“As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter'” (Romans 8:36 NKJV).
The email from Bangladesh stated that the preacher for one of the congregations there had been called out of his house by a group of eight or ten men and threatened, “You stop preaching here in this village or we will hurt you.” His response was to leave the village for a couple of weeks, then to return and resume his work.
We who live in the United States, with its guarantees of freedom of religion, are prone to think of religious persecution in terms of ancient history, or at worst, of being looked down upon by those who are too “intellectual” to profess faith in God. The fact is that physically violent persecution still occurs in many places throughout the world and must be faced by committed Christians as either present or potential.
The New Testament frequently warns believers of the reality of such persecution. Jesus told his followers, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Paul stated unequivocally, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
In light of such prophesies and the news of current suffering that we receive, it is of great comfort to read Paul’s confident assessment: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Christians have many enemies in this world. Satan seeks to destroy us (Ephesians 6:11-12; 1 Peter 5:8). Many who profess other religions or philosophies attack the faith of Christians, either to justify their own position or simply to undermine the confidence of others. Peter spoke of those who would “think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you” (1 Peter 4:4).
In spite of all opposition, however, we are repeatedly assured that God will protect and preserve us against all enemies. “More than conquerors” is a rich and promising description of faithful sufferers. Not only will they win in the battle against God’s enemies – they will succeed far beyond mere victory.
Our imagination fails to provide us with an adequate description of what it means to be more than a conqueror. At the very least we are assured that we will do much more than merely survive the threats of persecution. Not only will we (spiritually at least) live through persecution, but we will prosper and be rewarded far more extravagantly than we can imagine.
No one looks forward to suffering, even for the sake of righteousness. Yet the apostle Peter pronounced those who do so to be blessed: “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you . . . .Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:14, 16).
Many have noted the continued move away from Biblical faith even in countries long considered “Christian.” Warnings that physical persecution may threaten believers in the near future are numerous. Let us turn to these biblical promises to give us hope and assurance that God will help us deal with any such threat, and that no enemy can truly harm us.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28).