"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me." Matthew 5:11
When Jesus was with us He said that His followers would be persecuted. One of the great men I have had the privilege of meeting was a Lutheran pastor, Richard Wurmbrand. In 1945, when the communists seized his native land and tried to control the churches, Wurmbrand resisted, beginning an underground ministry to his people as well as the invading Russians. He was arrested in 1948, spent 14 years in prison and three years in solitary confinement, where he saw no one but his communist torturers.
After he was freed, Richard Wurmbrand wrote many books, including one in which he related: "I remember my last Sunday school class ... I took a group of 10 to 15 boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, ‘Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to suffer at the hands of men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now whether you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ.’"
Today, if I wanted to tell potential believers about the persecution they will encounter, I would take them to a laboratory, instead of a lion’s cage. I would let them look through a microscope at the billions of bacteria that are invisibly, unrelentingly prepared to invade and attack and destroy them from within. I would explain to them that Satan has prepared for them a private, personal persecution which will come to them when their resistance is low and they are weak. I would tell them that Jesus’ words are still true: persecution comes to those who follow Him.
Which might make you ask, “Why be a Christian?” The answer is simple: only Jesus can save us from sin, death, and Satan. Born in Bethlehem, Jesus lived His life fulfilling the laws we could not keep. He swam through the temptations that sweep us away. Carrying our sins, Jesus was betrayed, beaten, nailed to a cross, and left to die. But Jesus also rose and showed to all who believe that the hope of heaven is a reality. Why be a Christian? How could we not love Him, who loved us so very much?
Excerpt from The Lutheran Hour sermon preached November 7, 2004
THE PRAYER: Gracious God, You are the giver of all good things. Thank you for loving me so much that You sacrificed Your Son. Open my eyes to all the blessings in my life, and help me to share the joy of knowing You. Amen.