Every so often, we read about Christians being persecuted or killed for their faith — sometimes individuals, sometimes groups of people as they worship. I read one time that more Christians were killed for their faith during the 20th century than have been martyred in the whole previous history of Christianity.
It all started when Stephen, the deacon who was added when the apostles' workload became too heavy, gave his impassioned speech to the Sanhedrin about his faith in Christ.
Acts 7:54,57-58 – When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. (NKJV)
Stephen was the first martyr who was killed for his faith. Many met the same fate, and it is still happening, even now. But there is also subtle persecution of believers.
When we lived in Vienna, Austria, in the late 1960s, we attended the Vienna Community Church, a group of English-speaking people who gathered every Sunday for worship. One time, as a mission project, rather than send some money somewhere, we brought a Baptist minister, his wife, and daughter from Czechoslovakia to Vienna for a week. Someone at the British Embassy got them visas, which was hard to do at that time. The iron curtain was still there, and the people who lived behind it were hardly ever allowed to travel. The minister and his wife stayed at our place. We had long talks with them about their situation. They were allowed to worship, but they could not be involved in any government activities, like teaching school, nor could they work for any branch of government, unless they openly and officially denied their Christian faith.
Their daughter, who was 26 years old, was well educated and able to teach at the university level, which is what she wanted to do. But she could not get a job unless she officially renounced her faith. She refused to do this, so she worked in a shoe factory.
Here in Canada, we are not threatened in such a fashion, but in subtle ways, the Christian faith is being eroded. We read about it almost every day: the elimination of prayer in public places, the removal of Christian symbols, and the multiplication of Sunday sports and Sunday shopping. This has happened as a result of apathy on the part of Christians, too many things to do on Sunday, and too many other involvements.
Sometimes we despair; sometimes we get downright discouraged; but as church members and as individuals, we can carry on bringing the good news to all who want to hear. The discussions with our guests from Czechoslovakia convinced us that we must never give up. We must keep on working and praying, all of us.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we pray for those who are persecuted for their faith even now, and we ask that You will give them and us the strength and the ability to carry on and bring Your Word to all who want to hear. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Saviour While My Heart Is Tender" (Lyrics)