How Strong Is Your Faith?
By Jefferson David Tant | Tennessee, USA
Really, how strong is your faith? Do you live in a nation where you have absolute freedom to worship without the fear of persecution or hardship? I’m afraid too many Christians in the United States and some other nations take their religion for granted and are somewhat lackadaisical in their Christian lives.
Sure, it is good and a blessing that we have freedom to worship without fear, and we are thankful for that. But this blessing is not universal, as there are many nations where believers in Christ are arrested or imprisoned. Some are deprived of rights, tortured and put to death.
But this is not new. The New Testament book of Acts records persecution, threats and death for many Christians, beginning with the murder of Stephen in Acts 7. We can read Paul’s accounts of the many dangers he had to face in his years of preaching the gospel. II Corinthians 11 gives a detailed account of his sufferings that are beyond our imagination.
Following is an account of what is happening in different nations. Excerpts are taken from an article I received some time ago from Gospel for Asia.
14,000 martyred for their faith each year, says Gospel for Asia
As Christians prepare to participate in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 3 or 10, 2013, Gospel for Asia is reporting that more than 14,000 people around the world annually are martyred for their faith. This number includes only reported cases.
A few walls and a painted cross were all that remained of this church, following an outbreak of persecution in the India state of Odisha, when more than 500 Christians were killed, churches destroyed and more than 4,000 homes burned. Christians are urged to intercede throughout the November observance of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
“Jesus promised His church that there would be persecution and tribulations,” said Yohannan. “Tens of thousands of believers, missionaries and pastors are experiencing the reality of persecution on a daily basis. Yet they recognize the honour it is to suffer for his sake. May the Lord lead us with his burden to intercede for these brothers and sisters.”
The persecution of Christians takes both physical and mental forms. Many are beaten or deprived food to the point of starvation. Others suffer misunderstanding or mental torture. Parents have turned children out of their homes, and schools have refused to allow students to return, all because of claiming the name of Jesus. Houses are burned, clothes are destroyed and many are ultimately killed.
Earlier this month the elder of a GFA-sponsored church in Nepal was murdered while praying for the sick. In September 2013, innocent worshippers at a historic church in Pakistan scrambled for safety as two suicide bombers left 81 dead and 140 injured.
In the India state of Odisha in 2008, more than 500 Christians were killed, and some 50,000 were driven into the jungles. More than 4,000 Christian homes were destroyed, and dozens of churches were ransacked or burned out. These believers faced these attacks all because they had turned to Christ. Many lost everything they owned.
“To understand what it means to take up our cross and follow Christ, we must walk in his footsteps,” said Yohannan. “Join Christians around the world in spending time praying and fasting in tears over a map of the world where our fellow believers are suffering for their faith.”
Dear Readers, how strong is your faith? Would you stand strong in the face of persecution and death as those have whom we just read about? Would your faith be as strong as was the faith of the early Christians who were being imprisoned, beaten and often killed?
It is good for us from time to time to do some self-examining to determine just how strong our faith is. Would your faith be as strong as the faith the apostle Paul had that enabled him to endure what is beyond our imagination?
“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? –I speak as if insane–I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” (II Cor. 11:22-28)
The Psalmist had a request to God: “Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.” (Psalm 26:2) And in the New Testament we are encouraged to examine ourselves. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?” (II Cor. 13:5) So, I close with the question for each one of us to consider. How strong is your faith? Does it measure up to the faith of the apostle Paul? A lackadaisical, easygoing faith will not take us to heaven. And another question. Are you sharing your faith with those who are lost, so as to help them avoid an eternity in the fires of hell?