Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Despite being threatened with death and disowned by family members, Dawo was determined to share the gospel with the Fulani people. And his determination hasn’t wavered since losing his brother. The day after Dawo’s cousin burned Dawo’s Bible and kicked him out of the house, 20 young men surrounded the new believer, wrestled him to the ground, and tied his hands and feet together with rope. When he had placed his faith in Christ three days earlier, he couldn’t have imagined that what he was about to endure would change so much for so many.
Many Christians are attacked, arrested, forsaken by family and community, and even killed every day around the world because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Believers living in America can scarcely imagine what it means to follow Christ in a Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist culture. In 2013, I traveled to Niger with a team to provide leadership training for Nigerian pastors. These pastors were all Muslim converts. Many of them were threatened by their families and communities because they converted to Christianity.
Why do some believers risk everything to follow Jesus? Because our relationship with God through Christ Jesus and the promises of eternal life with Christ far surpass the trials we endure on earth. Believers like Dawo in today’s illustration face risk in their lives every hour and face death daily to proclaim the gospel of truth. As a member of the Fulani people in Nigeria, Dawo was expected to remain a Muslim all his life. “His path was radically altered by a series of vivid dreams in which he saw heaven and encountered Jesus. Prompted by the dreams, he used the little money he had to purchase a Bible and learn more about Christianity. What he learned led him to abandon his traditional Fulani religion to follow Christ” (Voice of the Martyrs).
In a strange way, committed disciples of Jesus Christ in America can also face persecution and rejection for their faith. Many brothers and sisters in America can be rejected by family, friends, and colleagues for not accepting the norms and values of this culture. They can be labeled “old fashion,” “intolerant,” “fundamentalist” because of their orthodox belief and practice of the Christian faith. This is all part of a strategic campaign by the forces of evil to impugn their reputation and discredit the legitimacy of their love for Christ.
The joy of our salvation far surpasses the persecution we endure in this world. As difficult and painful our experiences for following Jesus, we must rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Our hope in God’s unfailing love and His eternal promise gives us the courage to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ and live Holy Spirit-led lives. So, whatever our lot we’ve learned to say it is well with our soul.
Let us, therefore, encourage one another in our Christian journey so we do not grow weary when we face trials, persecution, and sufferings as followers of Jesus Christ. The joy of living for Christ and with Christ transcends the resentment and rejection we may experience. When sorrows like the sea billows roll, just lift up your eyes to the hills from where your help comes from, and say it is well with my soul.
Questions for Personal Reflection
How can you help a brother or sister endure persecution because of their faith in Christ?
What do you do when you feel persecuted?
Prayer- Blessed Lord, I am praying for brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution and death because of their faith in Christ. Please give them the courage and boldness to continue proclaiming the name of Jesus no matter the cost. May I remain in solidarity with them through prayer so they can persevere through their trials!