24 posts categorized “Persecution Studies Workshop”

April 9, 2014

Little Love Leads to Little Forgiveness

Luke 7:47 tells the story of Jesus at the home of the Pharisee named Simon. As they were eating, a woman of ill-repute slips in and proceeds to show gratitude and love to Jesus by anointing him with alabaster oil. Simon comments in a rather judgmental manner. If Jesus was really a prophet he would know the kind of woman who was performing these deeds of kindness to Jesus, implying that he would reject her. Simon was most troubled by the fact that Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven without having to perform rituals of the law to get forgiveness. Jesus responds to Simon’s criticism by telling a story about who was forgiven most, the one who had sinned a lot or the one who sinned little. The point Jesus makes is that since she had been forgiven a lot, she shows a lot of gratitude and love. Jesus was also speaking to Simon in an indirect manner. If you would recognize your sinfulness and ask forgiveness you, also, would show much love and gratitude because he who is forgiven much loves much. Conversely, he who loves much also forgives much. Simon lacks both love and forgiveness. He did extend a cordial welcome to Jesus as was custom for guests in one’s home.

VOMClassroomTaking this truth (he who has been forgiven much loves much), we could apply this to the situation of those who are persecuted and the persecutors. The persecuted who forgive their persecutors have already experienced forgiveness in their lives and, because they have the spirit of forgiveness and love, they are able, out of gratefulness, to extend forgiveness to those who persecute them. For the persecutors, they like Simon need to experience forgiveness for their sin. The witness of those who are persecuted and are showing love and forgiveness is clearly seen by the persecutors, and this may be the first glimpse that such a spirit and attitude is even possible in this life. Through the acts of forgiveness and love the persecutor may begin to see their own sin and the darkness that pervades their heart.

Assuming that many of us are not being persecuted for our faith at the moment as many in our extended Christian family are, how do we apply this truth to our situation? It is here where our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted are an example and inspiration. If we cannot show love and forgiveness to people who wrong us, although not to the extent of persecuting us, then we need to hear the words that were spoken to Simon. Apparently we do not show love and gratitude because we have not been forgiven much. If the truth were known, we need to confess the extent of our sins and receive great grace and forgiveness from God. Then we would have the heart of forgiveness and gratitude.

Jesus also said that if we do not forgive others we will not be forgiven (Matt. 6:15) because it reflects an attitude and spirit that fails to show genuine gratefulness for the extent to which we have been forgiven. To have an unforgiving spirit will injure and destroy our relationship with God. If we graciously extend forgiveness to others, we are in fact expressing our love and gratitude toward God for lavishly pouring his grace of forgiveness upon us. To God be the glory!

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


March 25, 2014

Wise as Serpents and Harmless as Doves

In giving instructions to his disciples as they set out on a limited mission to Israel (Matt 10:16), Christ tells them that he is sending them out as sheep among the wolves, so they needed to be shrewd and not be seen as a threat. They were to remain innocent but not be foolish. While the instructions were meant for this limited mission, it makes good sense in our approach to the world. There is no need to rush out, foolishly crashing headlong into the opposition. That would be reckless. Why purposefully provoke those who are hostile when the point of the mission is to win those who are hostile to Christ? The message may invite and incite hostility but our behavior should not provoke them. VOMClassroom

We do not seek difficulty or trouble but we are foolish to believe that we will not face it. As hard as it is for many, the point may come when civil disobedience is required of us. Sometimes it requires us to request due process of the law and fairness in interpreting the law. In the story of Rev. Christo Kulichev (found in Holcomb, Imprisoned for Christ), the pastor (Kulichev) makes a good point during his interrogation. He mentions that he was being interrogated for preaching but that in reality the Committee (the Communist Party) had not officially taken this right away from him nor had any accusations been written or issued against him. So, he argued, he was being arrested illegally. In doing this, he was clarifying the issue so that the interrogator would recognize that he (the interrogator) was in an illegal position. While it may not matter in the ultimate outcome of the trial, at least the Christian does not appear to be weak or passive. Reasoning with those who are perpetuating injustice allows the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.

