Millions of Christians are persecuted today for their faith. To declare one’s allegiance to Christ in some countries is to risk imprisonment and death. Some families ostracize relatives who have received Christ as Saviour. Even in countries that allow religious freedom, secular societies often discriminate against Christians.
Some students of Christian missions believe that more people have put their lives at risk for Christ during this century than ever before in the history of the church. Jesus warned us that dangers and troubles would come: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (john 16:33). Paul’s words show that he experienced exactly what Jesus had prophesied. Paul wrote, “We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (II Cor. 4:8-9). These verses teach two great truths. First, earnest believers should expect opposition. Second, it is also true that God will give us grace to cope with such hostility. He will enable us to stand true for Him in a world that is not friendly to the gospel.
Church history has demonstrated time and again that the church grows under persecution. Believers who face opposition mature spiritually. As the Lord did with Paul, God gave Christians courage to face opposition and triumph. As we are tested for believing the gospel, we need to remember that, unworthy as we are, we have been entrusted with great treasure. The persecutions that come are temporary. Our work for God will endure for all eternity. We are working for “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor.4:17). We can accomplish God’s purposes for us in the world because we have an all sufficient and all powerful God. We may be persecuted, but we are not forsaken.