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REMEMBERING CHRISTIANS WHO ARE PERSECUTED –
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2008
Tonight is New Year’s Eve. I can think of nothing better, or more important to preach on this evening than Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s favorite text. Pastor Wurmbrand spent 14 years in a Romanian concentration camp, several of those years in solitary confinement. When he was miraculously released by the Communists, he came to the United States and founded “The Voice of the Martyrs,” which continues to send Bibles, literature, and other help to those who live under deep persecution in many parts of the world. Hebrews 13:3 was Pastor Wurmbrand’s favorite verse of Scripture. Please turn to this verse in Hebrews 13:3. Let us stand and read the text together.
“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).
You may be seated. The word “bonds” means those Christians who are bound in chains, in prison for their faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us to remember those in prison for their faith as though we were in prison with them. Then he tells us we should also remember those who are being mistreated and tortured for their faith in Christ, as though we ourselves were tortured and mistreated with them.
On New Year’s Eve, many people in the Western world sing “Auld Lang Syne,” a song that causes them to remember friends and relatives who have died in past years. It is good for us to do that. I always call to mind the memory of a young man I went to high school with back in the 1950s. He was a close friend. When I transferred to another high school I lost contact with him. I didn’t realize the pain and mental agony he was going through until I heard that he had taken a gun, placed the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He died instantly. He was 18 years old. Every New Year’s Eve I take a few moments to think of him, and I always deeply regret that I wasn’t there to help him when he experienced the mental agony that led to his suicide.
But there are millions of Christian brothers and sisters who are experiencing mental and physical torment in prison, in many parts of the world. And there are thousands of other Christians tonight, in far off lands, who are being mistreated and tortured for their faith in Christ. The Apostle tells us that we should remember them, as though we are suffering with them. The Apostle said,
“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body [with them].”
We ought to feel solidarity with all those Christians who are being mistreated for their faith in Christ. And we ought to pray for them.
We are going to do that tonight. We are going to pray at the end of this sermon for those who are undergoing terrible persecution in other parts of the world. But we are not just going to pray for them. We are going to raise some money here tonight to help some of them. We want to raise $1,000 for a courageous pastor who runs a Bible school to train pastors in Indonesia. He translates my sermons into Indonesian. His translations of my sermons go out on our website to Indonesia each week. He translates these Christian sermons at great risk to himself and his family because Indonesia is 90% Muslim. Thousands of Indonesians read my sermons in that land. Indonesia is the fifth largest nation on earth and it is dominated by a vast majority of Muslims. Our Indonesian translator puts his family, and his own life, in mortal danger by translating my hard-hitting sermons into the Indonesian language – making them available on the world-wide Internet to Christians and Muslims alike each week.
We want to send our Indonesian translator $1,000 to help his school, which is training native pastors to spread the Gospel and start churches in the dangerous land of Indonesia. We need to raise $1,000 for him tonight, to help him train pastors in his Bible college, and evangelize Indonesia.
Whatever comes in the offering you give above $1,000 will be divided. Half will be sent to The Voice of the Martyrs to help them spread the Gospel in lands where Christians are suffering and dying for Christ. The other half will be sent to Louisiana Baptist University, to help them train native pastors around the world. This also is a great missionary enterprise and is worthy of our support. So, all the money you give tonight will be used to help train native pastors and help suffering Christians who are being persecuted in far off lands.
No matter how bad the economy is in America during the economic recession we are experiencing, we in the United States are still fabulously wealthy compared to those in Indonesia, and those that the Voice of the Martyrs are helping world-wide, and the pastors who are being trained online by Louisiana Baptist University to preach the Gospel in their own persecuted countries. The offering you give tonight will go entirely to these worthy causes.
As I have often said, the greatest revivals are happening in what is often called the “Third World” – the parts of the world where your money will be used wisely by faithful men to bring the Gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world. Please give a generous offering to these worthy projects. That is a practical way to remember those that are in prison, and others who are suffering, and are being mistreated, and often tortured for their faith in Christ. We must do all we can to help the suffering churches and persecuted Christians in those far off lands where God is moving so wonderfully in revival at this time in history. Let us stand with them, remember them, pray for them, and give them a good offering to encourage them and help them in their task of reaching those who have never known Christ. Thank you.
Here are some of the countries we need to help financially, and continue to pray for. The following quotations are taken, abbreviated, and edited from two issues of The Voice of the Martyrs, founded by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. These accounts are from the December, 2008 The Voice of the Martyrs, and from a special Christmas issue of The Voice of the Martyrs. I have given excerpts only, and have edited some of the material from these two articles of VOM for the sake of brevity. If you would like to receive The Voice of the Martyrs magazine in your home, you can contact them at (800)747-0085, or you can write to them at The Voice of the Martyrs, P.O. Box 443, Bartlesville, Oklahoma 74005. We encourage you to subscribe to this wonderful magazine, and we encourage you to send at least a small offering directly to them from time to time.
Here are some of the edited reports from those two editions given concerning the persecution of Christians in those lands where the Gospel is being attacked tonight.
From Colombia, South America
[A Colombian pastor Manuel and his family are] under intense pressure. Since the attack on their church building [by guerillas] Manuel and his wife were kidnapped…and held for several hours. His co-pastor was murdered. The threatening letters and phone calls continue, with sometimes seven calls in one day. He moved the location of his church three times. Strangers attend his church services, and he believes they are there to watch him. [But Manuel and his family go on preaching the Gospel because] they know God will never leave them, even in the valley of the shadow of death (The Voice of the Martyrs, Special Issue 2009, p. 4).
From North Korea
I am ashamed to confess that before becoming a [Christian] I was one of many who let my children starve to death in order to survive. After my two sons died, I wandered aimlessly through life without purpose. Then Jesus found me…Without Christ, life is not worth living. This is why we will continue to risk our lives to preach in His name…For the future of [North Korea] I will stand up, even to death. I will persevere until [God’s] will is accomplished and His love has triumphed (ibid., p. 5).
From Bethlehem, Israel
The Bethlehem church [has] been attacked 14 times. Their pastor has been wounded… They kept buckets of water in the back of their [church]. When the attackers tossed “Molotov cocktails” – bombs made with gasoline-filled bottles – into their [church] they used the water to quickly quench the flames. They returned to their seats and continued to sing… During this time of celebrating the birth of Jesus there is still singing in Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” Luke 2:14 (The Voice of the Martyrs, December 2008, pp. 2, 3).
From Nigeria, Africa
On March 21, 2007 Christianah Oluwasesin looked forward to the ending of school that day. That’s because the Christian teacher was to leave the government high school in Gombe, a city in northern Nigeria, and be reunited with her husband, Femi. But first things first, she had to give her female students their final exam. The exam would test the student’s knowledge of Islam.
To prevent cheating, she collected the book bags of each student and brought them to the front of the class. One of the students began to cry. She told the class that there was a Quran in her bag and by touching the bag the Christian teacher had “desecrated” the Quran inside it. Tears turned to outrage and anger and soon the class was shouting “Allahu Akbar” – [Allah] is great.
They began threatening the teacher. A fellow teacher rushed Christianah to the principal’s office. The official locked the schoolteacher in the bathroom to get her away from what was now an angry mob. But outside, the anger was growing. Radical Muslims who lived nearby heard the commotion and ran to the school.
Eventually a mob of Muslim extremists dragged Christianah out of the school and clubbed her to death, then burned her body.
Recently, [Voice of the Martyrs’] partner ministry in Nigeria, Stephen Centre International, dedicated a learning center in her honor. Her husband Femi was there and so were their son and daughter. Femi shared with our VOM contacts about his heartache over the loss of his wife and God’s faithfulness.
“It has at times been a dark valley to walk,” he said. “Even when I knew she had died I didn’t know how dark it could be at times. The Lord has been with me through these valleys but I am constantly encouraged by seeing the precious and beautiful innocent lives of my children before me each day. They are a constant reminder of my dear wife and how we both so desired to raise them in the ways of the Lord.”
