One of the mission statements at Global Catalytic Ministries emphasizes thriving in persecution, rather than just surviving it. Regardless of our circumstances, whether we are well-fed or hungry, rich or poor, facing persecution or living in freedom, in the East or West, we can be content in Jesus and make disciples. This way of living is not only possible for every Christian but also critical.
The Western church tends to pity and feel grateful for their persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide. They feel sorry for those who are suffering but are grateful that they themselves are not experiencing the same hardship. Interestingly, the persecuted church feels the same way about the church in the West.
It is natural for people to avoid pain, but the Bible teaches us that we are meant to thrive in persecution, not just survive it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake blessed, for they will inherit the kingdom of Heaven. He encourages persecuted believers to rejoice in their suffering because they will receive a great reward in Heaven. It is puzzling that so many Christians invest an excessive amount of effort in setting up a safe, comfortable life with minimal trials. This is not possible for a true Christian, and it is not Biblical. Instead, we are instructed to count it as joy when we face various trials. The book of James explains that we will receive earthly and eternal rewards for our suffering, including perseverance leading to maturity.
Observing the persecuted church provides evidence of the Biblical truth of thriving in persecution. The areas where the church faces the most severe backlash also tend to see the most growth. This is not coincidental but rather a Kingdom exchange, where we exchange our weakness for His strength. The persecuted church understands that in their suffering, they are becoming more like Jesus on Earth and earning a share of His eternal reward in Heaven. For the Christian, there is no greater joy than this.
It is essential to understand that we should not pursue persecution for its sake. Instead, we are to pursue Jesus with wild, brave, wholehearted abandon. When we embrace the Biblical understanding of persecution, we can pursue Jesus without hindrance or fear. By accepting that Christians will suffer and embracing the truth that suffering makes us blessed on Earth and in Heaven, we can follow God's calling on our lives. As a result, we can impact the world like the early church, with a faith that changes work places, cities, nations, and even generations. It is time for the global church to redefine its understanding of persecution, freeing ourselves to lay down our lives and serve Jesus no matter the cost.