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A small green patch covers most of our back lawn.  Next to mine, and lined side by side one after another separated only by rickety fences are plots with just enough space in each for sheds, flowers and patios along with the usual Bar-B-Q and chairs  A tree sits in the corner of my yard while next door to us stands a spectacular maple spreading its leafy branches in every direction in a bold display of fiery brilliance with hues of reds, oranges, and greens that seem to explode from its many branches,  Up above the sky widens like a grey and white dome covering the earth concealing what lies behind it.  My gaze descends to the flowers that run along the base of our fence with a row of mint crouching  at the far end.  Everything seems serene enough except that I am troubled.

Reports out of Nigeria, India, Northern Africa, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, much of the Middle East speak of attacks against the Christian Church and forced conversions.   The Christians along with other religious groups are forced to flee their homes or face greater persecution and possibly death.  The occupational hazard of being a disciple of Christ means to come under oppression of some sort is almost certain in that part of world.

By contrast heaven is an incredibly glorious and stunningly beautiful place by anyone`s account.  Yet, from even from paradise we hear about those who have unmitigatedly suffered for their faith..  The apostle John who has either been taken to heaven or sees in a vision describes this uneasiness in Rev.6:9-11.  The martyrs who died for their faith are calling out to God when will He avenge all the injustices that they had suffered.  The background to this scene has God seated on His throne while His Son represented as the Lamb has taken the scroll and opens the seals since He alone is worthy to rule. A great burst of triumphant and exuberant joy erupts from the sea of redeemed people around the throne.  Christ has shown His faithfulness by virtue of His redemptive work. So what follows then was a spontaneous and joint proclamation of all in attendance, angels, cherubims, elders, and redeemed.  They worshiped and praised the Lamb of God with song and adoration followed by the disclosure of the sevenfold judgments.  It is in this context that John sees an altar and underneath it are martyrs who are crying out how long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood? Vv.10.  The martyred Saints are looking forward to the arrival of judgment against their oppressors.

Suffering at the hands of others is never easy.  Paul speaks of of the suffering of fellow Believers in 1 Co.12:26 that whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.  At this point it is not so much a question of whether or not we choose to sympathize with our brethren, the fact is that when one member suffers all the Church is affected.  Later on we are told to remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves in the body. Heb.13:3  There are many ways that we can remember them that are in bonds.

  • Pray for the persecuted church particularly when in groups. You may find that if you make it a habit to pray for Believers in different countries, others may follow your lead after a while.
  • Paul collected for the Saints in Jerusalem to help them in their financial needs. The local Church can allocate funds to support  those who are suffering as a result of religious persecution.
  • Stay informed about the current state of the persecuted Church by following a ministry such as the Voice of the Martyrs. This particular ministry helps persecuted Believers and churches from many countries and sends out monthly reports and prayer requests.
  • Announce from the pulpit, if possible, any significant developments regarding the persecuted church, especially now with the church increasingly under siege. Paul brought to light the suffering of many of the Brethren during his missionary journeys to others.
  • Share your concerns with others about the persecuted Church. There has been a large surge of opposition in these past decades against the Church.  It is estimated that more have died in this century and the last one at the hands of their detractors then all the earlier centuries combined.  Not only so, the aggression shows no sign of letting up, but seems to be on the increase.

It is unsettling to consider the worldwide march of evil against the Church but we need to remember that religious persecution has been with us during the entire dispensation and it is not surprising that Jesus had warned that the world will persecute the Church in every conceivable way.  The Bible teaches that the Believer must patiently endure his sufferings in Rev.13:10; 14:12.  For those who remain faithful to the end, we are told in Re.6:11 that each will receive a white robe, a symbol of blessedness and purity.

 

Submitted by Denis Pomerleau

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