14 posts categorized “persecution quotable”

March 28, 2014

LAOS: “If I wasn’t a real Christian…”

Recently I had the privilege to travel to Laos and to meet Christians there who face persecution. One of the brothers we met with is an evangelist who leads people to Christ almost every day. He has seen numerous people miraculously healed through the power of God, and many overcome drug addiction with God’s help. He told us that his cel phone rings regularly with people who say, “I need help.” Laos-map

“I tell them, ‘I can’t help you. But Jesus can help you,’” he said, and he introduces them to the Savior.

One of those that he reached, we’ll call him “Phong,” lived in a village where there were no other Christians. Phong quickly won six other people to Christ in the village. But such outreach upset the village leaders, and they expelled Phong from the village. Forced to leave, he and his wife and their two children moved in with relatives in another village; relatives that were not yet believers in Christ.

Our evangelist friend asked Phong, “Are you discouraged?”

“No. This is God’s plan.”

“How do you feel about this?” the evangelist asked.

“I feel honored. This is in the Bible! I’m not disappointed. If I wasn’t a real Christian, this wouldn’t have happened.”

If I wasn’t a real Christian…

I was reminded by his statement of a verse that is a troubling one for many American Christians like me, II Timothy 3:12: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” How do we, who aren’t currently facing persecution, read that verse? What does it mean to us? If we aren’t being persecuted, does it mean that we don’t truly desire to “live godly in Christ Jesus”?

Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage sheds light on some of those questions:

When we know the afflictions of good people but in part, they are a temptation to us to decline that cause which they suffer for; when we know only the hardships they undergo for Christ, we may be ready to say, "We will renounce that cause that is likely to cost us so dear in the owning of it;’’ but when we fully know the afflictions, not only how they suffer, but how they are supported and comforted under their sufferings, then, instead of being discouraged, we shall be animated by them, especially considering that we are told before that we must count upon such things (v. 12): All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution: not always alike; at that time those who professed the faith of Christ were more exposed to persecution than at other times; but at all times, more or less, those who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. They must expect to be despised, and that their religion will stand in the way of their preferment; those who will live godly must expect it, especially those who will live godly in Christ Jesus, that is, according to the strict rules of the Christian religion, those who will wear the livery and bear the name of the crucified Redeemer. All who will show their religion in their conversation, who will not only be godly, but live godly, let them expect persecution, especially when they are resolute in it.

Even though he is young in faith, Phong seems to have grabbed hold of these truths deeply. He understands that false or shallow Christians don’t suffer the persecution he and his family currently suffer. So he can say “I feel honored” to suffer such mistreatment, for he sees it as a mark of his growing faith and God’s faithfulness. It is the same honor that the apostles felt after being questioned by the Jewish leaders and beaten: “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

Please pray for “Phong” and his family, and for other Christians in Laos.

YOUR TURN: If you were persecuted for your Christian faith, do you think you would be able to think of it as an honor? How would you respond?

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM more than 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 2000 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.


March 6, 2014

Bonhoeffer: "Only at the Hour that God Has Chosen" (Repost)

The following is excerpted from a letter written by German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and circulated to a hundred or so of his former students during World War II:

...To be sure, God shall call you, and us, only at the hour that God has chosen. Until that hour, which lies in God’s hand alone, we shall all be protected even in greatest danger, and from our gratitude for such protection ever new readiness surely arises for the final call.

Photo
Bonhoeffer is honored on The Martyrs Wall at VOM headquarters in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Who can comprehend how those whom God takes so early are chosen? Does not the early death of young Christians always appear to us as if God were plundering his own best instruments in a time in which they are most needed? Yet the Lord makes no mistakes. Might God need our brothers for some hidden service on our behalf in the heavenly world? We should put an end to our human thoughts, which always wish to know more than they can, and cling to that which is certain. Whomever God calls home is someone God has loved. “For their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them quickly from the midst of wickedness” (Wisdom of Solomon 4.)

...Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death.

...Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God’s power, and it must now serve God’s own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death.

In life with Jesus Christ, death as a general fate approaching us from without is confronted by death from within, one’s own death, the free death of daily dying with Jesus Christ. Those who live with Christ die daily to their own will. Christ in us gives us over to death so that he can live within us. Thus our inner ding grows to meet that death from without.  Christians receive their own death in this way and in this way our physical death very truly becomes not the end but rather the fulfillment of our life with Jesus Christ. Here we enter into community with the One who at his own death was able to say, “It is finished.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life on earth ended when he was hanged in Flossenburg Concentration Camp on April 9, 1945. To learn more about his life, ministry and death, read BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.


February 20, 2014

Diocletian's Dream

“I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Hagia Sophia - web
I recently traveled to Turkey, where I was honored to meet with some incredible brothers who are “fighting the good fight” in a very difficult place. Turkey has long been a distinctive junction, bridging Europe and Asia in the historic city of Istanbul, which was sometimes historically referred to as “Islambol,” meaning “City of Islam.”

These brothers traveled to meet with me in the shadow of the Hagia Sophia, the former church that witnessed the slaughter of Christian martyrs after the fall of Constantinople.  As we talked about their own experience of persecution in their city, they lit up with joy as they related how God continues to work in the very city where Emperor Diocletian’s palace was discovered following an earthquake in 1999. The brothers I met with are actively overseeing an indigenous-led community of Christians that meets just steps away from this palace.

Why is this so remarkable? The Roman Emperor Diocletian instituted an empire-wide persecution of Christians soon after he assumed leadership in 284 A.D. During a period that is now referred to as the “Diocletianic Persecution,” or the “Great Persecution,” he launched the most aggressive and far-reaching attempt to destroy Christianity in Roman history. He specifically issued four edicts in an attempt to destroy Christianity. Diocletian’s first edict fiercely forbid Christians to assemble and ordered the destruction of Bibles and meeting places.

The day prior to Diocletian’s first edict, he demanded that the church at Nicomedia, where he spent his winters, be burned along with all of its Bibles. Diocletian’s dream was to wipe Christianity off of the face of the earth. But, of course, that is not the end of the story.

One of the Turkish brothers I met with is now pastoring a church literally feet away from Diocletian’s winter palace. After foreign missionaries were forced to leave, he stepped up and is leading a thriving congregation in the same neighborhood where martyr’s blood once stained the streets. He has been directly targeted by his adversaries, and he and his family have endured much suffering.

When I asked him about his suffering, he reflected thoughtfully on the persecution that he endured and said, with a smile, “It was not a pleasing experience, but it was a powerful experience.”

Join with me in praying for our brothers and sisters who are earnestly contending for the faith in Turkey, and let’s pray that God will enable us to stand strong wherever He has called us.

Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He lived overseas for five years and has ministered in more than 30 countries as diverse as Cuba, Nepal, Iraq, Nigeria and Indonesia. He and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, count it a great honor to serve with the persecuted church.


May 13, 2013

Bonhoeffer: Only at the Hour that God Has Chosen

The following is excerpted from a letter written by German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and circulated to a hundred or so of his former students during World War II:

...To be sure, God shall call you, and us, only at the hour that God has chosen. Until that hour, which lies in God’s hand alone, we shall all be protected even in greatest danger, and from our gratitude for such protection ever new readiness surely arises for the final call.

Photo
Bonhoeffer is honored on The Martyrs Wall at VOM headquarters in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Who can comprehend how those whom God takes so early are chosen? Does not the early death of young Christians always appear to us as if God were plundering his own best instruments in a time in which they are most needed? Yet the Lord makes no mistakes. Might God need our brothers for some hidden service on our behalf in the heavenly world? We should put an end to our human thoughts, which always wish to know more than they can, and cling to that which is certain. Whomever God calls home is someone God has loved. “For their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them quickly from the midst of wickedness” (Wisdom of Solomon 4.)

...Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death.

...Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God’s power, and it must now serve God’s own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death.

In life with Jesus Christ, death as a general fate approaching us from without is confronted by death from within, one’s own death, the free death of daily dying with Jesus Christ. Those who live with Christ die daily to their own will. Christ in us gives us over to death so that he can live within us. Thus our inner ding grows to meet that death from without.  Christians receive their own death in this way and in this way our physical death very truly becomes not the end but rather the fulfillment of our life with Jesus Christ. Here we enter into community with the One who at his own death was able to say, “It is finished.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life on earth ended when he was hanged in Flossenburg Concentration Camp on April 9, 1945. To learn more about his life, ministry and death, read BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.


April 17, 2013

Death Transformed

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/46/Pastor_Bonhoeffer.jpgThe text of today's post is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, taken from a sermon he preached while serving as pastor of two German-speaking congregations in England prior to World War II. Bonhoeffer would eventually return to Germany, where he was both a pastor and an active worker against the Nazis. His life on earth ended when he was hanged in Flossenburg Concentration Camp on April 9, 1945. But as this sermon excerpt shows, Bonhoeffer had been thinking about death and what it means for a Christian for quite some time:

No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence.

Whether we are young or old makes no difference.  What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God?  And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal?  That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up—that is for young and old alike to think about.  Why are we so afraid when we think about death? ...Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it.  Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word.  Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him.  Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace. 

How do we know that dying is so dreadful?  Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?

Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith.  But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.

Martyrs' Wall
Bonhoeffer is remembered on The Martyrs' Wall at VOM headquarters.

YOUR TURN: How does your faith in Christ change the way you look at death? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

To learn more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life, read BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.


April 16, 2013

That Was a Wonderful Time!

Sister_TongMy wife was with me on the trip to China several years ago when we met a house church Christian named Sister Tong, who you see in this picture. At that time, she had been free from prison just a few weeks after serving six months for hosting an “illegal” church meeting in her home.

I was relatively new to VOM at that time, and I asked her about her time in prison. What was that like?

And here’s what I was thinking: tell me about the rats. Tell me about the hard beds. Tell me about the cold. And the misery. Tell me how awful it was in prison.

And she got this amazing smile on her face, and she said, “Oh yes! That was a wonderful time!”

I looked at the interpreter, thinking that Sister Tong had misunderstood, or that something was being lost in translation. You must have misunderstood my question! I’m asking about prison!

But no, Sister Tong understood perfectly. And she had answered my question. It was a wonderful time because God was faithful and ministered to her in a special way. It was a wonderful time because God allowed her to share the gospel with her cell mates. It was a wonderful time because she saw a mission field where she was, an opportunity to serve and meet needs instead of a hardship.

When our brothers and sisters in China talk about prison ministry, they don’t mean once-a-month visits. They mean being sentenced to prison, and ministering while there. If that sounds familiar, it may be because we read about it in the New Testament (see Philippians 1:13-15).

YOUR TURN: If you lived in China, would you want your pastor to be involved in prison ministry? Would you volunteer to serve in that role?

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1850 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.


March 13, 2013

Hussein: Locked in Level 11

After 10 days in solitary confinement, Hussein was taken back to the main prison. The paperwork they gave him said he was a “blasphemer of the Holies,” an apostate. One of the guards, seeing the charge, told Hussein, “Only God can help you in here.”

“Yes,” Hussein replied. “He is helping me.”

Iran_FlagHussein was assigned to Level 11, and when he got there he discovered that Level 11 was death row. The guard at the gate to this section argued with the guard who delivered Hussein: “If you bring him here, they will kill him!” But orders were orders. The gate was opened, and Hussein went in with 250 death row inmates. Then the gate closed, and the guard stayed outside. Inside Level 11, the prisoners were in charge and the prison gang made all the decisions.

“I started praying,” Hussein said. “I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that God was going to do something for me.” On his first night, Hussein was told by the gang leader to meet them at midnight in the bathroom. Hussein was frightened of what they would do to him. But instead of threatening him or being violent, they asked for his help.

“Please tell what is going on here [in the prison] to your friends in America,” they said. Hussein wasn’t sure what they meant; he didn’t have friends in America. But he promised to do what he could to help them. The gang leaders showed him to a top bunk bed. Other prisoners had been there five years and were still sleeping on the floor, while Hussein slept on the top bunk his first night on death row.

“I didn’t know how to say thank you to God, lying there on top of that bed,” he said. From his first night on death row, he was accepted as one of the top eight people in the gang. He was given fresh fruit and vegetables, and he had a private shower. He could use the phone every day, and finally he called his family to tell them what had happened. “It was like a hotel to me,” Hussein says. After two days the guard came and offered him a transfer to a “safer” part of the prison. “No way!” Hussein told him. “I’m not moving.”

He was on death row for eight days. Then his family brought the deed to his house to use as collateral, and he was released on bail. Later, at his court hearing, the judge pointed out some mistakes on Hussein’s appeal document. But even in court, God was at work. The judge personally corrected the mistakes and told Hussein where he needed to go to file the documents. Later, he gave Hussein his cellphone number and offered to personally handle his case file. Hussein didn’t even have to come back to court!

Hussein still can’t believe how amazingly God has stepped into his life at so many points. “If I ever die and I am before Christ,” he said, “I will never have any excuses that He was never with me. Look how many doors He opened for me! This is why I want to serve, because I know Christ is with me. I learned that it is not what I would want in a situation but what He wants, because that is so much better.”

A VOM worker asked Hussein how he is preparing himself for the next time he’s called on to suffer for Christ’s sake.

“I think one of two things will happen,” he said calmly. “They will either kill me or there will be another miraculous event like this.”

Then he looked right at our worker, his dark eyes glowing.

“Which one is bad?”

Hussein’s story was featured in a past issue of VOM’s free monthly newsletter. You can sign up to receive VOM’s newsletter here. You can also read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of Hussein's story. You can also give online to support VOM's work in the Muslim World.


March 12, 2013

Hussein: Jesus Whispered in My Ear

Still blindfolded, Hussein was taken inside a building; he couldn’t tell if it was a house or a business. He was led down four steps just inside the door, and then after 15 feet there were more stairs. He was going to a basement. He heard men speaking Kurdish, a language he didn’t know. Looking down past the edge of his blindfold, he could see that the floor was made of tiles. Hussein was taken to the manager of solitary confinement; he was placed in a cell and the blindfold and handcuffs were finally removed. They gave him a gray jumpsuit to put on and took his clothes. The cell was a 10’ by 6’ room, with no bed or toilet or sink. On one wall were two floodlights, and one of them was always on.

“It wasn’t just the light that was bothering me,” Hussein recalls. “My thoughts were bothering me; a lot of things came into my mind.” He worried what the Christian girls he’d been arrested with were telling police. He worried that other church leaders would be compromised. He wished he could warn them. He put on the blindfold to block the light and try to sleep, but his thoughts were in turmoil.

“Then a big event happened. I had been a believer, but I had never felt Christ in this way ever in my walk. To hear God, like you hear water or anything else; I heard God! I felt like Jesus put everything aside, the whole world aside, to come to me and whisper in my ear. I heard God say to me, ‘Let’s pray together.’ I don’t remember exactly what He said, but He told me how to pray and what to pray for.

“I started to pray, and I got the peace that is beyond understanding. I felt so close to God at that moment. Jesus said to me, ‘There is no need for you to say anything because I am going to tell you what to say. Why are you afraid? At the end you are going to die, right? So why don’t you just serve? Don’t you have faith that when you close your eyes in this world you will open them up to me? And when you open your eyes you will be in my arms. Didn’t you get the teaching that whoever has more persecution gets a bigger crown? So why are you saying any of this?’

“I think that if this situation never happened to me I would probably never of heard the voice of God as clear as I did at that moment. I could feel the presence of God. The fear was gone. I was worried about nothing. Because Jesus said, ‘Don’t worry. Let Me do everything; give Me the responsibilities. Just think when you come out how much glory you are going to give Me and how many people might come to Me because of this.”

The next several days Hussein was interrogated. Each time, he was taken to a small room where gray carpet covered both the floor and walls. The carpet on the walls was stained with ink from hundreds of fingerprinted prisoners wiping their fingers on the wall. He was left in the interrogation room for long periods. He could hear interrogations in the neighboring rooms. Yet even in the interrogation room, the peace that Christ had given him remained.

Different officers interrogated him. One had a baby face and curly hair. Another seemed very angry. Hussein was handed paper and a red pen and was told to write down personal information about himself. They brought some of the literature from the apartment and asked Hussein about it. Hussein answered honestly that the literature was not his, and that he had been visiting the city and meeting with friends.

After three days, he was taken to court. “Why do you have a problem with mosques and Imams?” the judge asked. “Why do you want to destroy Islam?” Hussein told the judge that the books he held—taken from the apartment—were not his. The judge never asked Hussein whether he believed in Jesus or whether he was a Christian.

Hussein was taken back to the main prison, fingerprinted and checked in. But instead of being taken to a cell, he was again taken back to the solitary confinement prison run by the secret police. If any questions were asked, the paperwork would show that he’d been in the main prison the whole time. They took Hussein back to a cell, and the interrogations continued. At night they poured water onto the floor of his cell to make it wet and cold and hard to sleep. But Hussein wasn’t uncomfortable: “This solitary confinement I was starting to like because I was really praying and being alone with God,” he said.

He was there for 10 days, interrogated every morning and repeatedly asked the same questions. When they asked about Bibles, Hussein thought they had found the 500 in the apartment. But he was very careful of his answers, and he later discovered that the Bibles had not been found. The Bibles they asked about were the two from his backpack.

Hussein’s story was featured in a past issue of VOM’s free monthly newsletter. You can sign up to receive VOM’s newsletter here. Visit PersecutionBlog tomorrow to read how God had His hand on Hussein even when he was sent to death row. Click here to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.


March 11, 2013

Hussein: 500 Invisible New Testaments

Hussein and his ministry partner had gathered in an apartment belonging to a Christian in a Kurdish area of Iran. The man who lived in the apartment had also invited 10 young Kurdish, Muslim women to come hear about Jesus. The previous week, the believers had received a secret shipment of 500 New Testaments, which were stacked in three large boxes in one of the apartment’s bedrooms.

Shortly after the meeting started, eight members of the Ettelaat, Iranian secret police, rushed into the apartment. The angry men brought the meeting to a halt. One of them slapped Hussein before they took him to one of the bedrooms and handcuffed him. Some of them began to photograph each person at the meeting, while others began to tear the apartment apart, throwing everything—including Christian books and literature—into the middle of the floor in the large front room. They even pulled the pictures off the walls.

But miraculously, they never spotted the 500 New Testaments. “I was sure they would find them,” Hussein said, “because they even picked up a needle off of the floor.”

Hussein and three of the women were put in a white Volkswagen van. The van did not have official government license plates, and the Ettalaat officers had not shown any identification or warrants for the search or arrest. But they told Hussein he was in big trouble.

The police kept asking him about the girls in the apartment. What was he doing in the apartment with so many girls? And why was he, a Persian man, involved with Kurdish women? Hussein tried to remain calm and quiet.

They pulled up to a large gate, and when it opened they pulled inside. Hussein was blindfolded, and his ankles were chained together. The women were taken away; he didn’t know where, and he wondered what they would tell the officers and how he could make his story match theirs.

Three men marched him out of the van. “This is just the beginning of what we are going to do to you,” one of them said angrily. “This is just the welcome parade.” The men then put him in another vehicle. He heard the gate open again and they started moving. He didn’t know where they were taking him. Every time he moved in the car, one of the officers hit him and told him to be still.

