Hebrews 13:3 Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
I had the privilege of attending a Voice of the Martyr Radio’s “Advance” Conference in 2017. Talk show host, Todd Nettleton describes newly converted Christians from Islam finding purpose when placed in a Sunni refugee camp, as their IDs still say Sunni. They live day-to-day fully reliant on God, pleased for their temporary shelters, small food rations and a large mission field! Four speakers, both current and former-Missionaries, explained what it was like to walk with Christ in persecuted parts of the world. Their stories are inspiring and encouraging.
We can learn so much from our brothers and sisters in chains for Christ. ‘University of Persecution’ they call it, as Christ fills them to do His work behind bars. Christ transforms them to love the captors who interrogate and torture them trying to get them to renounce their faith. Yet they stand firm, and once released, they go straight back to work in the underground church.
Richard Wurmbrand, one of those who endured a total of 14 years of torture and solitary confinement, founded Voice of the Martyrs. Communist Soviets who invaded Wurmbrand’s native Romania imprisoned him for proselytizing. After his final release for ransom, brethren from the West came to encourage him. He realized he was not forgotten nor abandoned, countering the brainwashing. Similarly, these comforters also received encouragement. To their surprise Richard was full of joy despite tribulation. Within his time of great suffering, ordinary Christians set up a secret network to support gospel work in His country.
Isn’t it interesting that often the very people we go to comfort, end up being a bigger blessing to us?
One speaker told of a brother’s return from prison. He was thankful for outside prayers while captive. Yet, he was glad the Lord didn’t grant prayers for his quick release because of important work God had for him in prison. I think they said all inmates heard the gospel and a staggering number committed their life to Christ.
Yes, God does not give a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline (2Timothy 1:7) And what comfort or assurance is there to fearlessly spread the gospel? One speaker said, “Until God says it’s your last breath, you’re invincible”.
In todays verse, strikes urgency for us to pray and support imprisoned workers for the gospel of Christ. As One Body in Christ, it pains us to hear of the atrocities those imprisoned endure, all because they chose to share the best gift given to the world. I’m so thankful for missions like VOM to support our siblings in Christ so readily!
A Deeper Love
Another running theme at the conference was forgiveness.
What does it mean to you, to love your enemy as Jesus instructs us? (Luke 6:27-36 and Matthew 5:43-48) Personally, I’m glad I can’t think of a time I had to forgive someone. I guess it’s a cop out. I’d rather not attempt to dig up any old grudges for something far less severe. One speaker describes unforgiveness as drinking poison and hoping another will die.
The speakers, emboldened by Christ told us of the joy and peace the Lord brought them in their chains. “It’s not about me, it’s about God working through me”. It’s about loving those who are lost, captured by their own pain and hatred, yet so adored by our Heavenly Father. Let’s keep them in our prayers always.
We hear of how Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. But, have you heard that terrorist groups turn many muslims to Christ by their horrific violence? A friend from Iran confirms it’s easy to share God’s word over there. They’re hungry for it!
Please find encouragement by this today, and pray for muslims. One speaker said, “Love the muslim, hate the spirit of Islam”.
The conference worship leader summed up the sentiment singing, “Send Me Out”.
Lord, be with all the believers working to share the gospel of Christ. Comfort those especially who suffer to advance Your Kingdom. Embolded us by Your Spirit to join them in this life and death war to free the captives. Let us share news of forgiveness, love and true peace with Father. ~Amen