Project Prayer: Ramadan 2016 - Day 28

Gary Fallesen

Project Prayer: Ramadan 2016 - Day 28

Day 28: Blessed are the persecuted

By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
 

 


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:10 (ESV)

When flesh is put to words, no matter how well-intentioned those words might be (and nothing can have better intentions than the Beatitudes), they take on real meaning. They are brought to life.

For most reading “blessed are those who are persecuted,” there may be a disconnect. Unless you are one of the 200 million Christians living under persecution. Unless you are living in one the 50 worst countries in which to be a Christian.

“Islamic extremism remains by far the most common driver of persecution: in eight out of the top 10, and 35 out of the top 50 countries, it is the primary cause,” according to Open Doors, a ministry that serves the persecuted and maintains the “World Watch List.”

“A rise in Islamic extremism sees Pakistan at its highest position ever (at No. 6), and Libya entering the top ten for the first time.”

But these are still statistics. Numbers. Words. A disconnect.

One Climbing For Christ member from Pakistan reads Matthew 5:10 and says: “This verse is perfect to give us strength to bear the persecution.

“In this verse Jesus tells us very clearly that the persecuted will get the kingdom of heaven. Persecution is a blessing for the believer. Because all of the disciples also faced persecution.

“But as they were facing persecution, they were praising the Lord (even more).”

Our brother, who has endured years of persecution while boldly proclaiming Jesus in his country, points to these verses:

 

 

  • “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” — Acts 7:59 (KJV)
  • “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” — Acts 5:41 (KJV)

“We are also praising the Lord that we are facing persecution,” our brother says. “By the persecution we learn to love our enemy. Because if we do the same like them, then we have no love of Jesus Christ.

“We should forgive our enemies and pray for them. If we do this, we are blessed. Jesus is our Savior. We praise the Lord.”

Again, these may be difficult words for us to swallow. But not for Gracia Burnham, a wife and mother of three who served the Lord through New Tribes Mission in the Philippines. That’s where, in May 2001, as she and her husband Martin celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary they were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf. (Abu Sayyaf, which means “Bearer of the Sword,” is an Islamic terror group in the Philippines with ties to Al-Qaeda.)

For more than one year — and through 16 botched rescue attempts by the Philippine military — this couple was held captive. On the 17th attempt to free the Burnhams, Martin was killed and Gracia wounded. But they were freed.

“People have called Martin a martyr,” Gracia tells a Voice of the Martyrs gathering in the book, The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam. Author Eliza Griswold continues:  “For Gracia, losing Martin in the jungle was not about heroic martyrdom. His death was merely something all Christians need to be prepared to do: to ‘give up everything for the Lord and be willing to die for Him if need be,’ she said. ‘There’s no safe or easy way to be a follower of Christ.’

“She had survived her tribulation, in part by loving her captors and herself enough to forgive both their petty mortal failings. She’d focused on their shared humanity.”

 

 

That truth is hard for some of us to grasp: we — persecuted and persecutors alike — have been created by the same God. We all need the love and redemption found only in Jesus Christ.

 

Pray for the persecuted that they may be blessed to bless their enemies so all may enter the kingdom of heaven.


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