“I knew if I made one mistake this church was going to get disintegrated,” Hussein said. “If I wasn’t John, I didn’t want to be Judas.” Hussein was silently praying, “Give me wisdom, God, for what to say and how to act.”

Hussein’s story was featured in a past issue of VOM’s free monthly newsletter. You can sign up to receive VOM’s newsletter here. Visit PersecutionBlog tomorrow to read how God protected Hussein in solitary confinement and interrogation. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2 of Hussein's story.


February 13, 2013

NEPAL: “Those words were pricking my heart”

When a Christian brother we'll call "Bilal" died last spring in a small Nepali city, it was important to his family that his body be buried. For Nepali Christians, burial is not only a way to dispose of a body but also an "Ebenezer" (1 Sam. 7:12), a permanent landmark of a person's faith and God's faithfulness. But in Nepal, where 75 percent of the people are Hindus, cremation is the expected ritual following a death.

About 30,000 people live in the city where Bilal's family live, but there are only four or five Christian families. When Bilal died, radical Hindus tried to take his body for cremation, according to Hindu custom. Death, along with birth and marriage, is one of three significant milestones in Hindu culture. By cremating Bilal's body, the Hindus hoped to erase his Christian testimony. Cremation would be a message in their culture that Bilal hadn't really been a Christian, that in death he'd returned to Hinduism. Conversely, a grave would be a permanent testimony that this man had died a Christian. Np-lgflag

Bilal's family refused to turn the body over to the Hindus; they wanted a Christian funeral and burial. The family was at home making funeral arrangements with their church's pastor, Pastor "Sabal," when they heard shouting outside the house. A large Hindu mob had gathered, shouting threats and demanding the body in order to perform Hindu last rights and cremation.

Sabal told the Hindus that Bilal was a Christian and that his family wanted a Christian funeral. The mob then became enraged, grabbing Sabal and two other Christians and beating them with sticks and their fists. The Christians tried to flee on their bicycles, but the mob continued to attack.

The Christians found refuge in the home of "Bima," a Christian widow who motioned them inside her house despite the angry mob chasing them. Why would she invite attacks on her home by sheltering the Christians?

"I am the Lord's servant," she told VOM workers, "so I have to be strong. I will not fear, because he is with us. I thought that some of those people might make problems for me, but I have to be strong."

The mob of angry Hindus backed off, and Christians on motorbikes came to remove Sabal and the others from danger. Sabal was treated for wounds he received in the beating and was later examined by our VOMedical director. While Sabal's body healed quickly, he struggled emotionally. He couldn't sleep for a week after the attack.

"I was praying for myself and I understood, when reading the Bible, I understood that I have to forgive," Sabal said, "because the Lord says if you don't forgive others you will not be forgiven. Those words were pricking my heart." God helped Sabal forgive his attackers by reminding him of the forgiveness he had received.

"I have also done some wrong things, some mistakes, so the Lord is working [to forgive me]," he said. "So I have to forgive. The Lord was speaking to me, 'Forgive them. They have to come to Me.' The Lord was speaking to me. Then I said yes. I have to work with them so they will come to Christ." A month after the attack, Sabal came to the point of fully forgiving those who had attacked and injured him.

He continues to minister in the same city, but after the attacks his congregation shrank by half. Many Christians left in fear, so Sabal preaches sermons designed to encourage believers to withstand the persecution he knows they'll face.

"One day everyone has to die," he tells his congregation. "The life here [on earth] is very short. Whatever they do to us because we're Christian — what we will go through — even if we have to die, we'll die because we'll have a long life [in eternity with Christ]."

Some of the believers too fearful to attend church still ask Sabal to come to their homes and pray with them. He has faith that one day their courage will be strengthened and they will return to the church. "I believe they will come one day," he said, "because they have tasted the Lord."

YOUR TURN: What are you doing to leave a legacy for Christ that others will be blessed by after your death?