To this day, millions of Christians face persecution. Believers around the world are at risk for harm, rejection, or death just for following Jesus. And according to the World Watch List, persecution is getting worse each year.
This is a heartbreaking truth, but it’s important to remember that the Lord has not abandoned His children. In fact, God is actively working in the midst of persecution just as He did in the first century A.D.
Here are just a few ways God is redeeming the harms being done to the persecuted Church.
God Strengthens the Persecuted
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:7b-10
No one knows for certain what the thorn in Paul’s flesh was. Whatever it could have been, Paul equated it to insults, hardships, and persecutions. Through all the difficulties that Paul encountered, he learned to rely on God’s strength instead of his own.
Samuel is someone who understands this. He is a national partner in West Africa, and his son was kidnapped and tortured for three days because he is a Christian. Despite this persecution, Samuel’s son never renounced his faith. The experience was traumatizing, but Samuel remains resolved to continue spreading the gospel.
“I will never leave because of persecution,” Samuel maintains. “This is the nation that God gave me the responsibility to share His Word, to raise the Kingdom of God here.”
God Multiplies Despite Persecution
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. … Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” –Acts 8:1, 4
The early Church experienced immense persecution. Disciples were killed, believers were imprisoned, and the people were scattered. But God allowed something incredible to happen as a result—the gospel spread to more places. Persecution is intended to stop the good news, but it has the opposite effect. More people hear about Jesus as persecution persists.
Barata has experienced this firsthand. When he began sharing his newfound faith in Southeast Asia, his wife was kidnapped, his uncle lost his job, and two people he led to faith were martyred. Barata has had to move several times to escape persecution. Everywhere he’s gone, he has continued to multiply disciples and churches. His persecution has only led to more people believing in Jesus.
God Transforms Persecutors
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. … As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ … Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” -Acts 9:1a, 3-4, 17-19
Paul called himself the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). When the early Church was persecuted, he was the one behind the oppression. He was a blasphemer, persecutor, and a violent man (1 Timothy 1:13). And yet, God turned his life around and made him one of the greatest evangelists in history. The Lord transformed Paul into a man who glorified God.
Meera’s story is like Paul’s. Meera was a devout Hindu and hated Christians. She would join others in persecuting them. When she discovered she had a stomach tumor, she performed all of the Hindu rituals she could think of, but her sickness only got worse. She finally allowed Christians to pray for her and teach her the Bible. Miraculously, God healed her. Meera abandoned her life as a Hindu and began sharing the gospel with others.
Persecution is a terrible reality for many Christians. But God, in His perfect sovereignty, is flipping the script by allowing light to spread in spiritual darkness.