Suffering & Advancing
Due to the current events of our day, and the continuing rise in persecution that is spreading abroad, I thought I would share this from my last book, Realities of A True Christian.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
“The Message I bring from the Underground Church is: “Don’t abandon us!” ‘Don’t forget us!’ ‘Don’t write us off!’ ‘Give us the tools we need! We will pay the price for using them!’ This message I have been charged to deliver to the Free Church.”
Today there are literally millions upon millions of people suffering some form of Christian persecution around the world. They are denied the basic human necessities; they are beaten, raped and mutilated; they are tortured and killed. Yet, they will not deny Christ.
I have spoken with so many professing believers, pastors and entire churches who know little to nothing about the persecuted and suffering church. Why don’t pastors preach and teach on persecution and its reality today? Why don’t they teach about persecution in the life of a true believer? Would it be that they, and we as a whole, would have to repent of their (our) views on end times and repent of their (our) selfish expenditures and lifestyles and repent of what the professing ‘church’ in America has become?
Sacrifice and suffering was well known to the Apostles. Stephen was stoned to death, all the disciples but John died a martyr and even he was left for dead on an island. What about Paul? He suffered as a martyr and was heavily persecuted for his faith. What about the thousands upon thousands of Anabaptists, Scottish Covenanters, Puritans, and etc, that went to their bloody death for the name of Christ. Yet today, especially in America, we think that we ought to not suffer in anything – no sacrifice, no godly discipline, no conviction of sin, no repentance, no laboring in prayer – again, just easy in Zion.
As a whole, the free-church in the West is guilty of not remembering the starving, suffering, forgotten body of Christ throughout the world. And the fault lies heavily upon church leaders and pastors. Read the two verses below and then ask yourself how these apply to you. If you don’t know, ask God to reveal these to you. After you have done this, read the excerpt from Pastor Richard Wurmbrand founder of Voice of the Martyrs. He was tortured and imprisoned for 14 years in a Communist prison.
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”
“I will tell you just one case of suffering of a family that I know personally. A brother entered prison on account of his work in the Underground Church. He left behind a wife with six children. His older daughters of seventeen and nineteen could not get a job. The only one that gives jobs in a Communist country is the state, and it does not give jobs to children of criminal Christians. Please don’t judge this story according to moral standards; just receive the facts. The two daughters of a Christian martyr – Christians themselves – became prostitutes to support their younger brothers and sick mother. Their younger brother of fourteen became insane when he saw it and had to be put in an asylum. When years later the imprisoned father returned, his only prayer was, ‘God, take me to prison again. I cannot bear to see this.’ His prayer was answered and he was jailed again for the crime of having witnessed for Christ to children. His daughters were no longer prostitutes, as they received jobs by complying with the demands of the secret police – they became informers. As daughters of a Christian martyr, they are received with honor in every house. They listen and then they report everything they hear to the secret police. Don’t just say that this is ugly and immoral – of course it is – but ask yourself if it is not also your sin that such tragedies occur, that such Christian families are left alone, and are not helped by you who are free.”
This is just one story – one story of a family who suffered many different aspects of Christian persecution – physical, mental, social, economic and moral suffering – nowhere to turn and nowhere to go. Yet today these types of things, and even worse, are happening right now. And at the same time, most of us are sitting comfortably in our heated homes, plush chairs, wearing trendy clothing and eating enough food to feed six or seven people. Many of us think that we could never sacrifice in such ways as described above. Well we are somewhat correct. As long as we have our creature comforts, we could never sacrifice is such ways because our love for Christ is more humanistic than we know. Situations like the story above become nothing more than a mental fantasy whereby after hearing of such things we can easily escape back to a world of comfort and ease. The story above is not fantasy. No. These are real people with real struggles with real feelings with real sufferings. They are part of the true bride of Christ who does not deny their bridegroom.
Don’t get me wrong, if we are living in an environment where there is freedom, we should praise God with a heart of gratitude and thankfulness. For it is the mercy, grace and providence of God that allows such freedom. But never let us waist such a gift. Let us live our lives for the glory of God, seeking the presence of Christ; let us run with boldness into the throne room of grace while casting off ever entangling sin; let us seek to obey the Spirit of Almighty God; let us keep our focus on Jesus Christ; let our joy be made full through the fullness of God. Unfortunately, because so many people have gone wayward and false teaching is rampant among the nations, we need to be diligent to ask ourselves:
“And if you were in prison, would we visit you?
