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Imagine living in a place where your identification in Christ meant others hated you. Where you were not free to study and discuss the Bible openly. Where sharing your faith in Christ and belief in the teachings of the Bible with others was not only discouraged, but actually dangerous. How committed would you be to God's Word and ways in a place like this—where your beliefs could threaten your home, your family, even your life?
For millions of believers around the world, this imaginary place is an everyday reality. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, their faith is strong and true, and they worship the same God that we do. Theirs is a secret church—underground, hidden from the eyes of earthly authorities. But they are growing—often thriving—among those who would kill followers of Jesus Christ if given the opportunity.
Often we see that the greatest number of unreached people groups are in areas where persecution is the highest. These places are unreached for a reason; they are places where it is difficult to be a Christian and to share your faith. The reality is that in most areas where persecution exists, if we are successful in sharing Christ with unreached people so that they come to faith, they will suffer. Scripture reveals that Christ’s disciples will encounter the same hostile responses from the world that Jesus experienced, simply because they bear witness to Him (Matt 10:22; Mark 13:9-13, Luke 21:12-19). If the purpose of persecution is to silence witness, then when we don’t participate in bearing witness, or sharing the gospel with others, we identify more with the persecutor than with our persecuted brothers and sisters. Throughout Scripture we see the church flourish even in the midst of persecution. God uses the suffering of believers to make His name known. Even if we don’t experience ‘persecution’ in our everyday lives, we still join our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted by sharing our faith and being bold to bear witness of Christ to our family, friends, and neighbors.
There are many resources online that can help you learn more about unreached people groups and the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. Educate yourself, become involved in prayer, and support the cause of Christ in these nations.
In America we often hear some version of the following: "Your life will be much better as a Christian. You'll have fewer problems, a happier outlook, and be more blessed with the comforts of life you need."
What if this wasn’t true? In fact, what if being a Christ-follower meant persecution? What if it meant being outcast from friends and family, living in fear of personal harm, or losing the comforts of life? The Bible confirms throughout the New Testament that the life of a Christ-follower often will not be one of happiness, but of suffering.
It might be tough to hear, but sometimes it is in our suffering that God is really glorified. Think about it—if life is really tough and we still acknowledge God and our faith grows in the midst of difficult times, then He gets the glory for our actions. After all, it's easy to say "God is faithful" when things are going great. It's harder to believe when things are not. If you want to know more about honoring God through suffering, read the book of Job.
Much has been written on the suffering of Christians in the world. Here's what some prominent theologians have said: