About two weeks ago I went to the Voice of the Martyrs Regional Conference with my dad and one of my sisters. I love this organization because it focuses on the persecuted church. We are so blessed to have freedom of religion here in America, but there are so many Christians around the globe that don't have this liberty. As Hebrews 13:3 says, we are to remember the persecuted church as if it were us in their position. Now just because Islamic extremists don't barge into our church services and beat us doesn't mean that we're any less of Christians than they are. We don't get violently persecuted like some people do but we get persecuted, in a way, when people reject us, yell at us, make fun of us, throw things at us, etc. (We're not considered part of the persecuted church though.) I believe that the persecuted church is full of strong and faithful believers, but I believe that there are also strong and faithful believers in countries were severe persecution isn't as common. "Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (1 Timothy 3:12). The Christian life has trials and tribulations, it's not a bed of roses. When we become Christians we don't just all of a sudden get health and wealth - we might even get sick and lose all of our possessions, but our life can then be used to glorify God and be a testimony to others. Throughout history Christians have been imprisoned, beaten, expelled from their countries, shamed, and even martyred for their faith. Whatever we face, we must not get discouraged, but rejoice that we're counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41). If others suffer, they'll speak evil of God, but if a true Christian suffers, they will give glory to God. It's a shame to suffer "as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody" (1 Peter 4:15). It's not a shame to suffer for Christ. "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Peter 4:16). When we suffer, may it only be "according to the will of God" (1 Peter 4:19) and not because of our own foolishness. Let's ever rejoice in our sufferings for Christ - we must remember all the suffering and shame that He has went through for us. We should also have the mentality that Paul had - "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:20-21). May we face every trial and moment of suffering with joyfulness - it is yet another opportunity to bring glory to the Creator. Remember: if your faith isn't worth dying for, then it isn't worth living for either.
*The photo is a bracelet that I got from the VOM conference. It is two bands bound together. It reads "BOUND WITH THEM" on one band and "HEBREWS 13:3" on the other. You can get one from the Voice of the Martyrs online store.