An average of 159,960 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith per year, and that number is expected to rise. Over a million Christians are currently being persecuted for their faith. A million!
More Christians died for their faith in the twentieth century than at any other time in history, says Christian Solidarity International.
These numbers astound me. Why? Because I was born and raised in America, a country that espouses freedom of speech and religion, a country that used to be a Christian nation. Though I've been laughed at, mocked, and even ignored for my faith, I've never felt persecuted. Have you? In fact, I believe many of us in the west have become complacent in our faith, even comfortable. We have bought into the twisted theology that says if you become a Christian, your life will get better, you will prosper and be successful, you'll have good health and your children will lead happy lives. You'll have your "best life now"! Do you realize that last statement goes against everything the Bible teaches? If we can have our best life now by following Jesus, then what is eternity all about? Is Heaven actually a step down from this world?
A Christian in the middle east put it this way. In America and the West, you tell people, "Give your life to Jesus and you'll have success, prosperity, good health, and happiness!" While in the East, we tell people, "If you give your life to Jesus, you'll most likely lose your wealth, your home, your health, and your life."
Not exactly a seeker-friendly message. But the truth is, Jesus didn't preach a sweet, loving, seeker-friendly message either. Listen to a few of His statements:
Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember
the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his
master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. John 15: 18-20
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Matthew 16:24
But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. Luke 21:12
And the Apostle Paul says:
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted 2 Tim 3:12
But surely this won't happen in America! It is already happening. Just look at recent events. Owners of a bakery forced to close down and pay a huge fine for not making a cake for a gay wedding. A woman jailed for refusing to issue a wedding license for a gay couple. Chaplains in the army punished for mentioning Jesus to their men. Teachers forbidden to carry Bibles on school campuses. God mocked in schools and the public arena. This is only the beginning. It is going to get much much worse.
We need to wake up here in the West. We need to reverse the false doctrines we've been taught that if we follow Jesus, our lives will be full of blessings. We will have internal, spiritual blessings, yes! Joy and peace and love and goodness, all the fruits of the Spirit as we grow closer to the Lord. But He never promised us a good life, an easy life. He never promised us we wouldn't get cancer or watch a loved one die or we wouldn't lose our job. He did promise to provide for our daily needs. But what we Americans consider daily needs might be quite different from what our actual daily needs are!
What happens when someone has a knife to your throat, threatening to cut your head off if you don't deny Jesus? What would you do? You may have to find out some day.