If you were to visit me in my office, you would see little statuettes of shepherds, which I have collected from around the world. I like to collect shepherds, because the Lord said to me, “Alex, shepherd my sheep.” Of course, I do it with other brothers. But we’re still all shepherds. One of my favourite ones is King David, as a teenager holding a lamb over his shoulder. That’s one of my favourite ones. But anyway, I use these to remind myself to be a good shepherd, like the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, I think it’s almost universally agreed that believers throughout the world right now are suffering in a way that has not been true in a very, very long time. In fact, I’m reminded of a verse, here in 1 Peter 5, where Peter talks about universal brotherhood and suffering. He says this 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober minded and watchful your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood, throughout the world.” A wonderful verse, in which he looks at the whole Christian church, a brotherhood, a sisterhood, and they are going through various kinds of suffering. I see this true in two ways today. One is we see an increase in persecution against believers in a way that we haven’t seen maybe in hundreds of years. I don’t know if you know of the open door ministry, ‘World Watch List’. In the 2018 version, there is a list of the 50 countries where it’s the most dangerous to follow Jesus. And by the way, the statistics here are really staggering of how many thousands of believers have been martyred for Christ, how many have been marginalized, can’t get jobs, or are facing persecution. So we are seeing suffering in the area of persecution.
In fact, I have an article here that’s very, very touching. It’s an article about the young ladies in Nigeria who have been captured by Boko Haram, and how they have stayed faithful. In fact, they have a statement that they make, when they get discouraged, and they just say together, “Just be faithful.” It’s become actually a famous statement, now: “Just be faithful.” They say that to one another, and they have some Bibles and Scriptures, they write out that as they hide to encourage one another. And they have been able to write letters and get them out of the place of captivity to other people in the world. Let’s remember these dear young ladies captured by Boko Haram, and their faithfulness to the Lord suffering persecution.
And I have been so concerned about this issue of persecution, I’ve gone through the entire New Testament, and I have listed all the verses on persecution, but I put them in categories. And one thing you’ll see is how much the New Testament says about persecution and how we should train one another and prepare one another for persecution. We should not be caught off guard by this because the Scripture warns us. The Lord Jesus warned us that we would be hated as he was hated.
This is another way in which we’re facing persecution. It’s not from religious extremist groups. It’s from what I call hostile aggressive secularism. We’re seeing this new hostility towards Christians from the secular world. They disagree with our view of sex, gender, marriage, abortion, truth, God, and scripture. And more and more, they are trying to criminalize our beliefs. This is happening all over the Western world. And what I’m saying to you is we need to prepare our young people for this, so that they don’t get caught off guard. There is no reason to, if we just go back to the Scriptures, everything that’s happening to us today is right there in the Scriptures, and happened to the very, very first Christians. They all suffered persecution. So let us prepare ourselves, and the way we prepare ourselves is to teach what the Bible says: what Jesus taught, what Paul taught, what Peter taught. And they all taught a lot about preparing for persecution.
And then there is the worldwide pandemic. In some of the strangest ways, this has just caused such division among believers and a fighting among believers. Some churches haven’t even opened yet, others have so much disagreement over this fact. It really brings out what we are like, and whether we are being controlled by the Spirit or the flesh. I just see so much division over this subject, but it’s caused so much heartache. And many times Christian leaders don’t know what to do, what to say. There’s such a diversity of opinion about this. So we’ll talk about this in a moment also. We want to be careful that we don’t allow these things to divide God’s people. And we need to be reasonable. And we need to operate in the fruit of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5.
Now, when we face these kinds of worldwide conflicts, and trials from persecution, it is the very time that leaders need to step forward and be faithful. I believe it is one of the major themes of our conference. It’s not a time to hide or go into your bed, or to lead from behind. In fact, it’s interesting, the Greek word for lead has the idea of stand before or go before. A leader is someone who goes before, not one who goes behind or stands on the sidelines, and watches things go by like a parade. No, it is time to step forward. And what we should do at times like this is double our effort to teach the Scriptures and what the Scriptures actually say about these subjects that are causing affliction and problems and suffering to the Lord’s people. And the Scripture says plenty, but we will look at a little bit in the following articles.
So at a time like this, we need to double our teaching, and we need to make sure it is good scriptural teaching. What I’m saying is we need to prepare our people for these things that are happening and for the suffering. Before we get to the ways in which we need to prepare ourselves and our people, let me mention something that is very important as we seek to teach. We are not only to teach and speak with words, but are also to model what we teach with our lives. That modelling often is more powerful than even just our words. If people see the leaders running away, they are not going to be people that will stand up against persecution, or against the problems. So, let us be sure not only to teach, but to model what we will be going over in the next few articles.
This article is the first one of the three-part article series of the transcript of Session 2 preached by Brother Alexander Strauch in the AIPC 2021 Online Conference held on Sep 17-19, 2021.
Please click here to view the sermon.
Alexander Strauch has served as an elder at Littleton Bible Chapel near Denver, Colorado for over forty years.