The author of Hebrews makes a statement that I want to look at in this passage:
(Hebrews 11:36-38 NIV)  Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.  They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
He is speaking of the people who were persecuted for their faith. He was speaking of people in his time, but I want to look at this in the perspective of today. It has been reported many times that more people have been martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ in the past 50 to 100 years then all those martyred up to this time put together. That is a staggering fact.
I am not sure we can even understand this, because of our sheltered environment. We hear about people who are persecuted but it is remote from us. Just as people have a hard time imagining the horrors of World War II, people have a hard time imagining the horrors facing may believers around the world today.
We struggle to find the time to read a couple of chapters in our Bibles each week, so how can we identify with a whole house church that has to share one book of the Bible? They pass it around and each person memorizes it. The Scripture is precious to them and they take the time to memorize it and pass it on to others.
We struggle to find the time to pray. We have to find the time between our favorite television programs and our busy schedules. They pray constantly for the courage and strength to resist and not deny Christ when that inevitable knock comes on their door.
We struggle with whether to allow our daughters to wear makeup and to date. They struggle with the knowledge that they might have to endure the sight of their daughters raped and abused before their eyes, knowing they could stop it by just denying the Lord who died for them. Again they pray for the strength not to deny Him.
We worry about how much money we will be able to leave our children when we die. They worry about what will happen to their children if they are martyred.
We have divisions in our churches because of the style of music that is used. Or we have division because of the kind of seats the remodeling committee picked out. They risk their lives to meet in each others' homes. They have a bond and a love for each other that we find hard to understand.
We have trouble forgiving a fellow believer who takes our "usual" seat at church. They often publically forgive those who are taking their life.
We are careful how we witness for fear that we might be told we are shoving our religion down someone's throat. They risk their lives to witness to their neighbors because they love them and don't want to see them lost for eternity, even at the risk of their own safety.
We can't find the time to support them in prayer, yet they pray for those who persecute them.
We worry about our tax exemptions when we give tithe, or our church's tax exempt status, as if the church would have to close if they lost the tax exemption. They worry about having their church put in prison.
We worry that if we fast and people know it, that we will be called fanatics. They worry about where the next meal will come from for their families.
We worry about not being able to pray out loud in a public place. They worry that they will be forcibly converted to Islam. For a man this is a simple matter, either denounce Christ and convert or die. For a woman it is much harder, they are forcibly converted, which involves among other things female circumcision. Read up on what this is and it will appal you.
We get tired of all the violence on televison. They get tired of all the violence directed towards them.
We get tired of hearing about the persecuted church. They get tired of hearing the screams of friends and family as they are tortured and killed.
Am I being too dramatic? I don't think so and I doubt the persecuted church would think so. Are all believers in these countries subjected to abuse? No, but they all live with it hanging over their heads. Some countries are worse then others. Some Christians just face long prison terms while believers in other countries constantly face the threat of death. Notice how easy that "just face long prison terms" is to say and read? Unless of course you are the one who "just" has to worry about those long prison terms.
I am not trying to cast the first stone, I am guilty of the things I have written in this article too. I find it hard to remember my persecuted brothers and sisters in pray often enough. I find it way too easy to put their problems out of my mind and go about my business. I have, however, been praying that God will make me more sensitive to their plight and bring them to my mind more often.
I have written my elected leaders on their behalf. I was very disappointed in the response or lack of response in many cases. I wrote the President, but received no reply at all. I wrote my representative, but received no reply at all. I wrote both of my Senators. I received no reply from one and a short letter from the other one. In the letter my Senator made the statement that she is all for religious 'tolerance' and that she would support any legislation, that happened to come before her, condemning intolerance in any country we give money to. Intolerance! Is that what you call depriving people of their liberty and even their lives?
I have encouraged others to write their elected leaders. Unless they feel that there are more then a couple people concerned they won't be concerned. I refuse to give up, I will continue to call on Christians to take a stand, to pray for the persecuted church and to write letters to our government officials. If you are interested in sample letters you can find them at http://www.cnsnews.com//resources.html
Not only is the world not worthy of them, we are not worthy to be called their brothers and sisters, unless we support them and pray for them. We in America claim to be the only remaining superpower and yet we sit idly by as Christians are murdered for their faith. Not only do we sit idly by, we support the governments that are persecuting our brothers and sisters. We send money to some, we vote to maintain most favorite nation status to others.
Real persecution will come to America, it is just a matter of time. It will be too late then to take a stand, we will be too busy praying for strength to endure and not to deny our Lord. Let's hope we have not already denied Him by our actions before the persecution even starts.
These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.
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