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.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
Giving our bodies as a living sacrifice is a biblical mandate, but it can be ambiguous for many Christians in the Western world. The true meaning of surrendering our flesh and blood bodies as a sacrifice and withholding nothing, not even ourselves, is often misunderstood and disregarded by the non-persecuted church. As a result, this instruction is frequently overlooked and forgotten.
To the underground church, the verse from Romans is not merely a passing reference but the very bedrock upon which they construct their response to the suffering they endure. Christians residing in countries where they face severe persecution often experience physical and emotional abuse, rape, mutilation, torture, and even death. However, those who adhere to the principles of Romans 12 expect nothing less. To present one's body as a living sacrifice means surrendering control over one's fate. It is to find beauty in relinquishing the physical body for the sake of Christ, irrespective of the outcome. To be a living sacrifice implies placing oneself fully at God's disposal, being available and willing to comply with whatever God commands. In other words, the verse urges us to "present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship," emphasizing the importance of offering our physical selves to God as an act of worship.
In the Bible, we witness numerous instances of this verse being manifested through members of the early, persecuted church. Among these, the most significant example is that of Paul. Throughout the New Testament, he exemplified presenting his body as a living sacrifice, rendering him invulnerable. Despite being beaten, he glorified Christ. While imprisoned, he wrote letters that shook the world. And even when threatened with death, he rejoiced in the knowledge that he would soon be with Jesus. His body was simply a vessel for glorifying God and a sacrifice on the altar, akin to wood being kindled and smoke rising, producing a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The underground church has discovered his secret and is using it to become just as invincible.
It's noteworthy that the underground church, which endures the most intense persecution, is also witnessing the most rapid growth globally. When one recognizes that the worst that can happen to them is no more than what they've pledged to give, they have nothing to lose.
The underground church has learned to accept Romans 12 at face value and, by doing so, has attained a freedom that is only attainable through complete surrender.
It is imperative for the universal church to understand this same principle. If we choose to surrender ourselves now, we can be prepared when persecution strikes. We can learn to yield ourselves intimately, like Mary of Bethany, who broke the jar of perfume at Jesus' feet, indicating that she was willing to give everything to Him. We can also offer the same fragrant aroma of a living sacrifice even in the absence of persecution if we are willing to surrender our bodies, plans, finances, possessions, and entire beings to Christ's sake.
This is why, at Global Catalytic Ministries, one of our vision statements is, "We offer our bodies as living sacrifices, loving Him so much that nothing else matters. He is worth it all."
The acts of charity, kindness, and service performed by Christians, like those of other religions, are numerous and varied. A significant example of these acts is volunteering at local churches, food banks, and homeless shelters. Many Christians also donate money and resources to assist those who are in need, both in their local community and globally.
One of the foundational beliefs of Christianity is that all people are created equal and should be treated with dignity and respect in the eyes of God. This belief inspires many Christians to become involved in social justice initiatives, advocating for the rights of marginalized groups and working to tackle issues such as poverty, discrimination, and human trafficking.
Another significant aspect of Christian service is mission work, which involves traveling to other countries to share the gospel and help those in need. Missionaries may provide medical aid, construct homes and schools, and assist in disaster relief efforts.
Christians also support acts of charity through organizations like World Vision and Compassion International, which focus on alleviating global poverty and providing aid to children in need. Many Christians also sponsor children through these organizations, offering them essential resources such as food, education, and healthcare.
In addition, Christians serve their communities by offering counseling and support to those who are facing difficulties. Pastors, chaplains, and lay volunteers provide emotional and spiritual support to individuals and families who are going through tough times.
In conclusion, the acts of kindness and service performed by Christians demonstrate their strong commitment to their faith and their desire to make a positive impact in the world. Through volunteering, donating, or serving in mission work, Christians are dedicated to spreading love, compassion, and hope to those who are in need.