith. We believe in unseen reality. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:7; Heb. 11:1, 6).
8. Walk in love even towards those unbelievers who are hostile to the Gospel (Ephesians 5:2).
9. Live in hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus (Romans 5:2-5).