Courage grows in Christ

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.”

Matthew 5:10-11

It is always such a great honor to interview Christians who are making a real difference. Whether locally in their community, nationally, or internationally in dangerous places, these people love Jesus, and their neighbors so much, they share the Gospel message with anyone willing to listen.

While many Americans would be reluctant to go to certain areas in America’s largest cities, these heroes for Jesus pull up their bootstraps and charge headlong into danger, regardless of personal cost or the persecution they may face. They are faith warriors fighting for freedom on the frontlines, dragging dying souls from the doorway to hell.

One recent radio guest, Eugene Bach, is a bonified warrior for Christ. He has been working with the underground church in China for more than two decades, helping them establish forward mission bases in closed countries around the world, including Iraq and Syria.

Eugene leads the Chinese mission movement called Back to Jerusalem. They supply essential support for Chinese missionaries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Through his work in these countries, he has written books about the underground church in China, North Korea, Iran, as well as the Sudan.

The world seems to be shrinking. Modern technology allowed us to connect on the phone for the interview, even though he was on a cell phone, thousands of miles away on the border of Turkey. Both his message and the phone signal were powerful, delivering a crystal-clear voice from the workings of God.

Eugene told me about a young woman from Sudan named Mariam Ibrahim. A real hero of faith, she was imprisoned, beaten, given 100 lashes, and sentenced to death by hanging in her home country for her committed faith in Jesus Christ. But this is only part of her story.

Death penalties in Sudan typically occur within twenty-four hours, but for Mariam the judge sent her to be evaluated for mental illness. During the evaluation it was discovered she was pregnant, which postponed her execution until after the baby was born. Caring for her infant son, while shackled with twenty-five-pound weights on each ankle, was further complicated with death threats by fellow prisoners at war with her faith in Jesus. They dared her to sleep, promising to kill her son if she slept.

As labor pains began, guards dragged her, and her son, outside into the muddy prison yard with shackles still in place. The prison guard took advantage of her situation and beat and kicked her to death. Yes, they declared her dead, but God was not finished. She came back to life and delivered her baby. Praise be to God!

Her struggles were not over. Freedom required a visit from the Prime Minister of Italy, Ambassadors from the Vatican, and other international leaders intervening to stop her execution. God’s plans always prevail! Mariam is alive today proclaiming the Good News Gospel to the world. She works tirelessly to bring awareness to those being oppressed, tortured, and persecuted for their faith in Christ.

Eugene and Miriam will be in Owensboro on March 17th at Bellevue Baptist Church to share this story. Eugene details her story in his new book Shackled, the stunning true story of a courageous mother willing to face certain death rather than deny her faith.

Eugene is the kind of man who lives his life knowing Jesus is victorious in the end. He shared the great news that revival is happening in China with 28,000 people coming to know Jesus as Lord of their lives every day! The Christians now outnumber the Chinese government!

“It is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!” 1 Peter 4:16

America has been somewhat sheltered from the persecution. Of course, we say things like “he’s trapped in his position at the plant”, or “they are prisoners to their position,” like it is a real form of suffering. Then we post it on social media, along with everything else that’s wrong in our life, and claim our moment of victimhood. The Bible says, “you are more than conquerors.”

In other countries the suffering is real. In the top 50 World Watch List, 260 million Christians experience high levels of persecution for the choice to follow Christ. In fact, 1 of 9 Christians worldwide experience high levels of persecution. And it is not getting better, as there has been a 6% increase year over year on the last report. The last report showed 3,711 Christians detained without trial, sentenced, and imprisoned for faith-related reasons.

The report said 9,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked, damaged, or destroyed. Finally, there were 2,983 Christians killed for faith reasons in the 50-country watch list.

So how do these people face these brutally oppressive situations? Paul answers the “how” in his letter to Timothy. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE.”

The only way to overcome satan’s spirit of fear is to grow courage walking closely with Jesus. It may not be today, or tomorrow, but someday a decision will require courage beyond your capability. Why wait unprepared and alone? Start preparing today by growing your courage pouring His Living Waters into your life. Then follow up daily, praising God, reading His Word, and communicating with Him in prayer!

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