Some reports say 100 million Christians face persecution today, and about 100,000 die for their faith each year. Some are burned alive, beheaded, crucified, tortured, and even locked in metal shipping containers—all for what they believe about Jesus. We recall, of course, that Jesus said His followers could expect to suffer because of him. As horrible as persecution is, a side benefit is that it tends to draw God’s people together and increase their faith and love for each other; ironically, suffering often leads to the growth of the church. The Apostle Paul, in his 2nd letter to believers at Thessalonica (chapter 1), comforted them in their severe persecution: “Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you. Because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering.” Today we pray that persecution as some Christians are enduring never reaches our country. But if and when it does, perhaps then we will be drawn into a closely knit fellowship, and our faith in Christ and love for each other will increase.
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