If we’re living for Jesus and others know it, we will experience persecution. As we learned in our last blog (see Enduring Persecution Together: The Church), we are going to need each other to endure to the end. Sometimes, we’ll experience persecution together, and I pray the unshakable hope of God’s word has equipped us for that eventuality, but what about when it’s happening to someone else? What about now, as we watch news reports of Christians beheaded and burned for their faith? Hebrews 13:3 answers:
Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.
We’re one body. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). So Paul says, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8). Remember, blessed are we when we suffer for Jesus’ name, even when we’re not the target, but we choose to share in the sufferings of others. Tweet this!
Here are four ways scriptures tells us we can share in suffering with those being persecuted for the gospel.
1. Love and do good to them.
In John 15:16-17, Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.”
Loving our brethren is not a law God beats into us with a stick. It’s the result of His grace turning our hearts to Him and setting us free from sin and death. Tweet this! This freedom, Paul writes in Galatians 5:13, isn’t so we can satisfy our flesh or ourselves, but so we can love and serve one another and do so tirelessly: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).
The Lord would have us do good to all, but especially to those of the household of faith: our brothers and sisters in Christ. Tweet this! And when else are they going to need us more than when they are facing trials and persecution? Let us therefore “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). As we go about our lives in our me-centered world, God’s wants us to have an us-centered mindset and heart attitude with the time and resources He gives us. Tweet this!
2. Share in their distress.
In Philippians 4:14, Paul commends the Philippians for doing well in sharing his distress. How do we actually do that? Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 25:34-40, when He describes the day when He will come and sit on the throne of His glory:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
The least of these. In general, but especially in the household of faith. Those who are displaced as they flee death and destruction in northern Iraq. Those who are imprisoned for preaching the gospel in hostile nations. Those who are living without dads and moms who were murdered for their unwavering faith in Jesus.
When someone is persecuted, we can’t hunker down in our comfort, prosperity, and relative ease and feel sorry for them; they need our material help and our presence as an expression of our love for Jesus and therefore our love for them. It’s easy to genuinely feel heartbroken for the persecuted, but they need our material help and presence. That’s LOVE. Tweet this!
To share in their distress is two-fold:
• Send relief.
Based on Acts 11:27-30, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 2 Corinthians 8:12-14, and 2 Corinthians 9:6-10, we are to:
1) Give according to our ability, and even beyond our ability if that’s what God tells us to do. It’s not a matter of our poverty or wealth but how liberal we are with what God has given us. Tweet this! It’s embracing an Acts 4:32-35 perspective toward our possessions:
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
The value of our gift is in the degree of our willingness to give all, and whatever our gift of relief, it is accepted according to what we have, not what we don’t have. In God’s economy, He longs to see our abundance supply the lack of another, and another’s abundance supply our lack. Tweet this!
2) Determine to send relief – make the decision and do it. Give as you purpose in your heart, cheerfully, knowing that God is able to make sure you are sufficiently supplied with abundance for every good work He has for you to do. Tweet this!
3) Send relief by the hands of others. God may ask us to go, but if not, we can help through the hands and feet of those He does send. Tweet this! Paul describes being on the receiving end of such a gift: “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:18-19). What a gift!
• Be relief.
Sometimes we’ll send relief, but God may ask us to be the one to go, to be the one who shows up and brings great comfort. Tweet this! Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 7:5-7:
For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.
3. Take care of their families and their families’ needs.
When Christians are persecuted and killed, their families need us, and the persecuted need the assurance that we are going to take care of those they love. Tweet this! Jesus Himself demonstrates this in John 19:25-27 when He makes sure His mother will be cared for by His disciple. His disciple does what Jesus asks of him, taking her as his own to his home to live with him. We are Jesus’ disciples. When He asks the same of us, will we care for the families of believers who risk all for the name of Jesus?
After Jesus dies, Joseph of Arimathea takes care of His body and burial. What a tender picture of His disciples’ love for their Savior that they would care for His family and His body even after His death. When we care for the persecuted, their families, and their needs, we are faithfully and lovingly tending to the crucified body of Jesus. Tweet this!
4. Pray constantly for them.
In Acts 12:5, “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” Our persecuted brethren need the same of us today! The power of prayer will help sustain them, and in Peter’s case, as the church prayed, the angel of the Lord set him free! Our prayers move God. Tweet this! He desires and responds to the prayers of His people. This is something we can all do, no matter where we are, what we’re doing, or what we have.
When God first began to burden my heart for what we as His church can be doing for persecuted Christians, He gave me the #pray&takethiscup challenge as a way for us to intentionally focus on the needs of our brethren. Will you take this challenge starting today, and as part of the challenge, will you commit to pray every day for the persecuted? Check out these 30 Ways to Pray Scripture Once a Day for Persecuted Christians.
Sharing in another’s suffering requires denying the very flesh our culture celebrates, meeting the needs of others not as an extension of success, but as a sacrificial act of love for and obedience to Jesus. Tweet this! If we’re chasing the world’s enticements, we’ll find ourselves preoccupied and empty with nothing to give to the Lord or His people. Tweet this! To experience the fullness of God, we must do the opposite of the world, sacrificing self to bring honor and glory to God by loving the body of Christ, especially the persecuted.
Lord, in the moment, Your way seems harder, but in the long run, it truly is the only way. Help us today to set aside our selfish desires and misplaced dreams and affections. Give us Your Holy Spirit to help and empower us to love others sacrificially, sharing in their distress to whatever degree You ask us. We love You, and in loving You, we love others. Thank you, Father, for making us a part of a body that shares together in the sufferings of life on this earth. You are so good!
We’re almost to the end of our series! Just one more blog: The Peter Factor. Have you missed a blog or two or are you just joining us? No worries! Click Unshakable Hope in the Face of Persecution for the entire series so far. You can also SUBSCRIBE to receive all new blogs to your email inbox, as well as your free, advance copy of the eBook containing the entire series. Not only that, when you subscribe, you’ll receive a free download of the electronic version of my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His, the perfect companion to this series. In six weeks of scripture-packed study, you’ll learn to experience the fullness of God’s promises through obedience to His word, and find hope that is an anchor for our souls, sure and steadfast, no matter what. The result? Lives that are powerful platforms for preaching the gospel – the only true and eternal answer to our personal and national crises. Every Christian needs to read this book! Be sure to get yours, and then spread the word!
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION:
1. In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul instructs us, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.” We are not alone. We are in this together. What do you think it means to share in the sufferings for the gospel? How might God be asking you to share in another’s sufferings? Ask Him, and then will you agree to be willing to do whatever He shows you to do?
2. Paul writes in Galatians 5:13, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” The freedom God gives us is to serve Him by loving one another. When a fellow believer is suffering persecution, how can you have an us-centered mindset toward those who are suffering for Jesus’ name?
3. In John 19:25-27, as Jesus hung on the cross, He made sure His mother would be taken care of by His disciple. In the same way, the persecuted need to know we will take care of their families when they are imprisoned or killed for Jesus’ name. Will you take a moment to visit The Voice of the Martyrs and/or Open Doors to see what you might be able to do to help the families of those who have given their lives for Jesus?
4. In Acts 12:5, we learn, “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” Will you commit to pray constantly for persecuted believers? Will you take the #pray&takethiscup challenge and pray daily? Check out 30 Ways to Pray Scripture Once a Day for Persecuted Christians as a help.