A friend emailed me these scriptures and they got me thinking:
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.’”(Jeremiah 33:1-3, ESV)
The euphemistic sounding “court of the guard” was not a nice courtyard. It was a jail. Jeremiah was “shut up” in it. Dungeoned away.
God had called Jeremiah, the son of a priest, to a prophetic ministry early in life. Jeremiah’s perceived inability and youthfulness did not keep God from ordaining him to be his “prophet to the nations,” regardless of how inadequate Jeremiah felt. It would be a difficult and dangerous calling but God pledged himself to “be with you to deliver you,” therefore Jeremiah was not to be afraid of his enemies (Jeremiah 1:6-8).
As I read the first quoted verses about God showing Jeremiah great and mighty things he knew nothing about when he called on God in prayer, I thought of Pastor Saeed Abedini, and many other men and women similarly persecuted and imprisoned for their faith in Jesus.
They are not Jeremiah, but like Jeremiah, God has called them to a hard task: faithfully speaking forth the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a resistant, even hostile audience. But God has also promised to be with them wherever they go, even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:18-20).
We must not consider persecution and imprisonment for Jesus’s sake an anomaly. Suffering for Christ is not a strange phenomenon. It is part of being a follower of the true God and his son Jesus Christ. So it is not just the pastor Abedinis who are called to suffer: it is you and me. As a western Christian I have been trying to get my mind around that reality.
This lack of understanding about persecution for our faith being a part of the Christian life, is similar to my experience growing up in church and for the first 20 years of my life not recalling hearing about and nor giving thought to God’s care of and concern for the poor. Until I met someone who plainly understood it and could point it out to me in Scripture. It was everywhere in God’s Word! How had I missed it?!
When was the last time you heard a sermon or lesson on standing firm and fearless in the midst of persecution, as applied to ourselves and not a Bible character who lived thousands of years ago? Or even expecting persecution to come? In fact, when was the last time you were persecuted for your faith in Jesus?
I’ve asked myself these questions so don’t be offended at my asking you the same things. I’ll bet we’ve all made comments about it and had fears as to the coming persecution. I have. In Scripture, however, it is taken for granted that persecution will be part of our lives when we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” and we are told straight up not to fear. Jesus’s words to go into all the world and make disciples is for all his followers, not a select few.
I pray for deliverance for my brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith.
But I also pray for grace, and their daily strength to stand strong, and to forgive their enemies. I pray that Jesus will be more real to them, that they draw closer to him each day. And I pray that Jesus draw very close to them. I pray that they know his presence with them as surely as they know they inhale and exhale.
I also pray God use them powerfully in those neighborhoods and prisons to live out and speak the gospel to those who haven’t heard it. To those who are their mortal enemies. To those who are so very lost.
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Many of us have claimed for ourselves God’s promise to Jeremiah, I know I have. I don’t see a problem with that.
As long as we are also willing to wear Jeremiah’s mantle of suffering.
Or as Paul stated it: to fill up the sufferings of Christ.
He’s the same God today as he was then. And the way through dark times of persecution is the same as through any other difficulty in life: cling to and stand firm in the Word of God, live a life of prayer to the God of the Word, encourage and help one another, remembering our reason for being here: to honor, love and serve our King and Savior Jesus Christ, carrying his good news to the world.
God, help us to honor You.
It’s all there in the Book. Here are a few samples:
(Matthew 5:10-12;43-48; 10:14-39; 24:9-14; Romans 5:1-5; 8:16-18;31-39; 12:14, 17-21;15:30-33; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Cor. 1:5;8-11;4:1-18;7:5,6;11:23-28;Ephesians 5:8-21;6:10-20;Philippians 1:12-14;19-21;27-30; 3:10-11;4:1; Colossians 1:22-24;4:2-6, 10; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:1,2; 3:1-4, 7; 2 Thess. 1:4; 2: 1315; 3:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:8, 11-12 2:1-3, 8-13; 3:10-12; 4:1-8, 14-18; Hebrews 11; 12:1-7, 11; 13:3, 12-15, 18-19, 23; James 1:2-4, 12; 1 Peter 2:12, 21-23; 3:8-12, 13-16, 17; 4:1, 12-19; 5:6-11; 1 John 2:18; jude 17-25; Revelation 1:9; 2:7, 9-11, 13, 26; 3:8, 11; 22:12-21)
 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/