In the time it takes to read this page, another Christian will be killed because of his or her faith in Jesus Christ. 160,000 believers around the world will be slaughtered this year alone, simply because they love Jesus.
This is not a news flash. The physical risk of “going public with the glory of God” (John Piper) among satanically dominated peoples is obvious. Jesus predicted that you will probably be chugged (disposed of quickly and without pause) like a lion eats a lamb (Matthew 10:16; 1 Peter 5:8). That’s the risk in this world and too many shrivel up at the thought.
Scripture describes the butchering of missionaries as both horrific and beautiful. Horrific because of the indescribable torment endured by so many; but stunningly beautiful in their humble Christ-likeness as they are afflicted, persecuted, struck down; but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4). When believers are crushed by suffering, the aroma of Christ stretches out even more widely and rapidly among the peoples.
This is biblical boldness: to plow through hostile resistance with the gentleness of Christ and “to love the hate” out of those fierce enemies of the cross. However, I dread a greater danger than death. I dread the consequences of not risk-taking for the gospel. What will I suffer if I refuse to suffer for Christ? What will I lose if I refuse to lose my life with Jesus for the nations? What “glory” (Paul’s word – Romans 8:18) will I miss out on if I shirk suffering for the gospel?
There is something in suffering for the gospel that produces supernatural affection and compassion within you towards those who are harming you. At the same time, when one can praise God instead of denying him in the midst of suffering, unbelievers take notice. Some are inevitably saved, which generates more persecution, which in turn fuels an even more passionate scattering of the gospel. The result is that whole new regions are quickly populated with believers and churches. This is how suffering persecution nearly always advances both personal sanctification in the sufferer and the speedier, wide-ranging expansion of the gospel among the persecutors.
There is nothing more powerful in evangelism than a life humbly laid down for Christ and the gospel. Gospel risk-takers are missionary mad men (2 Corinthians 11:23). But God is glorified by them; the world’s unharvested fields need many more like them.
“You can kill me, but you can’t hurt me!” – Chinese Christian martyr, moments before he was beheaded
Editor’s Note: This article was originally printed in the Fall 2009 issue of To Every Tribe magazine