Sunday, November 14

A Sunday to Consider Christian Persecution

November is Christian Persecution Month, and today is the day set aside to pray for persecuted Christians around the world, so both the hymn and the sermon featured here on this Sunday share a theme of persecution. The hymn is a recent set of words--a prayer--to the tune of Faith of Our Fathers.
Faith of Our Brothers

Faith of our brothers, suffering sore,
Enduring prison, famine, and sword,
O Holy Spirit, give comfort, we pray,
May they this day find strength in thy Word.
Faith of our brothers, holy faith,
May they be true to thee till death!

Tortured and killed for thy dear name,
Lord, give them grace to count all but loss,
May they hold steadfast to the end,
Sharing the sufferings of the cross.
Faith of our brothers, holy faith,
May they be true to thee till death!

Our brothers, chained in prisons dark,
Are still in heart and conscience free,
O may they know thy deep, sweet peace,
Fill them with joy for all to see.
Faith of our brothers, holy faith,
May they be true to thee till death!

Faith of our brothers! May they love
Both friend and foe in all their strife,
And preach thee too, as love knows how,
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our brothers, holy faith,
May they be true to thee till death!

And Lord, may we be ready too,
To give our lives, if needed, for thee,
May we be strong in thy great strength,
And live each day, committed to thee.
Faith of all brothers, holy faith,
May we be true to thee till death!

--Susan H. Peterson.

The sermon is another one from David Legge of the Iron Hall Assembly of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and it has as it's text the 12th verse of Philippians 1:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel...
In Suffering: The Catalyst Of The Gospel, David Legge reminds us that in God's purposeful hands, Christian persecution is productive--it advances the gospel.
Admittedly God's ways and God's plans at times can feel impossible toward us, we can't understand it, it seems absolutely foolish. It seems foolish to me that Paul, the great apostle, is locked up in prison. He is the greatest evangelising force in the Mediterranean word, yes in the church Jesus Christ of his age, yet God lets him get locked up. Now that doesn't make sense to my human rationale and reasoning, I don't understand it, especially when we think of the church that's pitifully small, and this is a death blow to them that their great apostle is locked up! But that's because we can't see the workings and mechanisms of God. Paul says the opposite to what we would think, verse 12, that through his being locked up in prison the Gospel is being advanced - that's what it literally means, advanced. One paraphrase says: 'Everything that has happened to me has been a great boost in getting out the good news concerning Christ'.....

Roy Lauren, the Christian author, said this: 'What seemed to sight to be a retardation, was to faith in fact an acceleration'. What seemed to hinder really served to help, what seemed to prevent in actual fact promoted, and what appeared to be misfortune provided a blessing! It wasn't just because of Paul's commitment to the Gospel, or Paul's commitment to Christ, but because in prison Paul was being an effective channel of the Gospel. Can I just say to you: we all pray for many many things, but we all know full well that we don't always get the answers to our prayers that we're looking for, or even the answer that we expect. It was exactly the same with the great apostle Paul. In Acts chapter 19 he expresses his wish to go to Jerusalem, and then 'After I have been there', he says, 'I must also see Rome'. God later on, in chapter 23 of Acts, says Paul: 'For as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also in Rome'. But He didn't tell him how he was going to bear witness, did He? He didn't tell him he was going to be a prisoner, that he wasn't going to be able to go out in the highways and byways and compel them to come in.

If you've read down this far, you might want to finish up by reading Hal's prayer for persecuted Christians at The Great Separation.