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 Protection

If you have attended even a few weddings, you are probably familiar with “the love chapter” — First Corinthians 13. While we can all agree that “Love is patient, love is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4) is helpful marriage advice, the chapter has a much broader application. The word translated “love” is “agape” in the original Greek; that is not romantic or friendship love, instead it is the unconditional love first demonstrated by Jesus. So the love chapter applies to all of us and provides instruction for experiencing far more life. It helps us understand how God puts His love toward us into action. And it provides a guide for our interactions with the people we want to love well.

There are many comforting and challenging thoughts in I Corinthians 13, but these phrases always stand out to me:

It always protects…Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:7-8, NIV)

Every time I read or hear that I feel like Jesus is giving me a hug! I feel such warmth and peace, knowing I can count on these promises. Here are some of the thoughts these phrases bring to mind that offer me far more life.

God is completely trustworthy and all-powerful. No one else can make those claims. He is offering me all I need. I am wise to humbly and gratefully accept His love and protection! (Psalm 36:7)

When God says always, He means always! I never have to wonder if “this situation” is included in God’s promise. Every situation I will ever face falls under His umbrella of protection. (Psalm 73:23)

Protecting me does not mean He stops all bad things from happening. But it does mean He will not allow evil to overwhelm me — or any of His children. Everything in my life must pass through His filter; only those things that fit His good purpose for my life are allowed to occur. (2 Thessalonians 3:3, Romans 8:28-29)

Every commandment, instruction, and principle in the Bible was given in love to protect me. He knows they will minimize my pain and bring me far more life. His boundaries protect me from spiritual death, hardship, evil, and undue struggle. Following them is where I will find far more life. (Psalm 119:97-104)

He is a personal God who lives inside His children. The Holy Spirit offers me protection me from my own sin and foolishness. He has opened my spiritual eyes to discern right from wrong. And He has empowered me to overcome sinful choices, habits, and temptations. (Romans 5:8, Proverbs 12:15, I Corinthians 3:19)

I am called to lovingly protect others, too. I can protect them in my own heart and mind by believing the best rather than making negative assumptions about their motives or actions. I can protect them by not telling others about their mistakes, failures, and sins. I can protect them by speaking the truth in love in areas where they are unaware of the negative impact they are having on others. I can protect them from self-deprecation by helping them recognize how God views them. God wants me to share His love by actively protecting others. (John 13:35, Romans 12:10, Ephesians 4:2)

His love protects me from sinning against others. While I am not sinless, His unconditional love inside of me is stronger than defensiveness, anger, gossip, slander, unforgiveness, unfaithfulness, and other ungodly responses that sometimes rise up. I am not a slave to my impulses or selfishness. His love enables me to be like Him and genuinely care for others. Far more life asks, “How can I best love this person?” or “How would Jesus love them?” and puts that love into action. (John 15:12, Romans 6:13, I John 4:11)

God’s love for His children never fails. He is the perfect parent! I am so thankful I can count on God’s love for me. I can never do anything so terrible that He will withdraw from me. I will not get to the end of my life and learn I was not good enough to spend eternity with Him. Evil will never overcome His love. He is never too busy for me. He never misunderstands me. His love is always exactly what I need. And when it is also exactly what I want, I bask in far more life. (Isaiah 43:1-3, Romans 8:38-39, Lamentations 3:22)

Sisters,
How have you personally been protected by love?
When you read “Love always protects” what does that communicate to you about God? About how He wants you to love others?
Is it easy or hard for you to believe that God’s love never fails? If you feel He has failed you, talk to Him about it. Ask Him to help you see how He protected you or what His good purpose was for you. This can be very hard! You may want to ask a pastor or trusted Christian friend for help.
Thank God that His protection offers you far more life — then accept it!
-Shari


Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Perspective

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” (John 17:1, NIV)

Father God, thank you that we can follow Jesus’ example and come to you in prayer. Thank you for promising to give us all we need (Philippians 4:19). Thank you for choosing to make us like Jesus so we can be a picture of Him in this sinful world (Romans 8:29). We want to bring You glory by living out Your character (Colossians 3:17). We want people to know You are good (Mark 10:18), loving (I John 4:8), compassionate (Psalm 51:1), righteous (Psalm 48:10), and just (Isaiah 30:18). Please give us wisdom in each conversation and situation so we know how to respond as You would.

…Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:11, NIV)

Thank you, Father, for making us one with you. Thank you for adopting us as your daughters (Ephesians 1:5) and sending your Holy Spirit to live inside of us (Ephesians 3:16). Thank you that our eternal future is guaranteed (Ephesians 1:13-14). We are thankful that Your name has power (Jeremiah 10:6). People who are blind to reality may take your name in vain or ridicule us for trusting in you, but those in the spiritual realms see clearly and know that power (Ephesians 1:18-21). You have promised that nothing can separate us from Your love, Your power, or Your name (Romans 8:35-39). Help us to gratefully accept the protection You know we need, even when it is not the protection we want or expect.

…I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them…Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:13, 17, NIV)

We desperately need the full measure of Your joy. What a light that is to this dark and hurting world! But your joy brings us hope, peace, perspective, and love (Psalm 30:11). It protects us (Psalm 5:11) from falling into darkness, sinful anger, and unforgiveness. Help us cling to Your truth, let that ring louder in our hearts than any lies or half-truths we hear from Satan or the world (John 8:32). We want Your truth to make us different so we can respond to hate with love, to evil with righteousness, to pain with comfort, and to injustice with wisdom (2 Corinthians 6:4-10). And we want to offer all this with joy that brings you glory (Psalm 33:1).

…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… (John 17:20-21, NIV)

Empower us to pursue and maintain unity, Father (Psalm 133:1). Help all your children, regardless of their differences, to demonstrate the power of Your love that brings us together (Ephesians 4:3). Use our private prayers, personal conversations, and public actions to bind us together, fighting as one to shine your light in the spiritual darkness that covers this world (John 13:34-35).

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24, NIV)

We look forward to going home to live with you forever (I Thessalonians 4:17)! We long for the time when we are rescued from sin and suffering of all kinds (Revelation 21:4). We are eager to see Your face, offer praise in Your presence, and be held in Your arms (Revelation 22:3-5). But as we hope for that day, Father, give us strength and grace to bring You glory right where we are. You deserve just as much glory today from earth as you will on that future day in heaven (Psalm 96:3). Help us faithfully finish our work here: the work of finding our lost brothers and sisters and welcoming them into Your family (Matthew 28:19); the work of growing in righteousness so we offer a picture of Christ to all we touch (2 Peter 2:12); and the work of bringing You glory with every part of our bodies (Romans 6:13). Help us to see ourselves and our place in this world as You do (2 Corinthians 5:20). Help us to see others as you do (2 Peter 3:9).

We echo this familiar prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time; 
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. 
Amen.

(Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971)

Sisters,
Which part of John 17 meets your need today?
What perspective do you hold about God, yourself, this life, or eternity that does not line up with God’s Word? Where did you learn that false message? What truth did you need to know or understand in that situation?
How will you bring God glory today?
What is one thing you cannot change and need to accept? One thing you need to change? Commit to those today, asking God to help you take those steps.
Thank Him for giving you far more life that will continue for eternity!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso