Today just as in times past, persecution is like gas on a fire or fertilizer for plants in regard to the number of believers. The church grows! No matter where the persecution may be or what form it takes, people notice how believers have faith and joy in Jesus! Then they turn to their faith and realize that they don’t have that. No other faith offers that joyous hope in Jesus because there is no hope of eternity in anyone else!
Hundreds of years ago, persecution caused the church to grow. Even at the end of the first century after Jesus’ burial and resurrection which was why John was exiled to Patmos, there was much persecution but believers didn’t give up their beliefs. No matter what they were threatened with, they still held onto their faith in Jesus. Many were killed, martyred in horrible ways which I won’t describe here, but they still held to their faith!
Nobody would hold onto a lie or a fantasy and die because of something that they knew wasn’t real! All but one disciple of Jesus died a martyr’s death in one way or another. Some were beheaded, some were crucified or run through with a spear or sword, but all but John died this way. They tried to boil John in oil but by a miracle, it didn’t work and he died of old age.
If you truly want to know how many of the believers died, read the Book of Martyrs. It will strengthen your faith and make our sufferings look mild in comparison. Does persecution cause people to turn to Jesus? Yes, it does! Many do, even today, although they don’t want it to be known because they would be killed if it became public knowledge. Are Muslims coming to Jesus? Yes! Are others coming to know Jesus? Yes!
Why? Because they see the joy that people have in Him, even when they are poor or persecuted for their faith. It is a joy which defies human comprehension because to someone without faith in Jesus, this joy makes no sense at all! Just as the Bible says, to the world our faith is foolishness.
To someone who is drowning but may not know it, a rope tossed to them will be flung aside. A float will be ignored until they realize that they truly need it. It is the same with someone who is living without Jesus. Until they realize that they NEED Him, they will go about their life with no worries. Until that point that God touches their heart and they know that they need Jesus, they will refuse to pay attention to any part of the Bible!
The image above shows that it is happening today and even though those in the picture may not look joyous in their time of persecution, their hope is still in Jesus. It is the reason that they are being killed, because of their belief in Him. Could we be brave enough to stand and declare our faith in the face of being burned or shot? I don’t know. God would give each of us a measure of faith and strength in that time of testing but to tell you that I could face it without fear and trembling? I just can’t say. Seek Him today so that your faith will be made complete in Him.