There are a gazillion websites, blogs and beautifully built social media accounts where we find inspiration. I have a long podcast playlist filled with the wisdom of modern day Christian A-listers in the hope that something will stick and that God’s spirit will change and equip me.
But an unexpected source for guidance and encouragement is our persecuted family. Hidden Christians. Secret believers. The persecuted church. Millions of Christians every day making the choice to lose it all, give up everything, and wake up to a day that require full reliance on God. Here are five reasons why I believe this source of inspiration is for all of us.
And by family, I don’t just mean problematic Uncle Kevin who only rocks up to birthday parties. Or cousin Jacinta who continuously shows off pics of her perfect children wearing perfect clothes at their perfect holiday home on Perfect Island. By ‘family’ we mean that we are all spiritually related. Brothers and sisters. God is our Father. Jesus is our brother, and not ashamed to say so (Heb 2: 11-15). We are one body (1 Cor 12:26), all in this together, joined at the heart because of him. Remind yourself of how BIG your family is because of Jesus’ universal rescue plan that reaches all cultures, traditions, all languages.
Now look to the ways he is speaking through your persecuted brothers and sisters. They are hard pressed on every side (2 Cor 4:8), with what is in some places an illegal faith that could cost them their life. But yet the fam still choose to follow Jesus every day, getting their butts kicked because they can’t and won’t deny what they have seen Jesus do around them. Because they know, that despite their hardships and trials, they are also part of something bigger – His family.
Authentic Faith. It’s what we strive for, right? We look to Christian heroes with great hair to guide the way to enlightenment and a sweet prayer life. There is a point in our ‘faith journey’ that we decide to build something we can call real. Something authentic.
If we’re looking for models of real authenticity, then look to your persecuted family. Ordinary followers, hand-in-hand with an extraordinary Jesus. They live knowing that the prize they have in Him is worth giving everything else up for. The Holy Spirit gives them strength to love their enemies (actual enemies, with guns and things), sustaining them beyond what they can handle on their own. Every. Single. Day. I remember the first grainy video I saw of hundreds of secret believers in a Chinese cave. Worshipping, crying, and interceding. They were poor and desperate, but exuded a strength and satisfaction that came from a different source. A joy beyond circumstance. An eternal hope. An authentic faith. Want to know what real faith looks like? Look no further than the persecuted.
Every significant move of God across a region or nation starts with prayer. Specific, unceasing, passionate prayer. The fastest growth of the Church is nearly always in the places where others are trying their hardest to stamp the gospel out, as day and night people are praying in the dangerous places. Because of prayer we see believers able to stand up to pressure, abuse, torture and arrest. One persecuted pastor said that our prayers are like ‘a wall of fire’ around them, protecting them from harm. Pray for them today.
Even better – pray with them. Pray like them.
It’s what it’s all about. The story of Jesus spreading across the globe. The persecuted are daily choosing to love their enemies. To turn the other cheek and stand up to the violence without retaliation. To speak to their captors with kindness and pray for those who persecute them. They are the living actions of the gospel, played out for all to see.
I love being an activist. Taking on a cause and seeing the difference my action makes. And if any of you want to make change happen, then speak up for your family. We in the west are still incredibly unaware of the lives they lead. By sharing their stories you become a voice for those who have been silenced and a source of hope for those around you who are looking for all of the above. If your friends want to see evidence of God moving then tell them about Christians in North Korea, or Afghanistan or The Maldives.
This post is part of our series encouraging us to stand alongside our persecuted brothers and sisters, curated by Open Doors UK.
*The featured photo is of Awel, who is from a country in the Horn of Africa. He converted to Christianity from Islam and has since suffered massively for his new faith. He’s been pressured by his community, and his wife was forced to divorce him. Other villagers attacked him stole his property. Open Doors has provided him with new possessions and have supported him in starting a sheep rearing business.