Saturday, August 04, 2007

Response #6: Encourage Them

(The following is part of a series of "responses to the persecuted church" based on a sermon by Eric Schumacher at An Infant in a Cradle. As a preface to his sermon, Schumacher noted: "It is important that we hear these stories. However, hearing them is not enough. We are called to respond. So, I want to ask this question...: How do we respond to the persecuted church?" I'm breaking down his "ten responses to the persecuted church," listing his suggestions and adding my thoughts.)

6. Encourage them.

I can't even remember the last time I wrote a post in this series. And sadly, it's not because of a lack of material. The honest truth is, there are times when I am passionate about the persecuted church...and there are times when it is "out of sight, out of mind." I am selfish and lazy--not willing to put forth the simple effort to do what I need to write about in this post.

I don't know about you, but I love receiving mail. A personal email from a friend is met with great delight--heck, I even get excited about blog comments :) And real mail is even better! I can't help but smile to know that someone is thinking of me and cared enough to take time to write to me. Now imagine for a moment if you were in prison because of your faith. Tortured, beaten, cut off from contact with your family...imagine how dark life would feel at times. But imagine how encouraged you might be to receive a letter from a brother or sister in Christ, praying for you and urging you to stand firm. And imagine how much more it might blow your mind to receive such a letter from someone you don't even know--a complete stranger who took time to encourage you.

You or I can do that for our persecuted brothers and sisters. We can let them know that they are not alone, that they are not overlooked and forgotten. We can remind them of God's precious promises. We can be God's instruments, used to encourage their hearts and enable them to stand firm in what they know to be true.

I'm ashamed to admit that though I've known I could do that for years now, and have thought, "I should do that!" countless times...I've never actually followed through with the thought. There's always something else clamoring for my time and attention. But I knew (and I suppose that's part of the reason for the delay in the series) I couldn't write or publishing this post without being a hypocrite unless I walked the walk first.

So, just now I went over to VOM's and wrote a letter. They've made it incredibly simple--the site offers profiles with information about imprisoned Christians and a page where you can compose a letter in the prisoner's own language. You simply select from a long list of encouraging phrases and Scriptures and print it--adding a few lines of your own in English if you want. Stick it in the mail for less than a dollar (international postage for a standard-size letter is $.90 for most countries, I believe).

Schumacher, in addition to urging us to write to persecuted Christians, offers some thoughts about the importance of the Word of God in encouraging them:

Much of the New Testament, such as the books of Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, were written to encourage the suffering church to remain firm in their faith. We find many passages written and spoken for the purpose of encouraging persecuted Christians. (Romans 8:31-39 1 Peter 4:14 Matthew 5:11-12)

Close your eyes and imagine this situation. You and one hundred other Christians are arrested for your faith and imprisoned in a concentration camp. One morning you are all tied, beaten and then lined up on the ground. An officer with a rifle walks to the beginning of the line and begins shooting the prisoners in the back of the head one by one. You are about seventy-five people down the line. Within two minutes he will shoot you. As you lie there, blindfolded, hearing the shots ring out and people crying, you hear the man next to speaking to you, from memory:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21)
That would be encouraging, wouldn’t it? You see, books like Revelation were not written so that comfortable, persecution free American Christians could dispute timelines and enjoy a series of imaginative novels. ...The Bible was written by suffering Christians for suffering Christians to encourage them.
To summarize, there are two simple but important ways we can encourage our brothers and sisters:
  • Write to them. Show them that they are not forgotten; urge them to keep running their race with perseverance!
  • Support agencies that get them God’s Word. There is no better way for their faith to be strengthened than by reading about God and His promises.

What are you waiting for? Take five or ten minutes right now to write a letter to the persecuted church.

Previously in this series:
Response #1: Do Not Be Surprised
Response #2: Remember Them
Response #3: Research Them
Response #4: Pray for Them
Response #5: Have Generous Compassion on Them

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for making that so easy! I used to support VOM years ago, and like you said, out of sight, out of mind. We moved and I got off their mailing list, and just never got around to doing anything about it. Shameful, I know. But I sent a letter to Mr. Son and look forward to encouraging other saints who are suffering for our Lord.