If One Part Suffers…

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  (John 15:20-21, NIV)

Christians around the world are suffering. They are being mistreated, persecuted, and martyred at the hands of governments, political groups, and individuals — simply because they are followers of Jesus Christ. Only a few of their stories are being shared by news outlets; as of this writing Voice of the Martyrs has identified 60 “restricted areas” and “hostile nations” around the world.

Those of us physically removed from the suffering can feel helpless. We do not have the power to stop the violence or change the mindset of the persecutors. But God has given us the means to strengthen and support our brothers and sisters who are suffering for Him: prayer.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3, NIV)

…There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… (I Corinthians 12:25-26, NIV)

…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16, NIV)

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (I Peter 3:12, Psalm 34:15-16, NIV)

We can remember those who are suffering in our prayers. We can show our concern for the persecuted through prayer. We can strengthen and support those being mistreated through prayer. The Bible promises that God hears and acts on the prayers of His children. It also reveals that our prayers — which are sometimes ridiculed as useless and childish by non-Christians — are powerful and effective in God’s hands. In fact, our prayers often accomplish more than our actions.

What can we pray for those who are being persecuted? How can we, who have not faced severe hardship, know what they really need? Fortunately, God’s Word offers guidance.

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. (Matthew 26:39, NIV)

First, we can follow Jesus’ example and pray that the persecution, mistreatment, and abuse stops. Our loving Father always wants to hear what is on our hearts, and we do not want others to suffer! It is perfectly acceptable to ask Him to intervene and rescue people from suffering. But, as Jesus models, we must ask in submission to God’s will. He has a purpose and plan that we cannot fully see or comprehend, and what we are asking may not fit with His will. Some may think this makes our prayers useless or worthless, but that is a lie Satan uses to discourage us from connecting with God through openness, prayer, and surrender. Far more life is confident that God hears our prayers and will answer them in the best possible way.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11, NIV)

But as for me, afflicted and in pain — may your salvation, God, protect me. (Psalm 69:29, NIV)

 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (Ephesians 3:16, NIV)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, (Ephesians 1:18, NIV)

We can also pray for spiritual strength for those enduring persecution. We can pray that they will see God’s hand at work and that His provision, faithfulness, and love will be evident. We can pray that He keeps their hearts at peace regardless of their circumstances. We can pray that their hope is secure in Him and allows them to see their role in the spiritual battle raging around them. We can pray that they experience far more life as the Spirit empowers them with all they need to remain spiritually strong.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:38, NIV)

…What has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12, NIV)

…With the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. (I Thessalonians 2:2, NIV)

The way in which Jesus suffered and died caused at least one witness to recognize His true identity. We can pray for the gospel message — that forgiveness for sin and eternal life in heaven are found in Jesus Christ alone — to be heard and accepted because of persecution. We can pray for the light of salvation to shine brightly through the darkness of suffering and draw people to Christ. We can pray that our mistreated and martyred brothers and sisters reveal the power and glory of God in their lives and in their deaths. We can pray the places with greatest opposition are the places where God’s kingdom advances the most.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (Revelation 2:10, NIV)

Praise God that this life is not the end. Those who suffer and die for Him on earth will reap far more life eternally!

Sisters,
If you were surprised to read so many places are spiritually “restricted” or “hostile”, visit persecution.com to learn more.
Will you join me — and followers of Christ worldwide — in praying for our brothers and sisters who are suffering?
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Far More Jesus

Songs of the Christmas season say we should feel wonderful, jolly, merry and bright. But instead we often feel stressed, stretched, buried, and exhausted. It is easy to get caught up in the rush and forget that we cannot give from an empty reservoir of time, energy, and warmth.

Stop for a second and remember why we celebrate Christmas. It is not about gifts, parties, concerts, decorations, lights, trees, or cards and letters. It is not even about family traditions and gatherings. Christmas is about Jesus, the celebration of His birth and the hope, peace, and joy that He brought to earth. Consider His words on this:

“…I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd will give his life for the sake of his sheep.” (John 10:10, PHILLILPS)

Jesus brought us far more life. Not far busier life or far more exhausted life. He brought us far richer life and far deeper life. He gave up His life so we could have far more life.

Here are some of the gifts Jesus has given us:

  • Forgiveness. “But it was because of our rebellious deeds that he was pierced and because of our sins that he was crushed. He endured the punishment that made us completely whole, and in his wounding we found our healing.” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT)
  • Love. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:10, NIV)
  • Joy. “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” (Acts 2:28, NIV)
  • Peace. “Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, NCV)
  • Patience. “…We are together in Jesus, and we share these things: suffering, the kingdom, and patient endurance…” (Revelation 1:9, ERV)
  • Kindness. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)
  • Goodness. “…We ask our God to help you live the good way he wanted when he chose you. The goodness you have makes you want to do good.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11, ERV)
  • Faithfulness. “The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, VOICE)
  • Gentleness. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5, NIV)
  • Self-Control. “We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life.” (Titus 2:12, MSG)
  • Hope. “I pray that God will open your minds to see his truth. Then you will know the hope that he has chosen us to have. You will know that the blessings God has promised his holy people are rich and glorious.” (Ephesians 1:18, ERV)

The gifts Jesus offers us are not wrapped and waiting under the tree. Through the Holy Spirit, these gifts are alive and active inside the hearts of God’s daughters. These gifts will not break or get lost or stolen. They are guaranteed to be yours forever! And they will never wear out; in fact, the more consistently you use them, the stronger they grow. Forgive quickly and respond with kindness when others offend you this week. Prayerfully choose gifts that express love rather than obligation. Let the music fill you with joy and hope as you reflect on the meaning of Christ the Messiah coming to earth. Rest in peace as you enjoy the beauty and calmness of the season’s lights.

Focusing on God’s gifts — and sharing them with those around us — enables us to feel wonderful, jolly, merry, and bright, even during the busy season of Christmas. Unwrap them today and begin savoring those that are most meaningful. Let these gifts fulfill you and add far more life to your day…and every day ahead!

Sisters,
What song lyric or phrase describes you during the Christmas season?
What aspect of Christmas is most important to you? Does this add to or detract from your celebration of Jesus?
Which of the gifts listed is most meaningful to you today? What will help you remember to savor it during this busy month?
Enjoy far more life as you celebrate Jesus’ work inside your heart this week!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso