Matthew 24:9 – Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. (NKJV)
Today marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide, an event that occurred during the Ottoman Empire. It was on this date, April 24th, 1915, that several thousand Armenian intellectuals in Turkey were rounded up, arrested, and later executed. Generally, the massacres are said to have extended into 1917 with a reprise between 1920 and 1923, resulting in the death of over one million Armenians. Systematically, they were murdered for their refusal to deny Christ and convert to the Islamic religion. Those who gave their lives highly valued the eternal life that Jesus died to give them, and they truly believed His words:
Matthew 10:33 – But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. (NASB)
One individual who experienced the genocide in a close and graphic way was my father — the lone survivor of his family. Afterward, he came to the United States alongside other survivors from his church and community. Years later, he became a minister of the gospel and shared the miraculous story of his escape with many listeners coast to coast in the United States. He wanted people to appreciate the value of freedom and the right to worship God without danger of persecution.
Unfortunately, if my dad were alive today, he would be deeply troubled by the escalating violence taking place against believers in many parts of the globe, and he would personally identify with their suffering. Though the time, place, and circumstances are different, nevertheless, the atrocities are very much the same.
It is reported that Christians are the most persecuted group in the contemporary world; over 100,000 are brutally killed every year. And according to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. Of the 100-200 million Christians under assault, the majority are persecuted in Muslim-dominated nations.
Scripture warns us that anyone who follows Jesus will face adversity in some form or another:
2 Timothy 3:12 – Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (NASB)
When the early church underwent immense suffering, the leaders underlined the need for patience, endurance, and determination:
Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 16:13 – Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. (NIV 2011)
Living in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity, I realize that what happened to the Armenian people can happen to anyone. What would our reaction be if we were forced to face the same challenge? Now is a good time to consider the past and what we can learn from the examples of those who have already suffered for His name's sake. However, it is important to remember that they did not endure persecution by their own strength. Therefore, let us be grounded in God's Word and hope forever in His promises.
John 16:33b – In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (NIV)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your promise that You will stand by us in our hour of persecution. Help us to remember the examples of the Christians who have gone on before. Remind us to pray for those who are suffering for You even now. May we be encouraged by the knowledge that You will always stand by us if and when we are called to suffer because of our faith in You. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
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