The book of Acts tells us of the Early Christians and those who didn’t like them. There was once a guy named Saul who was a devout Jew who believed that Christians were abominations of the Jewish faith and should be taught a lesson. He beat, tortured, and killed Christians. He busted into home churches and dragged out families of Christians to be executed in front of the whole town.
One day a man named Stephen, who was one of Jesus’ best missionaries, was caught by Saul and was forced to go on trial for the “horrible lies” he was telling about Jesus. Stephen, full of the holy spirit, gave a really compelling speech reminding the Jews that in their long history with God they would always rebel and didn’t listen to God when they should have. Stephen basically told them that when they killed Jesus Christ, who was sent by God, they had done it again: they betrayed and murdered the gift that came from God.
The Jewish leaders who had put Stephen on trial (including Saul) freaked out and in a rage threw rocks at Stephen until he was dead.
Now, we could focus on the horrible things that happened to Stephen and the people that Saul killed in his efforts to cleanse Israel of Christians. But instead I suggest we focus on what happened after Stephen was killed:
Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:2-5) Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phonecia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to Hellenists [Greeks] also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19-21)
Did you notice what I noticed? The Christians just buried one of the most loved leaders in the church, and Saul was out to get every single Christian he could find and throw them in jail. But those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Persecution wasn’t going to stop Jesus’ followers from spreading the good news. In fact, studies have shown that persecution is the reason that the Gospel spread so far and wide! (You can find out more about it here). Because these brave men and women were chased out of their hometowns and forced to run to far away lands the Good News of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire. A great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Right now, as modern Christians living in North America, we don’t experience persecution in the same way Early Christians did then. I firmly believe that this is why modern North American Christians are complacent about Missions. It’s easy to go to church in the mornings, sing worship songs at the top of your lungs, and have open conversations about faith in public areas.
But consider this: What if you were considered an outsider for being a Christian? What if you would get fired for being a Christian? What if you would get beaten and tortured for being a Christian? Would you want to give the Gospel to your friends and invite them to share the same fate as you?
Here are some stories of men, women, and kids who have answered YES:
Kids of Courage tells stories of kids and youth who are persecuted for their decisions to follow Jesus
Kim Jung Wook, imprisoned in North Korea Monica, Fatu and Esther, Nigerian women whose Christian husbands were killed.
Paez Christians, a Columbian group of people who defied their tribal leaders.
Shafia, a Pakistani woman who loves Jesus.
You can learn more at Voice of the Martyrs, where these video clips were published. You can also click here for a map of countries where sharing the gospel is dangerous.
It might be interesting to know that Saul, the biggest persecutor of Christians, had a vision from God in Acts 9 and becomes a Christian.God changes his name to Paul and he goes on to write thirteen books in the New Testament, including Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc… just to name a few!
The Jesus we know and love offers salvation to all, and because of it the Gospel we bring to the world is a dangerous one. When the Holy Spirit calls you to share the Good News, no matter how dangerous it is, answer the call! The rewards that come from preaching about Jesus are infinitely more than the temporary discomforts of this world.