Victorious in Suffering
By Randy Hurst
Apr. 7, 2013
The people pictured on the opposite page are our brothers and sisters — members of the AG in northeastern Congo.
They live in a refugee camp and worship in an open field. They have no church building. Their homes are makeshift hovels.
Before escaping to the camp, their lives were affected by horrific, ongoing violence, mass rape and murder. They are among hundreds of thousands of Congolese who have been displaced.
Across northeastern Congo, rebel groups invade villages and homes, terrorizing people through unspeakable cruelty. Children are abducted and forced to serve in the ongoing civil war. Since the conflict began in 1998, an estimated 5.4 million people have died from the effects these relentless attacks and the malnutrition, disease and brokenness these invasions have caused.
The extent of the mass murders and sexual violence for which the rebel groups are responsible is incalculable. Western media, however, have grossly underreported or virtually ignored this major crisis.
Yet even in their great suffering, the spiritual victory of these African believers is poignantly evident in their joyful worship.
Jesus made it clear that suffering is part of following Him.
But having a clear perspective on the suffering church throughout the world is a challenge for Christians in the United States. With the freedoms we enjoy in our own nation, it is hard to identify with believers who live in countries where the church is repressed and even persecuted.
Addressing the subject of suffering in the American church context also requires dealing with the unbiblical extremes of “health and wealth” teaching. In recent decades, many American Christians have happily adopted beliefs that those who have enough faith can live in pain-free prosperity. Suffering has no place in that picture.
Regardless of motive, partial or distorted truth is still essentially untrue. And to tell followers of Christ who are suffering unjustly for His name that their suffering is caused by a lack of faith is to add appalling insult to undeserved injury.
In many parts of the world, political and religious extremists of all kinds turn against Christians and the church with hostility and even violence. As believers follow the Lord in obedience, their faith and lifestyles will be in direct contrast to worldly, political ideologies and pagan religions.
Jesus promised that His followers would suffer. If our hearts reflect the heart of our Lord, we will be aware of suffering believers and care enough to do all we can to help them … identifying with those who are our spiritual family.
We must and will speak out and do all we can to defend the human rights of Christians who are violated, and we will pray for the release of those who are imprisoned. We will also pray that God will sustain them as they endure and glorify Christ, even in their suffering.
Mehdi Dibaj, an AG pastor in Iran who was martyred for his faith in 1994, said, “It is a terrible waste for a Christian to die a natural death.” That statement is very difficult for us to understand and even harder to accept. But, Dibaj’s words echo Hebrews 11:35: “Others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection” (NASB).
As we pray for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world, we must trust God’s wisdom, grace, power and unfathomable love for all who suffer for His name. He will accomplish His purposes and enable His faithful servants to be victorious in suffering.
RANDY HURST is director of AGWM Communications.
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