Sometimes careful reasoning and civil dialogue with our accusers is not an option. James Howell, in his book Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs, tells the story of Paul Schneider, who was a pastor in the Rhineland during Hitler’s time in power. While preaching a funeral for a youth who was a part of Hitler Youth and who died in a tragic accident, a leader of the Nazi youth organization exclaimed that the youth was now one of Horst Wessel’s heavenly storm troopers. Schneider responded by saying that there are no storm troopers in heaven. For three years he continued to speak in Christ’s name. Finally, the Gestapo arrested him and sent him to prison camp where each morning they tried to force him to salute the swastika and pledge allegiance to Hitler. He was tortured and cast into solitary confinement, where he preached as loudly as he could from his cell. The SS officers would beat him senseless each time. Finally, he was given a Strophanthin injection which abruptly ended his preaching and his life.

He chose the only righteous path open to him. He did the right thing and died for it.

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


March 13, 2014

Opposition: Positive, Negative, or Deadly

People who thrive on competition enjoy opposition; it is what motivates and inspires them. Conventional wisdom says that competition brings out the best in us, and to a degree that is true. When opposition, however, is serious and life-threatening, most people shy away from it, usually because opposition implies something negative and difficult, if not personally devastating. Opposition can be devastating.

This is equally true when one’s beliefs are threatened, along with the threat of loss of property or life. Christians are aware, by and large, that there is opposition from spiritual forces that seek to undermine and destroy God’s work and people. The positive side is that it should make us more vigilant. The negative side (at least from the world’s viewpoint) is that it could cost us everything. That is why we are to “count the cost.” What seems negative may bring glory to God, and that is always positive.

Opposition can have many forms; it can be a minor restriction or serious oppression and repression. We can be challenged, threatened, hated, shamed, shunned, treated with contempt, harassed, discriminated against, and sometimes expelled or killed for our witness. Spiritual opposition can come from spiritual beings who seek to disrupt or destroy our faith, but it often takes the form of human beings, persons in positions of power, who seek to restrict or destroy our faith through force and coercion. This makes opposition up-close and personally costly.

In some cases, opposition can decimate or destroy the church in a particular location. Nina Shea remarks: “we must remember that in some cases, such as in many parts of the Muslim world, Christian communities are rapidly vanishing under relentless persecution” (In the Lion’s Den, 8). In the Middle East “persecution has led to a vastly diminished Christian presence” (In the Lion’s Den, 15).

Opposition can be devastating. In North Korea, in the early part of the twentieth century, the church was thriving. Pyongyang, the capital of now North Korea was known as “The Jerusalem of the Orient” had 2000 churches in the city. Today, under one of the world’s most repressive political and military regimes, the church is nearly absent except for some showcase churches and an underground church that cannot meet together because of the danger of spies.

On the positive side, there are places where persecution and serious opposition has caused the church to grow and experience revival (such as Iran and the Horn of Africa). Religious persecution has become so serious that it is being picked up as news stories in international news media. In this sense, opposition is playing a positive role in educating the Western church about the reality of persecution around the world. Persecution is a profound and ongoing reality in many countries, and is something that the Western world will not be able to avoid. It should motivate us to be more vigilant and more committed as we face ever-increasing opposition.

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


March 4, 2014

Personal Rights and Injustice

There are occasions when we must let go of our God-given personal rights and suffer for the sake of Christ, even though it is the result of injustice. God is a God of justice but may wish to use the occasion to reveal His character and will to a watching world. There are times when the world needs a lesson on sacrifice and selflessness, and we may be required to give up our rights to fulfill God’s will for that particular occasion.

The fact that justice is a part of the nature of God and that God is a just God raises the expectation and hope of Christians, since they are followers of the just God, that they should always receive justice. Life should be fair; but, of course, it is not. VOMClassroomAt the same time, acknowledging the biblical principle of suffering for others may mean that giving up one’s rights on behalf of others is often necessary. It is a part of God’s plan to reach the world. The rights are legitimate but forgoing certain personal rights for the right reasons and for the sake of the kingdom is also legitimate.

