November 10 I Thursday
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” —Romans 1:16
How do we understand persecutions and hardships that happen for the sake of the gospel? In Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi, he writes, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). Whatever Paul was doing in his life, whether he was in-person or in prison, he was always on mission. Paul was passionate about sharing the gospel message of salvation and lived for that one purpose. Yet, we know Paul’s life was not a walk in the park. He faced imminent persecution, imprisonment and hardship. Even when Paul planted churches, he was met with resistance.
In describing the life of an apostle, Paul tells us, “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ....To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). The picture that Paul paints on the reality of being an apostle is not a glamorous endeavour.
Early church father Tertullian wrote in Apologeticus, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” What we see in church history is when the enemy unleashes persecution against the church that is when the church experiences the greatest growth. Even in our generation today, some of the fastest growing church movements are in countries such as India, China and Iran, where persecution has broken out against Christians.
When we study early church history, we see that to follow Christ is to embrace suffering. For the first 300 years of church history, the church was an underground movement of people conspiring to love God and love others. It was full of risk, full of danger, and yet, full of adventure. All of this changed with Emperor Constantine I, who passed the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D., which state-sanctioned the church and provided protection for Christians. This transitioned the church from being an underground subversive movement into a publicly favoured gathering. Suddenly, it became culturally acceptable to be a Christian in the Roman Empire.
Living in North America, we have the freedom to share our faith without facing blatant persecution, imprisonment and hardship from our government. What is holding us back from sharing the gospel?
Prayer: Dear God, thank You that I live in a country free from persecution, imprisonment and hardship as a Christian believer. I confess of the things holding me back from sharing the gospel and ask for courage to share Your good news with others around me.