You are holy and sovereign,
gracious and merciful.
I commend my brothers and sisters in Christ to You;
those who are undergoing persecution
because of the Name; Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that if the world hated him,
they would hate those who follow him.
Today, that is as true as it was then.
Many are dying because of the Name.
Many are imprisoned because of the Name.
Many are tortured because of the Name.
Many live in fear and worship in secret because of the Name.
Protect their faith, oh God, and give them perseverance.
Shield them with the hope of the resurrection.
Strengthen them to serve in a dangerous mission field.
Surround them with Your angel armies.
May the Name of Jesus be praised.
I also lift up to You those who are doing the persecuting.
You changed the heart of Paul,
and so I know You can change the heart of anyone,
namely, those who hate You.
May their eyes be opened and their hearts softened.
May they see the Truth of Your love
and refrain from the atrocities that they inflict upon Your children.
May they see their sins;
confessing and repenting of their hate-filled actions.
And through their conversion,
may You be glorified in the world.
It seems to be a far-fetched prayer,
but with You anything is possible.
Oh God, the world can’t stop You or Your Church.
May we take comfort in that truth.
May our worship and rejoicing be unhindered
by this world.
In the mighty Name of Jesus I pray,
The Pastor -|—
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. [Matthew 10:24-25]
Doing some reading for this Sunday’s sermon, I came across this little nugget from Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew. “Everyone who wants a safe, carefree life free from danger should stay away from Jesus. The world responds with hostility to Him. So as we are conformed to Christ more and more, the world will respond to us more and more as they responded to Him. If you want to avoid being betrayed, hated, or persecuted, then don’t become like Christ.”
Yup, sounds about right.
Oh, and one more thing. Jesus also said to his disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Don’t forget that promise.
Basically, if you are doing things right then the world will definitely let you know it, but don’t be scared away. He who is with us is greater than they who are with them. Glorify God through standing firm.
The Pastor -|—
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” [Acts 7:55-56]
Stephen knew he was in trouble. He knew his life was in danger. Stephen knew that he was not getting out of this crowd alive. But he was unfazed. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he sees the reason for his faith. And I can about imagine the peace he felt, even as the people dragged him out of the city to stone him.
The reason I was drawn to this text this morning was because of a prayer request I received yesterday from a friend. He sent a group text to a few of us; asking how we should be praying for those Christians that ISIS recently captured. This has been weighing on him and wanted to know how to pray. So I sent the above text and wondered if we should be praying that those Christians see what Stephen saw and thus be strengthened and encouraged. Someone else then chimed in and suggested that we pray that the faith of those persecuted Christians have an impact on their captors.
But is there more?
I’m not sure what those Christians truly need since I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for them. I can’t imagine what I would pray for if I were in that situation or how my faith would hold up. But I like that text from Acts so I am going to pray for those Christians using that text and then pray that their faith impacts their captors and then fall in Romans 8:26…
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
…and then turn it over to God.
I don’t and can’t know what they truly need, but God does. So let’s allow the Holy Spirit to take our groanings and sighs and cries and carry them to the Lord. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for us. Let’s give it up to God and say, “May your will be done”
The Pastor -|—