Some reliable reports say as many as 200 million Christians suffer persecution every year. They suffer because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Suffering comes in many ways: beheadings, torture, rape, kidnappings, mass killings, forced starvation, imprisonments, and even crucifixions. While we cringe in horror, and empathize with our Christian brothers and sisters, we recall Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 5, “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.” On another occasion Jesus told a would-be follower, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” In our attempt to make sure people understand that salvation is a free gift, based solely on God’s unmerited favor, we may leave the impression that the Christian life is easy. Yet beginning with Christ himself, the book of Acts, and all through history, especially during the first few centuries of the church age, Christians suffered much for their faith. Our Lord made it clear that following Him often takes courage. Yet we should never hesitate to remain faithful. That is because He suffers with us now, and guarantees a rich reward when this life is over.
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