|Chinese Christians Interceding for America|
A friend of mine was a missionary in China for two years. He told me that the Chinese Christians pray for the church in America on a regular basis, but this is how they pray. They pray that we will be strengthened and sifted by persecution. That is not how most of us want them to pray. Why would they pray that way?
The Bible clearly portrays persecution as a blessing. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake... Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt. 5:10,12).
"Blessed?" "Rejoicing? "Gladness?" We do not usually associate these words with persecution. To us this subject is entirely negative. However, the church in China has been greatly persecuted and they have experienced the benefit. They want us to share in their joy.
So, what are the benefits of persecution? First, it purifies the church of religious people. Religious people go to church for various reasons, but the primary one is not allegiance to the Lordship of Christ. These are the pharisees of the modern world. They are generally apathetic, unmotivated, confident in their own virtues, and feel little need for Christ. When the world turns up the heat of persecution to avoid rejection or suffering they compromise or abdicate.
However, for some modern pharisees persecution becomes a converting experience. It motivates many of the lukewarm to white-hot zeal. It turns them towards God. That is the second benefit of persecution.
The third benefit of persecution is that it produces a sharp demarcation between the church and the world.
A fourth benefit of persecution is that it puts secondary doctrines in perspective. Our unity is not around the timing of baptism or a model of church government. It is a around the gospel. The world will not persecute us for our views about secondary issues. It is the gospel that they hate. Therefore, persecution forces us to unify around what really matters.
Fifth, persecution produces joy. "They [the apostles] left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:41). If increased persecution or restriction of religious liberty should come, may each of us experience this joy for ourselves.
Maybe the triumph of Obama and the liberal left is an answer to the prayers of our brothers and sisters in China? Only time will tell. In the meantime, don't fear persecution, look to it expectantly, as a source of great benefit.