What would be the song we’d sing to you when they’re in need?
Would it be an empty hallelujah to the King?”
We who are free have done very little to help the persecuted and we will answer to God, especially when we knew better. True Christians are persecuted and we think we will be raptured away from all suffering. Many Christians are poor and starving, many without a Bible at all and we spend $40, $60, $80, even upwards of $250, for a leather Bible and then throw a few dollars into an offering plate to ease our guilt, and with 97% of that remaining in the states to build bigger buildings and the pastor’s pocket book. Brothers and sisters go without food and yet we can stroll down to the nearest store and buy enough for 6 months. Christians lack clothing and we think we are being radical by wearing a t-shirt that has a supposed Christian logo on the back. I have heard persecuted and poor believers say this, “We are praying for America.” Again, “Pray that we remain strong and focused on Christ. Please do not pray for our persecution to stop, otherwise, we will be just like the church in America, dead.” These are our family members in Christ, a part of Christ’s body, the Church. Maybe we really are not a part of Christ’s body? Maybe we really are not a part of the true Church?
“When Christians in free countries win a soul for Christ, the new believer may become a member of a quietly living Church. But when those in captive nations win someone, we know that he may have to go to prison and that his children may become orphans.”
Listen closely, Christ never promises a new car, a big home, lots of clothes, money, property, possessions or prosperity – no. He promises persecution, pain and suffering. Although He can give temporal things, and He knows that we need some of these things to live, He promises, to the true believer, something much more – everlasting joy in Christ Jesus.
Believer, are you presuming upon the name of Christ and yet denying Him through consistent worldly living? If you have not or are not experiencing some degree of true Christian persecution (I say true Christian persecution because suffering is a result of Christ and not hypocrisy [1 Peter 4:15]), and this from time to time, then I assure you that godliness is not your desire. For all who “desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” True godliness is a result of a regenerated life. It is a life that longs for God and His work of sanctification. True godliness not only receives Jesus as Savior but lives for Him and under Him as Lord. The very nature of Jesus Christ the Son is that of Savior, Lord and God. He is not divided. You cannot separate His attributes for your humanistic desires. As new believers we are to confess, this with the mouth, that Christ is Lord. As mature believers we are to continue the verbal confession that Christ is Lord, and we are to confess Christ as Lord with the style of our lives. This confession of faith results from true regeneration and ongoing sanctification; for Christ is Lord and our life ought to reflect the realities of such.
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
In a recent radio interview, I heard it said that there are certain sects (groups) of the Underground Church in China that do not allow for the association with American Christians. They fear that they will be corrupted by false doctrine and dirty lifestyles. When I heard this I again wept for the condition of the American professing church and for the conditions of these persecuted brothers and sisters. They fight the good fight of faith; we sit in comfort and argue doctrine while drinking a five-dollar cup of coffee.
I am reminded of a time that I was asked to speak about the persecuted (something I feel that I am not worthy to present) at a newer church. They wanted to get into missions and learn about the persecuted. While speaking I asked them, “How much money is spent on coffee every Saturday and Sunday in churches throughout America? That is a statistic I would like to know, especially in regards to the support of our brothers and sisters who are starving to death and without Bibles all around the world.” How much is spent at your church? How much do you spend?
Persecution does not end in failure nor prove one to be weak. On the contrary, Christian suffering leads to the glory of God in Christ, insights further spreading of the Gospel and sheds light on the strength of a living faith. Persecution moves a person to advance the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and sanctifies as a refiner’s fire. The dross and the chaff are burned out thereby purifying the true believer. Christian suffering absolutely destroys all that the flesh desires.
Having so briefly mentioned the said above, why is it that I have never heard the promises of 2 Timothy 3:12 exalted by American believers? I believe the answer lies deeper than simply avoiding pain and suffering. I believe it is partly due to false conversion and partly due to a lack of biblical knowledge and partly due to a lack of sanctification. Two verses come to mind.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes.”
Godliness leads to persecution; persecution leads to purification; purification leads to increasing joy in Christ; increasing joy in Christ brings glory to God; God’s glory increases the spreading of the true Gospel. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial;” “blessed are the pure in heart;” “blessed are those who have been persecuted;” “blessed are you when people insult you and persecuted you.” “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” If anyone does not understand how to count it “all joy,” then “ask of God,” but there must be no doubting. When we understand these things, we will understand and live out a reality of Christ-centeredness and sacrificial living for God.
