“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 3:20
Western Christians often have a different view of “persecution” than the global persecuted church. Author Nik Ripken studied those suffering for their faith around the globe and summed it up this way: “Western Christians want to pray against persecution, while those suffering pray for strength in the face of persecution.” Rather than praying, “Lord, please stop this suffering,” the persecuted church prays, “Lord, help us to be faithful witnesses in the face of persecution. Help us to be faithful and to not deny you. Lord, give us courage in the face of persecution.” Do you see the difference?
To illustrate this point, Ripken describes an interaction between a communist Chinese government official and a leader of a house church. The conversation goes back and forth between the official issuing increasingly severe threats if the church leader continues to host church meetings in his home. Each time, the believer responds with statements of trusting Jesus no matter the consequences. You see, the Chinese Church continues to face such intense persecution that they’ve come to understand what many Western Christians have yet to grasp – God is concerned most of all with our faithfulness. It’s our faithfulness in the face of persecution that is the most powerful witness.
For believers in the West, life is often so good (relative to many believers worldwide) that living as a faithful follower of Jesus isn’t that difficult. For the persecuted church, however, they know better than most that as Christians, our primary citizenship is not of this world. The mistreatment and oppression they face today are only temporary. The greatness of heaven is yet to come! It’s with that in mind that the Chinese church continues to explode in growth, even in the face of tremendous persecution.