The November 2013 issue of Voice of the Martyrs newsletter started with this:
“It was so hard living in a place where terrorists were coming form other countries,” Liena said. “These men were saying, ‘We will kill everyone who does not believe what we believe as Salafis and strict Muslims.’” The couple knows, as do all Christians in Syria, that if their country falls into the hands of the radicals, Christians will be given three choices: convert to Islam, leave the country or die.
Samer and Liena threw themselves before God. They prayed, “God, as Christians, what do you want us to do?”
“We were crying and praying,” Liena said. “We fasted for many days. We put ourselves on the altar.” They prayed and fasted until they had made a decision. They would stay in Syria, no matter the cost.
One night as their neighborhood was heavily shelled by mortars, the family huddled together in the front room of their home. Liena pointed to the front door and said to her children, “Look at this door. One day, God may allow someone from those terrorist people…to come in this door. They will have a big beard and very threatening faces, maybe they will have swords. They will put their swords on our necks, and you may see some blood. They will hurt us.
“We will have pain, but don’t worry about this pain. We will close our eyes, and we will open them again in heaven, and we will be with Jesus, singing with the angels.
“Just tell these people, ‘I forgive you, and Jesus loves you.’”
Can you imagine having that conversation with your children? With your loved ones, your friends, family, spouse…? Can you imagine choosing to stay in a place where you have to have that kind of conversation, knowing you could get out and live safely? But no, they chose to stay. Because they felt God wanted them to stay. Because God’s glory is more important to them than their own comfort or even their own lives. Amazing.
One of the VOM contacts said this: “You are not far away, my friends. You are not. If you are a Christian, you will suffer. That is the gospel. So, pray for the brother and sister around the world, for the suffering around the world, because one day you will need them, you need their voice. I know they will be there praying for you when the time comes.”
Here’s what I’m wondering. What have I ever suffered for the gospel of Christ? What have you? If you had to warn your child today about what was coming, what you tell him? Son, be prepared. I am following Jesus, and that may cost me my job. It may mean we face some ridicule. It is going to mean we aren’t going to do things like other families. We aren’t going to live for ourselves, instead we are going to live for Jesus, and that means…” What does it mean? For me? For you? For THIS couple above it meant staying where their lives were literally in grave danger. For other Christians in that same place, it meant leaving and going to a place of greater safety. The call of Christ is personal. Remember what Jesus told the disciples when they were wondering if he was calling them all to the same future? “What is that to you, YOU follow me.”
I’m wondering what I have ever suffered for the Gospel, and I’m wondering what I would be willing to suffer for the Gospel. If the VOM national contact was right, and we “are not far away” from this kind of persecution, how committed am I? How much will I be willing to suffer for Jesus’ name? What about you?
What if we aren’t headed for persecution? Isn’t the call of Jesus still costly? The rich young ruler didn’t walk away because a religious extremist threatened his life if he didn’t recant his faith. He didn’t walk away because of danger. He walked away because Jesus asked him to give too much. For him, the call of Jesus wasn’t too dangerous, it was too costly.
I may never have to suffer for my faith at the hands of men, but what if Jesus asks me to follow Him in a way that is costly? How far am I willing to go? How much am I willing to give? What about you?
I encourage you to visit www.persecution.com. Sign up to receive the Voice of the Martyrs newsletter. Read the stories of Christians around the world who are facing things most of us cannot imagine. Be blessed, challenged and encouraged by their faith. Pray for them. And, if God leads you, help and support them. While you’re at, I challenge you to read Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured for Christ. It’s one of those books that “hurts so good.” And it’s free! (Or you can get an e-version at Amazon for $1.)
 John 21:20-22