This transcript is taken from a Stand in the Gap Today program originally aired on 11/1/23. To listen to the program, please click HERE.
Sam Rohrer: As we witnessed the unfolding war in the Middle East, we can’t not see that. Double negative, I don’t often say that, but we can’t not ignore what’s taking place. So much is happening there, the rise of antisemitism we see happening around the world. And we’re reminded that underneath all of this, there is the attitude of the people of this Earth toward God and God’s plan and his unfolding plan of redemption, first communicated in Genesis 3:15 and then further unveiled through the pages of Old Testament prophecies of things to come that the rejection of God by all the nations and the political economic leaders of the world would increase. And we’re seeing that. The Bible also foretells that the persecution of people who are part of his plan of redemption will increase.
And these people are described in multiple places, but I’ll cite one. Psalm chapter two, verse two refers to these people, and I’ll describe it further, as God’s anointed. Now due to the prophetical aspect of this Royal Psalm that’s referred to in Psalm chapter two, the Psalm of David, it speaks to the chosen people of the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through whom God said the Messiah or the redeemer would come. Those chosen people. That’s one. But these people, this anointed in that passage, is also referred to as others who are a part of his purpose. And that’s probably you and me if you’re a believer because it refers to the followers of Yeshua, that promised redeemer, Jesus the Messiah or Christians who are also called of God, chosen and anointed as a part of God’s purpose and talked about in this psalm.
Let me read the first two verses of Psalm chapter two. It says this, “Why do the heathen rage?” These heathen being the gentile nations of the world? “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a futile thing?” The kings of the Earth, the political leaders, and the rulers, those are the economic and the business and all of those in positions that make things happen. These people take counsel, a conspiracy against the Lord and his anointed. Then the rest of that chapter lays it out. Ultimately it says how God’s going to make them bow before him when they bow before Jesus the Messiah. But for these last 2000 years, God’s anointed, Christ’s followers, true Christians, they’re made up by believing Gentiles and Jews and they have been persecuted. And with that persecution, now greater I believe and impacting more people now than at any time in history as prophetically the human rulers, they coalesce, they rise up together, they’re going to build a Tower of Babel in their mind, a new godless global government. That’s what’s happening, that’s what we’re seeing, all in defiance of God and his command for mankind.
Well, this is what we see. And whereas we have to be aware that this rising antichrist global government which we’re witnessing, we should also not forget that it’ll be accompanied by persecution of Jews and Christians, slightly different reasons, but all because they’re part of God’s plan. So this coming Sunday has been designated as the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. And it is appropriate as hostilities toward Israel and Jews is increasing, that we should be increasing our prayer, not just for the peace of Jerusalem, but that we also do not forget to pray for the persecuted Christians, our fellow believers in Christ who are being subjected to the worst forms of persecution all around the world. And for which the controlled media cares nothing because they care nothing for the believer in Jesus Christ and because they are banding together to defy the God of heaven.
So all of that is a basis. I want to focus today on International Day of Prayer and persecuted Christians and the state of persecuted Christians generally. And I’m glad to have back with me, Todd Nettleton, host of Voice of the Martyrs Radio and author of the new book, When Faith Is Forbidden: 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians. And with that Todd, a lengthy introduction, but the topic we’re talking about is very relevant and what you’re doing is relevant. Thanks for being with me.
Todd Nettleton: Well, it is my pleasure. Thanks for having me,
Sam Rohrer: Todd. Let’s do this, get right into it here. Coming up this Sunday is the International Day of Prayer. Let’s go right there first to get it established. Why is it being set? Obviously going to be self-explanatory as we go through it, but how can those listening right now participate?
Todd Nettleton: Well, we want to encourage every church to pray for persecuted Christians. And I think if you’re a pastor and you think, “Oh wait, I didn’t know it’s coming up.” Okay, well maybe you’ve already planned the services for the 5th, so pray on the 12th, pray on the 19th. But the important thing is every church praying for persecuted Christians. And the reason it’s so important is it is the first thing that they ask us to do. When I go and meet with persecuted Christians, when my coworkers here at the Voice of the Martyrs go and meet with persecuted Christians, we say, “Hey, we’re going back to America, I’m going to talk to the people in my church, I’m going to talk to other Christians in America. How can they help you?” The first answer that persecuted Christians give, every time we ask that question, the first answer they give is, “Pray for us.”
So the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians is a direct response to the first thing they ask us to do. Voice of the Martyrs has created a number of resources to help churches and Christians pray. We have a short video that tells the story of a young persecuted Christian in Nepal. We have a church bulletin insert, we have a slideshow that has specific prayer requests, so you can have a guided prayer time. We even have a sermon builder resource. If you’re a pastor, if you’re a teacher and you say, “Wow, I really want to focus on this in the lesson, in the teaching this Sunday.” We have a resource to help you build your sermon, help you build your lesson around this topic. So lots of resources, all of them at our website, persecution.com. The other thing is all the resources are free, all the resources are digital, so you can download them easily and use them right off your computer.
