We are living in a time of unprecedented persecution of Christians in the Middle East and around the world. The Lord Jesus warned His disciples that they would be persecuted, and that persecution would intensify as the time of His return drew near. Today, we are seeing His prophecies come to pass as never before.
Recently, my friend, Tom Doyle, published an important book titled, Killing Christians: Living The Faith Where It’s Not Safe ToBelieve. Tom not only describes the general wave of brutality against Christ-followers worldwide; he also tells specific, personal stories of believers boldly standing for their Savior — and courageously proclaiming the Gospel of forgiveness and eternal life — amidst such persecution.
This is one of the most intriguing conundrums of our time: the Church is actually growing amidst martyrdom. More and more people around the world are being drawn into a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus the Messiah not despite of such persecution but because of it. It’s happening in Communist-controlled China where the Church has grown from maybe 250,000 in the 1970s to upwards of 100 million believers today. It’s happening in the Middle East, where millions of Muslims have turned to Christ amidst brutal persecution in Iran and Saudi Arabia and ISIS controlled territories.
I would encourage you to read Tom’s book, and to share it and discuss it with family and friends. As you do, please pray for persecuted Christians here in the epicenter and around the world, that the Lord would continue to bless and strengthen and embolden men and women and boys and girls who are facing grave danger for preaching and teaching and living the Word of God and serving as lights in the spreading darkness.
For now, here is an article Tom wrote specifically for my blog, drawing on material he wrote for the book. I hope you find it helpful. I certainly have.
House church leaders sentenced to Iran’s infamous Evin prison
Eighty Christians murdered in North Korea for merely owning a Bible
Believers nailed to crosses in Syria
And that’s the news from just one month in 2014.
After that, it got really bad. In summer 2014, a shocked world witnessed the phenomenal rise of ISIS, now known as the Islamic State. Within weeks, a path of destruction swept through Syria and Iraq, leaving unimaginable carnage in its wake. The brutality of ISIS and its global jihadist agenda is reminiscent of the Assyrian Empire in the Old Testament. The Assyrians leveled villages and cities with such ferocity that, in the eighth century BC, the mere mention that Assyrians were on their way prompted some villages to commit mass suicide rather than be skinned alive, impaled, taken as slaves, or allow women to be abused and kidnapped. In a fascinating twist of history, ISIS was birthed in the same region as the Assyrians, and one of the organization’s major objectives is now clear: to eradicate any presence of Christianity.
But ISIS is not alone in its quest against biblical faith. Christianity is under fire across the globe. Jesus lovers are hated in dozens of countries and often pay a gruesome price for following Him. Killing fields have become common, but Killing Christians isn’t written to sound the alarm for the persecuted church. Others have already sent out the alert, and thankfully, many are listening. What the alarms can’t tell you, though, is the inside human cost of following Jesus in the twenty-first century.
That’s why these stories were written. It would be easy to conclude from the acceleration of Christian persecution that followers of Christ are on the run and are systematically being crushed by the forces of Islamic terrorism, fanatical dictators, and hostile nations. Yet the opposite is actually true.
Jesus said His followers would experience persecution for merely being associated with Him. He also predicted an escalation of intensity over time. On the night before He went to the cross, Jesus spelled out the details: “They will put you out of the synagogue: in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2).
Whether it’s in Somalia, Syria, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia, a new Jesus movement is erupting around the world, and persecuted believers are leading the way. They have been given a gift from God that most of us would not want: the ability to endure enormous suffering and emerge even stronger. Church leaders in obscure places—outposts for the faith—are fully aware that passionately following Jesus has them on a collision course with hardship. They will be beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and maimed. Some will be killed. But unfazed, they move forward, in love with Jesus Christ.
Malik, a Christ follower from the Middle East, once told me: “Every Christian should go to jail at least once in life because of their faith in Christ. It’s good for you!”
Can you relate to that? This former Muslim adds: “You’ll never be the same after experiencing the loneliness of a jail cell. But then there is great elation that comes when you realize Jesus is capable of filling 100 percent of that loneliness—and more. My deepest spiritual lessons were learned on the cold floor with no one there… but Jesus and me.”
Will persecution come to America? Maybe. If it does, remembering stories of those who have already endured and emerged faithful just may be a lifeline for you. And if persecution does not come upon the church in America, you may need these stories even more. They will inspire you to live with renewed passion for Jesus. For sure, you won’t be able to read them and remain unmoved by these incredible true accounts.
So, is Christianity winning or losing? Killing Christians is written to tell stories of victory from the front lines of a war raging around Jesus’ church. The battle is fierce and not letting up.