Much of our lack of godly wisdom, again, stems back to our lack of true prayer. Our lack of prayer is a result of so few men who are truly devoted to the things of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Too many men have been softened by temporal comforts, lukewarm preachers and cushy pews.
E.M. Bounds, notably a man of prayer, said this:
“The men of olden times who wrought well in prayer, who brought the largest things to pass, who moved God to do great things, were those who were entirely given over to God in their praying. God wants, and must have, all that there is in man, in answering his prayers. He must have whole-hearted men through whom to work out his purposes and plans concerning men. God must have men in their entirety. No double-minded man need apply. NO vacillating man can be used. No man with a divided allegiance to God, and the world and self, can do the praying that is needed.”
Maybe our lack of prayer is due to our lack of persecution.
“We will either labor in prayer or pray in labor camps.”
“We over here in this county (America), we’re dreaming, we’re dreaming. When we wake up from our dream the reality will be worse than any nightmare.”
Without true repentance, without the true power of the Holy Spirit in preaching and without true prayer, we leave people damned and unprepared for the severe persecution that is lurking just behind the walls of iniquity and anti-biblical customs of our present day culture. Know this, Christian suffering is a reality and severe persecution will be unleashed on the most affluent nations in the world. It is just a matter of time. Are you prepared?
Now, one must ask, if persecution is a reality of a true believer, then what is the present persecution of believers in North America? I believe that the most oppressive, and at times overwhelming, persecution in America, and this against the true believer, is the continuous bombardment of prosperity, secularity and sexuality. Having so much constant godlessness confronting the true believer causes deep pain in the life and soul of such a believer. It affects the emotions, wars in the soul and desires to strangle out the Christian life. Along with this constant pressure, the true believer can see a wicked world enjoying the godless pleasures of sin and dying in their filth. This causes great grief and anguish of the heart and weighs heavily on the mind. The true believer is deeply pained by the continuous warring with the flesh and the continuous sin of the culture. These persecutions send the true believer into a life of intercessory prayer, a life dedicated to the Gospel and a life of supporting other brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Many Christians in the West have no love for those in captive nations. Proof of it is that they do nothing for their salvation. But it is not enough that they do not love those in captive nations and do nothing to win them for Christ. By their complacency, by their neglect, and sometimes by acting as actual accomplices, some Western church leaders strengthen the infidels in their infidelity.”
The denial of God’s Word by the culturally relevant and affluent Christians today only points out their shame. Their refusal to accept the reality of persecution only points towards their humanistic cravings and godless desires. Their false fire and unregenerate hearts are quite apparent. Oh where are you O’ men of God?
For “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” The call to go through persecution(s) is a definite promise if our desire for godliness is authentic. But how are we to act towards those who persecute us? Remember, Jesus says that we are blessed when we are persecuted. We are then told that we are to love and pray for our enemies. We are to be innocent as doves. But without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and the power of God on our lives, we will not react as we are commanded. Our fallen natures are incapable of pleasing God.
“For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
Persecution should not be our goal nor should the Gospel be preached for the reason of offending people so that you can say you have been persecuted. Rather we should keep the joy of Christ always before us in such a way that when persecution arises, we are able to “count it all joy” for the “steadfastness” we are enduring is for our eternal good; it is all for the glory of God and our conformity to the very image of Jesus Christ. The true preaching of the Gospel is an offence of its own.
Persecution is a blessing as it renders us helpless to our own rescue, it trains us to rely fully on God and it purifies our soul. Through persecution and a desire to live godly, we come to know that God causes all things to work together for your good. Ask yourself this question, “Do I really desire godliness and the Lord Jesus Christ as my all in all?” Are my affections set upon Him and His desires for my life? If not, ask Him to change your desires, give you right motives and a passion for His glory.
As we come to the close of this chapter let me ask, do we really love as we think we do? If “no greater love” is to lay down one’s life, then are we demonstrating this in our North American churches today? I know that this love is being carried out, but not by many. Why is this type of love not being carried out in every church? I don’t mean to just give a few dollars to some organization, but to truly remember those who are mistreated and persecuted. Truly remembering the persecuted begins in prayer and brokenness of heart for those who are suffering in such difficult ways. This type of remembrance, deeply moved and devoted in prayer, causes a person to react to God’s will in caring for the Church body at large as well as locally. Merely giving without any real passion or anguish of heart temporarily eases our guilt and superstitiously gives us a sense of justification and duty performed. Why are the persecuted so unknown? Why is persecution so far from us (at least for a short while longer)? Could it be we really are not as blessed as we may think? Could it be that we do not love because we have not the true love of God?
