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Participating in the Suffering of Persecuted Christians

Convert, flee or die. If you were given only those options, as was the case for Christians living in the Mosul region of Iraq, what would you choose? It’s estimated that the largest concentration of Iraqi Christians fled for their lives. According to one report, less than 10,000 Christians (out of 100,000) remained in Qaraqosh and surrounding villages. That means 90,000 Christians left at night by foot, buses or private cars towards Erbil and other cities. Others were martyred, including women and children. But there are no reported cases of Christians converting to Islam. Interesting. One would think that ISIS (Islamic State of Syria) would loudly proclaim conversion stories to promote their cause. But it doesn’t sound like ISIS is interested in new proselytes, just dead Christians.

One congressman, Virginia Representative Frank Wolf, gave this warning, “Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out.” The Bible makes it very clear that “if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). But do we? I have to stop and ask myself, how am I participating in the suffering of persecuted Christians? How am I sharing in the burden of those who are fleeing for their lives and those who paid the ultimate price of martyrdom?

Currently, there are protests held in many parts of the world, thanks in part to the #WeAreN Campaign. When the ISIS militants took over Mosul, they placed the Arabic letter “N” ن on the homes of Christians to identity the loyalties of those who follow the Nazarene. Christians all over the world are now joining this campaign by placing the symbol ن on their doorways or windows. Demonstrations urging western leaders to put an end to the genocide have taken place in France, Denmark, Germany, England, Sweden, Australia, Canada and many cities in the U.S.

The Apostle Peter tells us that when we experience suffering we should rejoice, because we “share Christ’s sufferings,” and thus we will one day share in His glory (1 Peter 4:13). It’s time for the American Church to stand together with our Iraqi brothers and sisters. Let’s pray. Let’s unite. If you have a Twitter account, you can join the #WeAreN movement. Let’s contact our congressmen and congresswomen to express support of our government’s continued action to help those who are suffering.

Let’s put our own circumstances in perspective. My personal pain pales in comparison to the suffering of others around the world. And let’s be thankful that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11).

Great Affliction Prepares Us for Even Greater Reward

In The End of Reason, Ravi Zacharias tells the story about a three-year-old girl in Elk River, Minnesota who suffers from a rare disease called CIPA—Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis. People with this malady feel no pain, nor do they sweat or shed tears. There are only about 100 reported cases of this disease worldwide.                 

Little Gabby Gingras has to be watched 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If Gabby bites her fingers, she can do so until they start bleeding, all with no sense of pain. When she was two years old, her teeth had to be removed to keep her from causing herself serious injury. Gabby could touch a hot stove without a twinge of pain. She has to wear safety glasses, because she can inadvertently scratch her cornea. She plays sports with absolute fearlessness, because she never worries about getting hurt. Sometimes she says she feels like crying, but she can’t. The average life-span of those with this disease is 25 years. Parents of those inflicted with CIPA have one prayer—that their child would feel pain.

Most of us have never prayed that prayer. Why would we? Pain is not something to desire but to avoid. And, yet, the Bible teaches us that pain does have a purpose. Pain, trials, and difficulties remind us of our weakness and that we are earthly dwellers longing for a heavenly home. When we experience the storm, we welcome deliverance that much more. If you never enter the valley, you fail to appreciate the beauty of the mountain above.

It would be nice if we never faced pain, if we never had conflict, if church members consistently got along, if we never lost a job, if that loved one didn’t die. But if your life is always a summer sunset over the ocean blue, you will see little of the Lord’s glory. You will have rare occasion to cry out to Him and be filled with the reward of His deliverance. If you only navigate shallow streams and narrow creeks, you will know little about the God of storms. “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep” (Psalm 107:23-24).

In the vastness, breadth and depth of your pain learn the power of the Almighty, as you feel the smallness of your ability. Praise God that you are not left to the darkness and ignobility of continued prosperity. Your great affliction is preparing you for an even greater reward. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Prayer: God of all comfort, as we feel pain, may we receive your mercy as a precursor of the weight of glory yet to come. May we not lose heart, and may we look beyond what is seen to what is unseen, “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4).

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