Sam Rohrer: All right. And that’s excellent. Persecution.com, all those listening, you’re a church leader, you’re a pastor, you may be somebody who’s neither in that category, but you can get this and forward it to your pastor because it can be done, put it at the beginning of the service. There’s a number of ways to do it. Todd, only just a little bit time left here, but just in an overall sense, compare now when it comes to Christian persecution, the level, the number of people involved, compare it now to 10 or 20 years ago. Is it trending more? Is it trending less? How would you qualify, quantify the level of Christian persecution today?
Todd Nettleton: Well, I think certainly there are more Christians being persecuted today than there were 10 or 20 years ago. And in one sense that’s bad news. Yes, there are more of our brothers and sisters who are suffering, but if you sort of look at the other side of the coin, it’s also good news. Part of the reason there are more Christians being persecuted is because there are more Christians living in hostile and restricted nations. The church is growing in places like Iran and North Korea and Eritrea and China. So there are more targets for persecution because there are more of our brothers and sisters in those places because God’s word is spreading, the gospel is spreading and more people are coming to faith in Christ.
Sam Rohrer: Okay. And ladies and gentlemen, that’s it. You’ve heard it before on this program, more persecution taking place now than in the history of the world. A lot of it is that there’s more people than ever, but at the same time, there’s a hostility towards the truth and towards God himself that’s also coming together. Todd’s just come back from 40 days on the field, we’re going to get some information from you about what he found. We’re going to start in Africa.
Sam Rohrer: Well, my special guest today is Todd Nettleton. He is the host of Voice of the Martyrs Radio. It does a lot for them. You’ve heard his voice, if you’ve heard that program and probably many of you have. He’s also the author of a book, a new one, that he’s put together, it’s called When Faith Is Forbidden: 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians. And that is available at persecution.com, in addition to other digital helps that you could put on your screen at church and do other things because this Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians.
So we’re covering this today because it’s always important to be praying for those who are persecuted, but particularly let it remind when we see what’s happening in the Middle East and we’re having to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that we do not forget the persecution of Christians taking place all over the world. And I’m going to be talking to Todd. He’s going to be sharing some experiences and real life discussions with people and I think you’ll find this next segment in particular to be of interest. Jesus made it clear in talking to his disciples that they should expect persecution. We’ve talked about that a lot. It’s not an anomaly. Jesus said, “They persecuted me, they’re going to persecute you.” Now in the end, true biblical persecution, it’s not just done because people don’t like you. Biblical persecution has everything to do with a person’s relationship to God and especially to God through Jesus Christ who is the redeemer of mankind, who came into the world to save people from their sins.
But we know that when Jesus came 2000 years ago, he came onto his own, the Jews, and the religious establishment of that day, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin, and they rejected the Son of God, persecuting him to the point of calling for his death by crucifixion. And Jesus did die, put to death by his own people, the religious leaders of the day, as well as the Roman government, the civil leaders of the day. It was a joint effort. But there were people, the first people to receive Christ in faith and trust, they were his own people, they were Jewish people. The gospel then was open to the Gentiles. That’s what the New Testament is really all about. So for 2000 years, the gospel has gone to the gentile world and the light of the gospel has been carried primarily by gentile believers. The church as we have witnessed for 2000 years, Jesus, as he said he would do, build his church.
But he also made it clear to his disciples and all of us still living, that all people who would follow him in faith and trust would experience persecution as he did. And that’s taken many forms over the years. But he did say that in the very latter years, the time in which we are now living, we’ve talked about so much, there would be a marked increase in persecution and one of those regional areas which we’ve seen tremendous persecution over the years and we’ve talked about and given examples on this program many times comes from countries within the continent of Africa. So let’s start there first, Todd. You just came back from a trip sometime ago and you have a lot of illustrations. Put a face on the persecution of what you found in Africa, would you please?
Todd Nettleton: Yeah. We got a chance to talk to people who have faced persecution in Morocco and Algeria and Libya and Tunisia and Egypt. So we got a broad perspective of what God is doing in North Africa, but also what it looks like for our brothers and sisters there. One of the really interesting things is in most cases persecution is not coming from the government, it is not coming from the police, it is coming from members of your own family. They are the ones who are enforcing Islam onto you, they are the ones who are offended when you say, “Nope, I’m not a Muslim anymore. Now I follow Jesus Christ.” They are the ones who feel shame if a member of their family is a follower of Christ. And let me give you one example. We talked with a pastor, a young lady in his congregation, a college age young lady came to faith in Christ, left Islam, met Jesus, came to follow Jesus when she told her family, “I’m not a Muslim anymore, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ.”