“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
Understand this, persecution leads to further advancement in sanctification, deep personal fellowship with Christ, furthers the advancement of the Gospel, kills the sinful old nature, advances the fellowship, and comes to the aide of Christians around the world. If these things are true, then what are you doing to lay down your life for the believers around the world? Are you willing to let God stamp eternity on your eyes and let your affections be that of God’s?
If you are such a person, then don’t be surprised by the fiery trial that comes upon you. If it is the will of God that you suffer greatly for Christ’s sake, then remain strong and steadfast in Christ. For your reward will be great. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” I would be much more afraid, much more terrified, and much more uncertain of my faith if persecution, suffering, pain, discipline, grace and mercy were removed far from me. For what certainty would I have? What love of the Father would there be? What witness would I have? What desire for godliness would I have?
“When I was beaten on the bottom of the feet, my tongue cried. Why did my tongue cry? It was not beaten. It cried because the tongue and feet are both part of the same body. And you free Christians are part of the same Body of Christ that is now beaten in prisons in restricted nations, that even now gives martyrs for Christ. Can you not feel our pain?
“The Early Church in all of its beauty, sacrifice, and dedication has come alive again in these countries.
“While our Lord Jesus Christ agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, James, and John were a mere stone’s throw away from the greatest drama of history – but they were deep in sleep. How much of your own Christian concern and giving is directed toward the relief of the martyr church? Ask your pastors and church leaders what is being done in your name to help your brothers and sisters in restricted nations around the world.
“In these countries, the drama, bravery, and martyrdom of the Early Church are happening all over again – now – and the free Church sleeps.
“Our brethren there, alone and without help, are waging the greatest, most courageous battle of the twentieth century, equal to the heroism, courage, and dedication of the Early Church. And the free Church sleeps on, oblivious of their struggle and their Savior’s agony.
“Will you sleep while your brethren in Christ suffer and fight for the Gospel?
“Will you hear our message: ‘Remember us, help us?’ ‘Don’t abandon us!’”
“The time is now. Count the cost. You will be persecuted, tested, and tried. You will be misunderstood, hated by the world, and sometimes hated even by the members of your own household. There will be tears, heartache, tribulation, suffering and pain. But, you will be living for the One who is worthy of all, and whose eternal kingdom cannot be shaken nor ever fade away. You will have the privilege of serving the King of kings and the Lord of all lords. Moreover, you will one day have the awesome indescribable experience of seeing His glorious face and hearing Him call you by name as His own.”
Brian Long, Barnsdall Cornerstone Church
 John 15:13
 Estimates currently range from around 400-600 million people suffering for Christ.
 2 Timothy 3:12
 Hebrews 13:3
 Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, pg. 47
 Shane and Shane, Turn Down the Music, from the album, Everything is Different.
 Thought owed to Paul Washer, “Powerful Youth Message”
 Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, pg. 22-23, Used with permission.
 Matthew 10:22-25, 13:21, 24:9; Luke 6:22, 21:12-19; John 15:18-23
 Philippians 1:29
 Paul Washer, heard on the Tom Roten Morning Show on News Talk 800 WVHU, December 2011
 James 1:2-4
 Romans 8:28
 James 1:12
 Matthew 5:8
 Matthew 5:10
 Matthew 5:11
 Matthew 5:12
 James 1:5-7; this goes for all trials and all areas of Christian living
 E.M. Bounds, E.M. Bounds on Prayer, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2006
 Leonard Ravenhill
 Paul Washer, heard on the Tom Roten Morning Show on News Talk 800 WVHU, December 2011
 Injustice; unrighteousness – Noah Webster’s 1928 Dictionary
 Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, pg. 64, Used with permission.
 Acts 14:22
 Matthew 5:10-12
 Matthew 5:44
 Matthew 10:16-23
 Romans 8:8
 1 Peter 2:20
 1 Peter 4:14
 1 Peter 4:12-14
 Revelation 2:10 – context 2:8-11
 Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, pg. 150, Used with permission.
 Taken from the forward of, “Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ.”