To forgo one’s personal rights does not mean that we set aside the desire for justice. It is perfectly legitimate to desire that persecutors be held accountable, for example (see Psalm 119:84). Giving up our personal rights does not alter the need for social justice, administrated by God or the courts. We love our persecutors and desire their salvation but neither do we want justice to be perverted. We may forgive those who are unjust and we do not seek vengeance, but a higher authority (God and/or the justice system of a particular country) may exact a penalty for their unjust behavior. We may appeal for appropriate justice but we do not seek revenge. The Apostle Paul, who was the master persecutor, was confronted by Christ about the injustice he was perpetrating on Christians and on Himself (see 1 Timothy 1:13). He was held accountable by God and it led to his conversion. We want our persecutors to become fellow believers.

Forgoing personal rights is based on the premise that justice will ultimately prevail because the God of justice will ultimately prevail when His kingdom comes in its fullness. To give up our rights is not to say that we agree with injustice, but in the same way that suffering and death can bring life, allowing ourselves to experience injustice for the sake of Christ can ultimately bring about justice. We are deferring to Christ who will “lead justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:1, 4). It is a part of our struggle and present groaning for resolution—for a time when sin, evil, injustice, and persecution are ultimately defeated.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


January 23, 2014

Defending the Faith

If God is sovereign and we are doing his will, why should we worry about a defense? Doesn’t that appear to be focusing too much on the mundane, too much on our own needs? Does it show a lack of faith? The point is that while it is true that God is sovereign and we are committed to doing his will, we live in a world that makes demands on us, even unreasonable demands. Christians are called before authorities, judges, and courts sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for not-so-good reasons. These persons have the responsibility of keeping peace in society, for upholding society’s laws, and to resolve conflict. Sometimes they are just doing their job; but some use their position to harass and persecute Christians, and this of course is unjust.

VOMClassroomA clear example of the role of government is seen in Acts 19:35-41 where conflict rose because Demetrius, a silversmith who earned a living making silver models of the goddess Artemis, felt that his livelihood was threatened by Paul’s preaching. It was threatened! The city clerk, who appears to be a reasonable man interested in maintaining peace and in resolving the conflict in a civil manner, exhorts the silversmith guild to go to court to air their grievances, although Paul and his cohorts had not robbed any temples or blasphemed the goddess they must therefore defend themselves in courts and before proconsuls, whether they like it or not.

We should not be surprised if our witnessing about Christ causes opposition and we are taken to court for it. This had been the method of operation in societies where the motives are honorable (but their laws or customs may be wrong) but also in totalitarian states where the court system is merely a façade, a mere pretense of justice. The real question is not do we need a defense but how do we deal with being called to court and what should our conduct be. We need to remember that in reality we are not on trial; it is Jesus Christ and the gospel message that is being assessed and judgment passed upon. It has been noted that in Stephen’s defense in Acts chapter 7 that he never once mentions himself.

When Chinese Pastor Samuel Lamb was being interrogated, a group of friends and staff members gathered to pray that he might have boldness and that he would realize that it was Jesus who was on trial, not Pastor Lamb (Ken Anderson, Bold as a Lamb, 4).

That is not a universal principle because the Apostle Paul often had to defend himself and his own ministry.  In 2 Timothy 4:16, Paul said that at his “first defense,” when everyone abandoned him, the Lord stood by his side and gave him strength so that he could fully proclaim the message so that all the Gentiles could hear it. Paul defended himself and his ministry to those who oppressed him in the church, those who denied his right to be an apostle. In the public courts, however, the issue was not self-defense but the public opportunity to share the gospel to those he was called to reach. He used every legal defense he could under Roman law. He also used the occasion to share his witness to Christ’s transforming power in his life.