Femi said that even though it pains him, he has forgiven the people who killed his wife. “I have no option but to forgive those who have taken my wife’s life away even though justice has not yet prevailed. Even though I can forgive, it is not easy to forget.” [Voice of the Martyrs] offers Christian books, Bibles and other aid to Nigerians persecuted by Muslims (The Voice of the Martyrs, Special Issue 2009, p. 7).
From the People’s Republic of China
On Oct. 16, 2008, Zhang Jian, son of outspoken house church leader Pastor “Bike” Zhang Mingxuan, was severely beaten by Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials. The Chinese police beat Jian for nearly a half hour with iron rods causing what could be a sight-ending eye injury. The incident was the latest in a series of attacks against Pastor Bike and his family. These targeted attacks resulted in repeated evictions, incarcerations and physical harassment of Pastor Bike, his wife, colleagues and now his son.
Chinese authorities have long targeted Christian leaders such as Pastor Bike who do not conform to the state-run Three-Self Patriotic Church. Recent attacks against bicycle evangelist Pastor Bike are not just about the PSB attack on one man. An investigation into the PSB’s harassment of Pastor Bike and other church leaders reveals an increase in persecution against the estimated 100-million-member house church movement. In 2008 alone:
Our contacts recorded more than 83 cases of Chinese Christians being arrested, detained, tortured, evicted or threatened because of their worship activities outside of the state-run church, all within the four months leading up to the Olympics in Beijing. In August, Pastor Bike, his wife and colleagues were arrested and detained in a hotel on a “forced vacation,” until after the Olympics. International outcry, including prodding by the U.S. State Department resulted in Bike’s release. Yet his wife was evicted in October leading to his son’s beating at the hands of the PSB….
Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in China who, despite suffering for their faith in Christ, remain strong in their commitment to share the gospel (ibid., p. 9).
Last year we reported on the July 2008 Muslim attack against a theological school on Java, Indonesia’s fifth largest island…
As calls for jihad rang from loudspeakers of nearby mosques, a mob of Muslims gathered in front of the Christian school. The attackers used knives, machetes, bamboo spears, Molotov bombs and liquid chemicals to assault the male and female students in their dormitories. Many of the students suffered injuries. Another mob blocked the main road to keep the authorities from rescuing the students. Shouts of “Allahu Akbar” – [Allah] is great – echoed through the streets.
We have seen this pattern of persecution in Indonesia before. Muslim radicals have attacked Christian institutions to stop evangelical training. Nearly 10 years ago, on Dec. 15, 1999, the Doulos Bible School in Jakarta was burned completely and two of their students were slain. Bible students in Indonesia understand that they must not only possess faith in the truth of Scripture, but they also must embody the same unshakable faith of Christian witnesses like Stephen, who clung to Christ in the face of death.
Most of the students are on full scholarship and come from the poorest among the 6,000 inhabited islands of this mostly Muslim nation.
Even as the gasoline bombes were thrown into the dormitories, the students did not surrender. They threw foam mattresses, which they soaked in water, on the fires. They also wet their extra clothes and slapped them on the flames.
After two days, police finally came to evacuate the school and the students were escorted through the mob in police vehicles. As the police inched their truck through the angry crowd, attackers stabbed the students inside with bamboo spears. They even threw acid onto the students. Many students were wounded, some with sword slashes and chemical burns.
Despite the attack, the students have vowed not to stop their journey as disciples of Christ! Since this attack, these students have lived, studied and worshipped in church halls, government buildings and a city park.
Christians are sometimes called pilgrims. They often go where no one has been before. Pray for these young Indonesian pilgrims as they journey to bring Christ to those who do not know [Christ] (ibid., p. 13).
To read more accounts of persecuted Christians throughout the world go to www.persecution.com/newsletter.
Let us stand and pray for God to strengthen the faith and evangelism of persecuted Christians in the world tonight.
(END OF SERMON)
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