As I noted in last Sunday’s sermon, one recurring theme in the book of Acts is that of persecution. The early church – both leaders and lay people alike – suffered difficulty, imprisonment, and sometimes even death for the sake of Christ. And the book of Acts draws our attention to these things on several occasions, surely so that we might learn from them. So that we might learn, I think, that difficulty for the sake of Jesus is not to be thought of as rare and exceptional (see also 2 Timothy 3.12). And also that we might learn to pray for our brothers and sisters who find themselves in such difficulty today.
On this latter count, I have been convicted more than once in my studies and preaching in Acts – convicted that I do not pray for my suffering brothers and sisters as I ought. Perhaps you have been convicted as well (or should be, even as you read these lines!). That we should pray for the persecuted church is both exampled in the book of Acts, and commanded in the book of Hebrews! Consider the following two verses:
“So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” Acts 12.5
“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” Hebrews 13.3
In that latter verse, I believe that “the prisoners … and those who are ill-treated” are those who are imprisoned and suffering for their faith in Christ. And the way we are to “remember” them, it seems to me, is by means of prayer; by doing for modern-day sufferers what the Jerusalem church did for Peter in Acts 12.5!
“Remember the prisoners … and those who are ill-treated.” And the best way that I know how to do that, as I have said before, is through the ministry of The Voice of the Martyrs, ‘a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide.’ One of the great ways they achieve this goal is by telling the stories of modern-day sufferers for Jesus – making folks like us alert to these precious people and their needs by means of their monthly newsletter. It is free of charge, and relatively easy to subscribe to. And, O, how I would urge you to do so! Subscribe. And read. And pray. And give to the various projects of mercy that VOM regularly undertakes. And then pray some more!
‘How do I subscribe?’ you ask. Call, write, or click the following:
Voice of the Martyrs
P.O. Box 443
Bartlesville, OK 74005-0443
This is not the only way to put Hebrews 13.3 and Acts 12.5 into practice. But it is, as I said, the best way that I have found. So subscribe. And read. And give. And, especially … pray!