Peter, who had his share of difficulties with those who opposed the gospel, wrote in 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV): “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


December 5, 2013

Hope in the Face of Persecution

Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament scholar, says that Israel’s experiences of pain as recorded in the Old Testament are answered by God’s actions. He hears their cries of pain and responds. Hope in ancient Israel was expressed by “the relentless insistence that social hurt is not permanent, that oppression is not for perpetuity” (Old Testament Theology: Essays on Structure, Theme, and Text, 7). Israel believed that God would change things abruptly (“an inversion of circumstances”). It is a radical idea—that the present is not permanent and that there is genuine hope for the future. Things will change because God will change them. It was an optimism based on the intervention of God into human history. His kingdom would come and it would last forever. The kingdom of God has come in Christ, and will be consummated when he comes again.

The lesson for us is that the pain and hurt of persecution, which can be experienced in many ways (physical abuse, social ostracizing, harassment, oppression), is not the final word. As Christians endure the worst that the enemy can give, we are aware that their day is coming when all pain will cease and all things will be made right. VOMClassroom

A major part of this hope is the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the promise that we too will be resurrected from the dead. That is a glorious hope, but it is also a sustaining, a strengthening, and a comforting. Our bodies may be killed but they will not remain dead. We will receive a new and glorious resurrection body—a spiritual body. Richard Wurmbrand remarks:

"Paul's belief in God, and his confidence in resurrection, and his hope in eternal fellowship with Christ, did not produce a life of comfort and ease that would have been satisfying even without resurrection. No, what his hope produced was a life of chosen suffering. Yes, he knew joy unspeakable. But it was a "rejoicing in hope" (Romans 12:12). And that hope freed him to embrace sufferings that he never would have chosen apart from the hope of his own resurrection and the resurrection of those for whom he suffered. If there is no resurrection, Paul's sacrificial choices, by his own testimony, were pitiable." (The Triumphant Church, 43).

The Christian hope is categorically different from the skepticism and pessimism of the world. It is also categorically different from those idealists who think that society will get better only through social and economic means, through human ingenuity regardless or instead of the help of God. It is hard for them, I would think, to remain optimistic in the present situation in the world. The Christian optimism is based not on the temporal events of this world, which seem increasingly cruel and barbaric, but on the final defeat of evil and the restoration of justice only found in Christ Jesus.

For the Christian, hope is in Jesus Christ, who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 1:8). He is the only hope for all humankind—the ONLY hope. He is someone you can count on, especially when it appears that all is lost and the world thinks it is crushing our lives and spirits. Evil will, in fact, be crushed, and righteousness will prevail.

For that reason we are greatly encouraged and we have realistic hope, even in the face of persecution.

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


November 11, 2013

Negative Successes

One writer has suggested that we use the buffeting and temptations we encounter in the world as a way for toning-up the muscles of our faith (see Andree Seu, “What is the Victory?” World, June 7, 2003, 43). Toning-up the muscles of our faith is the theme of Hebrews 12:1-12. The “struggle against sin” in verse 4 has been taken by many to mean a struggle against one’s personal sins; however, if you take verse 3 into account (the opposition from sinful men), then verse 4 points more toward the meaning of overcoming the sins of the world or the sinful actions of men that seek to harm us, which press upon us as heavy weights. We can allow these weights to cause us to “grow weary and lose heart” (v. 3); or, we can use them as a means to tone-up our faith.

VOMClassroomSome may think of God’s “discipline” as some form of punishment when, in reality, the writer of Hebrews is referring to the external problems or hardships (v. 7) which are particularly heavy, rather than the hardship of suffering under one’s own sin. God allows these hardships to come to us for our good just as a father would allow a child to go through hardship as a discipline to prepare them for life, which has its hardships. The bottom line of this argument is found in verse 12—“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Use what comes your way as a way to strengthen your faith.

Richard Wurmbrand calls going through hardships and God’s discipline as “negative successes.” He observes:

“My brothers and sisters, you also must believe your lives are clay in the hands of a wonderful sculptor. He never makes a mistake. If He is sometimes hard on you it is because He sometimes has what we would call negative successes. He loses a pawn in order to win the chess game. He loses a battle in order to win a war. He causes His Son to endure suffering in order to save the world” (If Prison Walls could Speak, 18).

