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.”
“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.