Five important truths about persecution
From Asia Harvest Newsletter May 2021
In recent years—especially since the start of the Covid pandemic—many believers around the world have contacted us to ask if we can share insights or do interviews into how Christians can survive persecution, as they see the storm clouds of persecution gathering on the horizon in their countries.
First, we point out that we have written more than a dozen books on the Church in China, each containing principles and testimonies of how God has not only helped His children survive six decades of persecution, but has caused them to thrive, so that China is still experiencing the greatest revival in Christian history.
When we try to help church leaders and believers in the West prepare for persecution, after more dialogue it usually emerges that they are not really looking for straight answers. Often, what people mean when they ask these questions is: “How can we survive persecution in our current church structures, so we don’t have to suffer or change?”
The answer to this is… you cannot!
True, physical persecution (e.g. when Christians are being arrested, beaten, imprisoned, or even killed) will not leave most current church structures intact. It will completely dismantle them! Gone will be the denominations, emphasis on church buildings, Reverends, division between “clergy” and other believers, and all kinds of church traditions and outward imagery that are not found in Scripture. They will be swept away.
This pattern is what happened when persecution was ramped up against believers in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and other countries we work in. We don’t know if severe persecution is coming to your part of the world soon, but we must be prepared. The Lord Jesus said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9), while the Apostle Paul told Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly
life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
We would like to conclude by sharing five important truths about persecution, which we hope will bring encouragement and focus to our fellow believers:
1. God is always in control! If He allows persecution to come, it’s for the good of His kingdom. In China, believers only experienced the full joy of intimacy with Jesus when they were in the furnace of affliction and after they came out the other side.
2. Persecution is the last thing our flesh desires, but our faith must rest on the fact that the Lord Jesus will not let us down, and He will never leave nor forsake us. Persecution cannot destroy our relationship with Him: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
3. Importantly, when intense hardship comes, we shouldn’t see only the hand of Satan in persecution. In China, God’s people looked back later and realized that it was actually the Lord Jesus overseeing the entire process out of love for His children. He is zealous to remove the dead religious structures that trap people in bondage and keep millions of unbelievers from being able to see the true Gospel.
4. Persecution is a pruning process, when the Holy Spirit removes half-hearted believers from among the flock. In China, when fierce persecution first broke out in the 1950s, around two-thirds of churchgoers fell away from the faith. The Lord Jesus told us this would occur: “When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away” (Mark 4:17). Friends, if two-thirds of Chinese Christians fell away at the onset of persecution, how might things be in your part of the world?
5. For those who do not give up, persecution often brings great revival. In China, the number of Christians has grown from less than one million to over 100 million after 60 years of brutal Communist persecution! All glory to God. When that realization dawned on believers, many learned not only to grimly endure persecution, but to embrace it as a special blessing from God.