The idea of “negative successes” seems strange to our minds immersed as we are in the “success syndrome” of our society. It means that we may suffer temporal losses to gain a heavenly crown. The world comes close to the idea of “negative successes” by saying that we should “choose our battles.” There are some battles (hardships, pain, and persecution) that we won’t resist because we are preparing to win the final one. We will suffer the momentary pain or hurt to win the spiritual war through Christ over pain and death.

Losing a battle is not something we can easily accept in our minds. Mindy Belz, in an article titled “Wins and Losses,” observes that “Christianity after all, is the only religion that doesn’t play to win” (World, April 21, 2012, 34)—at least, not yet. She quotes G. K. Chesterton about the Christian faith: “It is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all conquerors.”

We can tone up our muscles by allowing God to discipline us through negative successes. It will be painful but it is not in vain. We win, although in the meantime we may take a beating or suffer persecution. We can use these negative successes to tone-up the muscles of our faith.

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


October 17, 2013

OKWU Offers One-Week Class on Persecuted Church

“Preparation for underground work begins by studying sufferology, martyrology.”

—Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), Founder of VOM

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) partner together to offer mini-term courses within OKWU’s Global Studies program.

OKWU_Campus
The beautiful campus of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
The mini-term courses offer some of the curriculum from OKWU's award-winning Global Studies major (also known as the Persecuted Church Ministries major), providing advanced learning in the areas of Christian persecution and biblical response to worldwide suffering.

Each one-week mini-term offers an intensive, three-credit-hour, advanced college course that takes place on the campus of OKWU in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The course also includes a service project with VOM at the ministry’s Bartlesville headquarters. The total cost of the program is $600, including academic credits, housing, books and meals on the campus of OKWU. Academic credit can be transferred to other academic institutions.

Here’s what previous mini-term students have said about their experience:

“Not only was I able to gain valuable information about Christian response to secular powers but I also had a great time meeting new people!”

—Cynthia C, Florida

“The faculty members facilitated a great learning environment. The God and Government class stretched my mind and challenged many of my preconceived ideas concerning God and secular Government. The instructor guided the class through scripture and academics as he enabled us to form more than just opinions on matters at hand. The university that I attend accepted the transfer of OKWU's credits without any hesitation. I would recommend the class to anyone able to take it.”

—Aaron L, Louisiana

“The mini term was an intense course, yet with a heart-felt worship session drenched in biblical truth, countless hours spent in the word of God, essays after essays, debates, and unforgettable fellowships; it was a week very well spent with my brothers and sisters. The historical and theological studies of the topic “God and government” with Dr. Jarmola helped me find the answers to my questions as a Christian service member, and further brought me to my knees in worship to the Lord in His sovereignty.”

—Jeff K, New York

OKWU will offer the “God and Government” mini-term course Dec. 28, 2013 through Jan. 4, 2014. Click here to apply for the mini-term program, or send an email requesting more information.


October 16, 2013

How Do We Confront Evil in the World?

“Wars and rumors of wars.”  These words are a painful reality for many. Most of us not in hostile areas are so inundated with the devastation of war and terrorism on television that, after a while, we want to push it away, hoping that it will disappear. Unfortunately, it is our daily dose of reality, and it does not look like it is going to end. Because we care about people, we feel the pain of injured humanity as though we were experiencing it ourselves.

Those intensely involved in support and ministry to the persecuted church are not immune to the emotional pain of seeing human suffering. Christian workers around the world are eyewitnesses to social upheaval and often the tragic aftermath. Sometimes they suffer because of being targeted by radical forces, like churches in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Egypt. Life and work must go on, often persistently working in the middle of or around devastation. They keep going on in spite of the threat to personal safety.

