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 Strength

I find rest in God; only he can save me.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated. (Psalm 62:1-2, NCV)

I enjoy reading good post-apocalyptic stories, where some disaster has ended life as we know it and people are struggling to survive. One characteristic of these stories is the constant battle for safety and rest. Those who are alone are vulnerable and do not last long against savage attackers and the harsh realities of life. However, those who join forces with trustworthy and resourceful people are more likely to survive.

Sisters, you may feel like you are living a post-apocalyptic life. If not physically, then perhaps emotionally or spiritually. Trying to survive alone makes you vulnerable. You need a place of rest, a solid rock to support you, a defender who is stronger and wiser than your enemy, and someone to fight beside you when danger arises.

Far more life finds strength in God. It admits weakness, exhaustion, and vulnerability. It depends on Him to lead, strengthen, protect, and defend you.

How long will you attack someone? Will all of you kill that person? Who is like a leaning wall, like a fence ready to fall? They are planning to make that person fall. They enjoy telling lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Selah. (Psalm 62:3-4, NCV)

It’s not just your circumstances that makes life hard. It often feels like you are being attacked by other people. You may be misunderstood and rejected. Or slandered by someone spreading false information. People may say one thing to your face and another behind your back. It is painful, and you can feel helpless. You can feel at the end of your strength, barely holding on. Where is far more life then? What should you do?

The Psalm continues:

I find rest in God; only he gives me hope.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated.
My honor and salvation come from God.
He is my mighty rock and my protection.
People, trust God all the time.
Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection. Selah (Psalm 62:5-8, NCV)

Turn to your Heavenly Father. God is your only secure source of hope and protection. He sees what is exposed and hidden (Daniel 2:20-22). He understands your heart; no explanation is needed (I Samuel 16:7). He loves you (I John 3:1). He is always trustworthy (Psalm 145:13). Stay connected to Him and draw from His strength. Telling him your problems opens your heart to receiving his protection, provision, and perspective. You may find other sources of temporary strength, but eventually they will fail you. His strength is secure.

The least of people are only a breath, and even the greatest are just a lie. On the scales, they weigh nothing; together they are only a breath. Do not trust in force. Stealing is of no use. Even if you gain more riches, don’t put your trust in them.
God has said this, and I have heard it over and over:
God is strong.
The Lord is loving.
You reward people for what they have done. (Psalm 62:9-12, NCV)

God says you have no reason to be intimidated by people; they have no more power or control than you do. They live within the boundaries that He has established for them (Psalm 139). On the other hand, you have no reason to push for your own way, manipulate, coerce, or forcefully take what you need from others. Power, position, and wealth do not bring far more life. You can be honest with God. He sees and and knows all, yet He responds with grace and mercy. There is no reason to fear Him. There is no need to hide from Him.

Far more life trusts in God’s strength and finds safety there. It recognizes our own weakness, but not in a hopeless, helpless way. The Apostle Paul sums it up this way:

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10b, NIV)

God can accomplish the seemingly impossible in your life. He is your personal superhero who will save the day. He is listening for your cry and is eager to ensure your needs are met. He loves you more than anyone else ever has, ever can, or ever will. His love is pure with no hidden agenda. It is secure, so nothing can separate you from His love: no secret from your past; no current weakness; no failure lurking in your future. His love is the source of all that is good, and He enjoys blessing you with good gifts — especially the strength to walk in love, joy, and peace. He enables you to do good then rewards you for it.

Far more life is built on God’s strength. It accepts His leadership. It trusts Him to fight every battle with you and for you. It is confident He will lead you to safety and eternal blessing.

Sisters,
In your struggles do you go it alone or cling to God?
What line of this Psalm describes the help you need from God?
What other sources of hope and protection are you tempted to turn to?
How has God been your personal superhero?
Thank him for leading you to far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
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