In these strange and shifting times, it can be easy to give in to fear and anxiety. The good news is that our God never changes! He is the rock upon whom we can build our faith and our certainty. This is something our persecuted church family knows plenty about-and we need to learn from their stories and their faith now more than ever. Here are some lessons that can help us to navigate these uncertain times.
1. WE BELONG TO A FAMILY THAT HELPS ONE ANOTHER
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.” (John 17:20-21)
Jesus wants His church to be unified – to be one worldwide family of God. Thanks to your prayers and support, Rikiya from northern Nigeria is getting back on her feet after her village was attacked by Boko Haram: “You are the ones who brought hope and healing back to me,” she says. “Honestly, if not for the loan I received to rear these goats, I don’t know what I would have done.”
The persecution faced by believers like Rikiya isn’t the same as the isolation and fear that we are facing now – but the lesson is the same: it’s more important than ever to love and help one another.
2. WE ARE NOT ALONE
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders...” (Hebrews 12:1)
Knowing that there is a worldwide family praying for one another can be a great source of encouragement. Eun Hye* escaped persecution in North Korea. When she finally reached safety, she was deeply touched by the prayers of Open Doors supporters around the world. “I had no idea so many people were praying for us,” she says. “Those prayers are really important. They will lead more people to Jesus Christ in North Korea.”
Do keep praying for each other and for persecuted Christians – who are often among the last to receive emergency relief in times of crisis.
3. JESUS HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Rohan* is an Indian Christian whose church was deliberately burned down. But he didn’t lose sight of God’s sovereignty: “I never thought about giving up. I trusted that God would act... My fellow pastors reminded me that God is faithful to the persecuted church.”
Regardless of the situation for Christians, because of Jesus, we can have confidence and hope. While this can be hard for our minds to comprehend in light of current times, we only have to look at the example of our persecuted family to see this kind of faith in action.
4. GOD IS OUR REFUGE, AND OUR STRENGTH
“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)
For persecuted Christians, the Holy Spirit\'s constant assurance that God is there as their strength helps them to keep persevering.
Lazar* is a church leader from Uzbekistan. His church was raided by police, who took all the church’s Bibles. He says, “The evening after the raid, I read Psalm 91. God is my refuge and my strength... I don’t want to allow myself to be governed by fear, because that doesn’t help you at all.”
Lazar’s example can inspire us to live and serve during the coronavirus crisis, without being governed by fear – and instead live in the knowledge that God is our help, strength and refuge.
5. GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY AND WE ARE NOT ABANDONED
“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10)
“I am always amazed by how God works in mysterious ways to answer our prayers and meet our needs,” explains Aditi*, a 16-year-old believer from India whose family experienced severe persecution for following Jesus. “All this time, God just wanted to teach us how to trust in Him, and now we know that He is trustworthy. He never abandoned us.”
God is there, even when it can be hard to see His hand. This time of uncertainty is an opportunity to pray for God to open our eyes to what He’s doing around us, and have the courage to follow Him, love our neighbours and live for Him.
*Names changed for security reasons
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