Daily posts to help you connect with God
and keep yourself travelling in the right orbit
ORBIT | WEEK FOURTEEN
ORBIT – DAY SIXTY-EIGHT
Hello and welcome to another Orbit, the daily devotional thought from the youth team at St Mary’s Reigate. Each day we provide you with just a few minutes of reflection on a passage from the Bible, plus a way to put it into action in your everyday life. This is a good moment to be joining us for the first time – we’ve just started a new book of the Bible together – Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
BIBLE READING – 2 Corinthians 1: 8-11
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
How often do you think about the persecuted church? This isn’t a trick question, nor is it one designed to make you feel bad. If I’m honest, I don’t think about the church in other parts of the world nearly as often or as naturally as I should.
However, the church is a global family, and it is one family. We are inextricably connected to our brothers and sisters in every church, in every nation on Earth. For some, the practice of following Jesus every day is like a lifestyle choice – as in this country, they are free to practice their faith however they wish. They are allowed to meet in public churches, and in some nations even get great tax breaks as a result!
For many other Christians however, the picture is very different indeed. In many countries, publicly professing your faith in Jesus is actually illegal; in a few It is punishable with a heavy prison sentence. In North Korea for example, stories abound of Christians who have been led away to lifelong imprisonment in harsh labour camps. In parts of China, churches are routinely shut down and forced underground. These are not isolated examples: there are stories of persecuted Christians and churches right across the world.
Paul describes a little of the first century equivalent of this Christian persecution in today’s reading. He wants to make sure that the church in Corinth – and everywhere – knows that it is not always straightforward to practice faith, and that there are some places where doing so can come with serious trouble and danger. Paul says that the persecution he saw and suffered in Asia was so bad – so far beyond his ability to endure it, that he “despaired of life itself.”
But… Because of the intense pressure that Paul and his companions faced, they were also able to see God fighting for and ultimately saving them. Even though the pressure was intense, God was greater, and he came through for them in amazing ways. And it seems that in a sense, he came through for them because of the prayers of the wider church.
Perhaps this explains why, when you ask a member of a persecuted church how are you can pray for them (as I have had the privilege of doing from conference platforms), the answer is always the same. Our persecuted brothers and sisters never seem to ask that the persecution would stop, but rather that they would have the strength to endure it. Though suffering for our faith is horrible, there is a sense in which it is made worthwhile, because it enables us to see and experience God more clearly.
So – let’s be in the habit of praying for our persecuted church family, and never forgetting them. They know what it means to follow Jesus under pressure – we undoubtedly have a lot to learn from them.
You might want to join me in praying this prayer.
Lord God, I thank you for the church all around the world. Please give me a perspective today of my place in your huge, global, history-spanning family. I pray particularly for those who are in parts of the world where they suffer huge persecution because of you: give them the strength to endure every kind of trial, and to see you more clearly through it all. Amen
There’s now a chance for you to pray, or listen to God, or simply be still for a few moments.
Each day we will provide you with a simple challenge; something to do which helps you put this little thought into action. Here’s today’s challenge:
Today, take some time to research the persecuted church. There are a number of brilliant agencies which help us to connect with the persecuted church family – and if you are a young person, there are dedicated resources just for you. Why not start by Googling “Open Doors International” (their youth arm is called Open Doors Underground), and finding out more about the persecuted church around the world. Perhaps there is even a practical way that you can respond to what you find.
If you want to get in touch, you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us on Instagram – we’re @stmarys_satellites. Let us know what you think of this daily reflection – please – we’d love your feedback.
We’ll be back with another edition of Orbit on Monday. Thanks for taking part today!