I've been captivated in recent weeks by Christians throughout the world enduring persecution. Some face imprisonment. Some face death. Simply for their spiritual convictions.
My first response has been self-centered: I hope I don't have to go through that. I hope I have the courage to stand firm in the time comes. And I feel guilty because I don't face jail time for teaching a Bible study or attending a worship service.
I am teaching a class right now where I'm trying to parallel the persecution of the early church with today's persecution. The letter of I Peter is written to persecuted Christians in the first century and I'm trying to find truths that apply today.
Here's what I'm learning so far: God is magnificent. Life with him is so fulfilling and abundant that he's worth dying for. He's worth sacrificing all for. Remember that old hymn: "I surrender all...."? Well, it encourages me to know that surrendering all for God is fulfilling.
When I hear about North Koreans treasuring scraps of the Bible and of Chinese pastors putting themselves back in jail rather than denouncing God, I realize they know God's value. They know who God is. That encourages me.
I may not face the level of persecution they face (or I may. Who knows?) but I know God is so precious that life with him is better than life here.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Peter 1:18-19