We are told that many Western missionary organizations pull their workers out of a place as soon as there is any sight of trouble. Advance will be very slow with such a mentality! If self-preservation is so important then there is no point going in the first place. God is always looking for children who are willing to die for Him if necessary. The countries in the Back to Jerusalem vision do not welcome the Gospel and there will be certain trouble when anyone attempts to take it to them. All the way through the Bible there was trouble when God’s people proclaimed the truth. Elijah was called the “troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17). When Paul and Silas appeared before the authorities in Philippi their accusers said they “are throwing our city into an uproar.” (Acts 16:20). Indeed as you read through the Book of Acts it seems every time Paul preached the Gospel there was one of two reactions: revival or riot!
We understand that there is a time for caution and a time to escape, such as when the Apostle Paul was placed inside a basket and lowered over the Damascus city wall to escape those who wished to kill him (see Acts 9:22-25).
But there is also a time when Christians should march forward regardless of danger. Consider the courageous words of the Apostle Paul when he said,
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:22-24).
Making trouble is inevitable for any believer who truly wants to obey God. Anyone who wants to avoid conflict and maintain the status quo will not achieve much for the Lord. The structures that keep countless millions of people enslaved to sin and Satan must be confronted before they will crumble, and when you confront evil there will always be trouble.
This is the main reason house church Christians in China have been persecuted for decades. They are not persecuted just because of their faith in God. If they chose, they could all settle down in a Three-Self Church, worship God each Sunday, and live relatively stress free lives as long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and don’t try to share them with others.
The reason house church Christians are arrested and imprisoned in China is because they cannot keep still. They cannot possibly keep their mouths shut because Jesus has revealed Himself to them and they have been radically changed from the inside out. They understand how the prophet Jeremiah felt when he said, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)
Western Christians often ask us why we think there is persecution in China and other countries and not in the West. There are several different things to say about this, but one question we would like to ask is this: “Do you boldly preach the truth of God’s Word to sinners inside and outside your churches?”
If you do, you will soon find out there is persecution wherever you are. “Those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). This Scripture does not say “might” be persecuted, but “will” be persecuted. If you are not being persecuted, the problem isn’t with God’s Word. Perhaps the question should be asked, “Are you truly desiring to live a godly life in Christ Jesus?” Persecution may take a different form in one country from another, but there will be persecution.
As the Back to Jerusalem vision unfolds, we know there will be many troubles, but “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones; not one of them will be broken.” Psalm 34:19-20
The Muslim and Buddhist nations can torture us, imprison us, starve us, but they can do no more than what we have already experienced in China for many decades. Thousands of young men and women will go as missionaries who are not afraid to die for Jesus. They are not afraid to bleed, as they know their bodies are merely temporary tents to be used in the Lord’s service and that one day they will be in paradise where there is no pain and no tears. They are not only ready to die for the Gospel, they are expecting it.
So true, yet something we seldom hear in the Church today! For more of my thoughts on missions and persecution, see Christianity and Idealism. Also, my friend Zach has written some extremely thought-provoking stuff on this topic and his case against secrecy in missions here. I think it’s only when we keep the eternal perspective in mind will we be able to face persecution without fear.