Recently I was reminded of the struggles of people during the Soviet Union. The oppression of those who wished to actually serve God according to the Holy Scriptures and preach what the Holy Spirit had led them to preach was quite staggering. In the Soviet Union each sermon had to be approved by the state, any swaying from that could lead to immediate trouble.
The Soviet Union was not alone in this regard, even with the fall of the Soviet Union, now Putin has reinstated laws that require a Christian to be licensed in order to hand out religious literature or witness to another person. Everything must be within the organized religions setup within Russia. However, China is much more repressive than Russia is, with a strong underground Church movement.
“We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29b
In any country were there is oppression against Believers, understand that many people are carted off to prisons, camps or put into mental institutions, some will die, others will be maimed or permanently damaged. Those who are arrested for such offenses know that it is worthy to be in trouble for the cause of following the Lord. They realize that suffering persecution is part of being a Believer.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the Word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My Word, they will keep yours also.” John 15:18-20
“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers on account of My name.” Luke 21:12
“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became mighty in battle, turned to flight the armies of foreigners. Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and floggings, yes, and of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tried, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, oppressed; of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having borne witness through faith, did not obtain the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made complete apart from us.” Hebrews 11:32-40
These things are nothing new. Men and women who look toward their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, witnessing to others, telling others about Jesus. Pastors who hold underground Churches so they can freely speak that which they have been led to preach. Those who smuggle Bibles and tracts, trying to get the Gospel to the lost, so they too might be Saved. Believers who put their life on the line to serve Him who Saved them.
“For he who has died has been justified from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives unto God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:7-11
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2nd Corinthians 5:17
Around the country many churches would become stirred up emotionally watching a movie, hearing from a missionary or a history lesson from a traveling evangelist regarding those who have been or are a martyr for the sake of the Gospel. For most though these stories are something that others do, while they will agree that they are noteworthy, there is no necessity seen in the United States.
Here in the land of the free and home of the brave, each Christian has the opportunity to freely speak about the Gospel with very little threat of oppression or persecution, aside from the name calling. Imagine those who are suffering in a Chinese prison for the Gospel, if they realized that Americans could go door to door or freely talk to their neighbor about Jesus, but they won’t. In America we have the freedom to spread the Gospel or simply to just be a witness through our conversation, unfortunately this rarely happens.
How long before our window of opportunity is closed in this country too? Do you not think that would ever happen? Well the days are coming and perhaps those of us who are actually Believers will be taken Home prior, but you can see the writing on the wall, eventually it will not be safe to preach the Gospel in America either. When that time comes perhaps instead of sorrow there will actually be rejoicing.
How you say? Looking at the history of those who have suffered for the sake of the Gospel, generally freedom and prosperity equates to what you see in our society and oppression and persecution yields the fruits of the Believers in a country where there is an iron grid against such things. In persecuted countries sinners get Saved, in free countries often times the focus is on the world.
“Set your mind on things above, not on the things of the earth; for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2-3
For those of you who are Believers, are you doing as the Lord leads? Are you living a life that is a testimony to those who are lost and on their way to Hell? Do your neighbors know you are a Christian, how about your coworkers or even your family? Have you ever shared the Gospel with anyone? If you are ashamed to tell others about your Salvation, imagine those who do it under the threat of being secretly whisked away in the middle of the night. For you, someone might say something mean or they might not like you, for others it might be their life.