We have our struggles . . . here in the West, the persecution is (for now) mostly in the form of social stigmatization . . . aggressive legal and political assaults on the people of faith . . . . Or, those we experience interpersonally, where family, friends, co-workers misunderstand our zeal and allegiance to the unseen conviction . . . where calumnies, gossip, and sometimes outright subversions against us--because of our Christian stand--meet us in the social square . . . .
Meanwhile, in other lands, right now . . . with greatly increasing ferocity, Christians are being physically attacked, put out from their homes, imprisoned, murdered and executed. Even a recent issue of Newsweek magazine recognizes the upsurge.
I heard this morning that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani--the Christian convert Pastor facing execution in Iran--is back on the chopping block, after a brief respite, his lawyers having just contacted Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) saying that his death sentence could happen any minute, any day now as Iran responds to the recent sanctions put on it by the West.
Here is an excerpt from Sekulow's site:
"We have just received word from our contacts on the ground in Iran of an extremely dangerous turn of events for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. There is an increased likelihood that the Iranian regime will execute Pastor Youcef for his faith.
Pastor Youcef’s case had been stalled due to increased international pressure and the Iranian court’s request that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, decide Pastor Youcef’s fate. Now, because Pastor Youcef has continually refused to give into the regime’s demands that he renounce his Christian faith, the likelihood that the Iranian regime will execute him increases by the day."
I got a strong impression today, hearing the news on Youcef, that if the execution goes through . . . it will operate as an important "marker" . . . inaugurating the beginning to the end times persecution . . . in earnest.
Regardless of this particular case, great suffering is underway for Christians worldwide as Evil Spirit seems to be rapaciously targeting Believers, like a lion hungry for flesh eager to devour . . . and we who have our less overt challenges . . . remember these martyrs in their awful moment, praying now daily that they remain strong knowing that a glorious reward awaits those faithful to the end . . . .
As hard as life has gotten to be lately, in some respects, I constantly remind myself how much harder it COULD be, and I regularly think of and pray for those who are being so sorely tried and tested.
But also knowing . . . Christianity thrives and purifies itself through suffering--the more it is oppressed and cut down, the holy blood of the prophets and martyrs springs ever more sprouts of the faithful! It fails more in times of ease and opulence, but surges and grows and strengthens when beaten and weak!
" . . . but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong." --1 Cor. 1:27
And another thing I know.
No matter how lost you might be, or have been . . . . No matter what sins and weaknesses still plague you . . . . No matter that you make mistakes, fall, fail, stumble . . . .
Once the Lord has set His sights on you . . . and the power of grace begins to find you . . . and keep you, no matter how you continue to fall short . . . and even if you are lost, wandering . . . and following strange and false doctrines . . . stuck in bad and foolish habits . . . . HE WILL NOT LET YOU GO. Sooner or later . . . He will find you and bring you back! You will not get away.
No matter how misguided, confused, weak, sinful, blind, deaf . . . you are and insist on being--YOU WILL NOT DEFEAT HIM, praise God! :)
You are His Own . . . and He will find you wherever you have gotten to . . . and He will bring you back, absolutely!
This is good news, no matter what . . . . !