VOMClassroomAt a soccer match in Manila I talked to a proud parent of one of the soccer players. As a missionary in Vietnam, he raised most of his family while the war was going on. He said that he knew how to avoid trouble and managed to stay in Vietnam almost to the end of the conflict. He and his family not only survived but flourished in the middle of this deadly arena. Instead of lamenting about their difficulties and wishing they could find relief from the possibility of pain and death, they found ways of continuing in ministry.

Guns and bombs do not tell the whole story.

Without detracting from the difficulties and concrete realities of armed conflicts, there is the need to remind ourselves of a deeper and, in many ways, more significant struggle. This struggle is against the very powers that incite hostilities. Conflict and wars, we are told in the Book of James, come from within the hearts of people. It is ultimately a spiritual problem.

This makes it even more deadly. It is not just our bodies that are placed in the line of fire; it is our souls as well. Our struggle against illusive and unseen powers is serious, painful, and sometimes deadly. There are casualties, and eternal destinies are at stake.

Christians should not be confused about how to engage these forces in spiritual combat. Confronting evil through prayer is the primary method used by God's people through the ages. Confrontational prayer stems from the refusal to be hindered, overcome or defeated by our spiritual adversaries. Sincere, earnest, persistent prayer beats back deadly evil.

David Wells, in an article "Prayer: Rebelling against Status Quo" (Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader. Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1982, 124) writes that we should not accept the world in its present form. Our refusal to accept the condition of the world as "normal" should lead us to fight with spiritual weapons (125). Wesley L. Duewel, in his very powerful book Touch the World through Prayer, encourages us to develop a determined spirit in facing spiritual conflict. We are not to be defensive but we should attack evil through prayer until it is defeated or at least flees from our presence (Wesley L. Duewel, Touch the World Through Prayer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986, 209, 176).

Perhaps it is time to seriously consider our role in the unseen but real war of the spirit.

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


September 30, 2013

Behind Enemy Lines

Throughout history, Christians have utilized persecution as an avenue for ministry. Persecution can place us in situations where we would not normally be or want to be. When we are put in prison or taken to court for our faith, we have a venue that is not normally ours to utilize. We are thrust behind enemy lines where we can minister. Erwin McManus writes in The Barbarian Way: If Christ has won our heart, he will lead us “to advance forward behind enemy lines to win the hearts of those who do not yet know Him or love Him” (Barbarian, 13-14).

Bianca Adler, in her book Serving God in Hostile Territory, tells of a situation in Romania when she had to decide how much risk she was willing to take to share the gospel. Pastor Wurmbrand wanted to evangelize the Russian troops who had invaded their country. Bianca was a young, vulnerable girl who had heard the reputation of these troops and how they treated women and girls. She was, however, willing to take the risk and, even though she was caught many times, she was never harmed nor was her material ever confiscated. VOMClassroom

A benefit of opposition is profound dependence on God that drives us to prayer. In Acts 4, Peter and John were summoned to appear before the Sanhedrin, the highest and most powerful legal body in Judaism in the time of Jesus. They gave a clear testimony to the gospel, resulting in them being threatened but then let go. Their report caused the church to go to prayer for more boldness. The place where they were meeting began to shake as the Holy Spirit filled it.

Opposition can scatter the church, forcing it to go out among the nations to preach the gospel. In Acts 8, it says that great persecution broke out on the church in Jerusalem, and Christians “were scattered throughout all of Judea and Samaria.” Those who were scattered preached the gospel everywhere they went! Churches were formed, including Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas were called and commissioned to be missionaries.

Nobel Alexander, a Christian prisoner in Cuba, describes how Cuban prison officials decided to break the back of Christianity in the prison by transferring members of the prison church to other prisons, figuring that the dispersion would destroy their unity. However, as a result of the forced dispersion, nine new prison churches were started in various prisons where Christians were transferred. What the prison officials meant for evil became a blessing when God turned apparent defeat into glorious victory (I Will Die Free, 100).

The persecuted church in this situation is able to work among those who persecute them in a way that they only can do. Our prayers support their ministry behind enemy lines.

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.