"To die for the sake of Christ, that's the happiest thing for me. I'm grateful that she didn't change her religion. She trust[ed] in God."
So states a Nigerian pastor upon learning that his daughter, kidnapped by Boko Haram, refused to convert to Islam. He was told that the terrorists dug a hole, buried her up to her neck, and stoned her to death. His wife added, "I believe she died with dignity. Monica is now in heaven because she refused to convert."
The widow of one of the 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by ISIS last February has made a similar statement, testifying that she "was very proud" her husband "stood firm in his faith and that he didn't deny Jesus."
Will Christians in the West face increasing persecution in coming years? Commentator Rod Dreher: "For at least a generation, Christians have thought of themselves and their beliefs as normative in American life and culture. Liberals and secularists, the idea went, were outsiders trying to change America. Broadly speaking, Christians thought that it was sufficient to elect conservative Republicans who would appoint conservative judges, and the culture would take care of itself. If that was ever true (I don't think it was), it is certainly not true now." Dreher then quotes Russell Moore: we're not living in the New Jerusalem, but as exiles in Babylon.
I have no idea what the future holds for Christians in Western culture. But I do know that believers around the world are dying for Christ in record numbers. And I know that God wants me to stand firm for him when I am tested today. So I wonder, what gives Christians the courage to suffer for their faith?
Corrie ten Boom, known to the world for her loyalty to Jesus when she was imprisoned by the Nazis, was asked how to prepare for persecution. She made four suggestions:
One: "We need to feed on the Word of God, digest it, and make it part of our being."
Two: "We need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not just the Jesus of yesterday, the Jesus of history, but the life-changing Jesus of today who is still alive and sitting at the right hand of God."
Three: "We must be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not an optional command of the Bible, it is absolutely necessary."
Four: "We must be ready to help each other and encourage each other. . . . The fruit of the Spirit should be the dominant force of every Christian's life."
Then she added a personal note: "When I was a little girl, I went to my father and said, 'Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.'"
Her father replied, "Tell me, when you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?" "No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train." "That's right," her father said. "And so it is with God's strength. Our Father in heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need, just in time."
Do you agree?
Publication date: July 10, 2015
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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