Her mom, again, I want to emphasize, her own mother said to her, “It would be better for me if you had told me you were a prostitute than that you’re a Christian. It would’ve brought less shame on our family for you to be a prostitute than to be a Christian.” And I can’t imagine the heartache that would come in your heart when your own mother turns against you and says something like that. But we heard multiple stories where it was the mom who was really driving the persecution and really trying to enforce Islam that, “We are a Muslim family and if you’re not a Muslim, you don’t have a place here, you don’t belong here any longer.”
Sam Rohrer: Todd, that’s a remarkable thing because in the past most when thinking of Islam as a major persecutor of Christians, and we know they are and we’re seeing them act themselves out there in the Middle East right now, a lot of it has been led by the men. So when you’re talking about the mothers now actually stepping up and getting involved in this, that goes very deep. Generally the bond between a mother and a child is something that is just unbreakable. So you saw that even more than one place, right?
Todd Nettleton: We did. We heard multiple stories. There was another young man who came to faith in Christ after Googling fasting. He had a great story. It was during Ramadan, so he was a good Muslim, he was fasting all day long and he was hungry. He wasn’t very happy about the fast and so he Googled what religions fast. And of course it came up, Islam fasts during Ramadan and he said he read about Christians fast when they really want draw close to the Lord and when they really want to see the Lord work in a particular situation, Christians will often fast and pray. And he thought, “Well that’s interesting. They’re not forced to fast, they do it out of love for God, they do it out of wanting to be closer to God.” And he was like, “Well, that is very fascinating.”
And he went deeper online into Christianity, ultimately that was the start of his path to meeting Jesus Christ and to following Christ. Now, his family was not happy about that. Obviously they turned against him, they threatened him, he had to flee from his family, ultimately he had to flee from his home country. But after he left home, he talked to his mom on the phone and his own mother told him, “We are going to find you and when we do, we’re going to kill you.” So like you say, it wasn’t a unique situation for the mom to be the persecutor. We heard multiple stories where it really was the mom who was driving things. And I’m the same way you are, I’m like, “How can a mom do that?” We think of moms as nurturing, we think of moms putting Band-Aids on skinned knees when you’re a little boy or a little girl, how can your own mother say, “We’re going to find you and we’re going to kill you.” The darkness of Islam is very deep.
Sam Rohrer: Okay. Let me ask you this question because you’re saying family now you’re finding in Africa and probably elsewhere are now the frontline persecutor for a new believer. Very remarkable. But where this is happening, the governments, there’s a civil government in all of these places, the government leaders, do they know about this and just choose to do nothing or are they participating or are they’re just covering their eyes? What’s the participation level of governments in these areas where this kind of stuff’s happening?
Todd Nettleton: Well, what we heard in North Africa in particular is the government will get involved, but typically only if the family asks them to. So it is not the frontline of defense against what they would say this invading religion of Christianity. The police don’t typically get involved unless the family says, “Hey, our son has followed Jesus and we’ve pressured him and we’ve beat him and we locked him in his room for a week and none of that’s worked, he’s still following Jesus, now we’re going to call the police. Now the police are going to get involved.” Once the police do get involved, obviously they can bring a lot of pressure.
We talked to a young man, a young husband and father who was interrogated by the police after he was kidnapped by terrorists. So he was kidnapped by terrorists, he was beaten by them, he was told, “You must return to Islam, you have to leave Christianity behind.” And thankfully after three hours of beating him and pressuring him, they let him go. So you’ve just been kidnapped by terrorists, what do you do? He went to the police and said, “Hey, I’ve just been kidnapped, you need to get these terrorists.” Instead of asking about the terrorists, “Hey, where were they? How many were there? What language did they speak?”
Instead of asking any of those kind of questions, they started to interrogate this young man about his work in the church and about his Christianity. “Why did you become a Christian? Why are you encouraging other Muslims to become a Christian?” When the police got involved, the pressure against him and his family became so great, they had to flee the country. So they left their home country, they are now in a second country and they don’t know what the future holds for them. But definitely the government is involved, but typically it’s after the family asks them to be.
Sam Rohrer: Okay, that’s interesting. I’m glad we were able to clarify that a bit. Just a question for you. What did you find in these areas where people are coming to faith in Christ? Are they younger people primarily? Are they boys or girls or adults? What have you found?
Todd Nettleton: No, there is all of those. There is a hunger for the gospel and there’s some amazing ways that it’s spreading. So there are certainly media efforts, satellite television, there’s radio, there are internet ministries. There are also supernatural things that God is doing. And so many Muslims have had a dream or a vision of Jesus and he led them to a book and it was a Bible. And then after having that vision, they said, “Man, I’ve got to find a Bible. I need to know what that book says.”
And so all of that is happening and we see people of all different ages coming to faith. One of the pastors who talked to us about persecuted Christians there, he said, “We encourage the Christians, if their family will let them, we encourage them to stay with their family even if there’s pressure, even if there’s persecution, we encourage them to stay there. And one of the reasons for that is if they will stay and if they will stick it out, typically within a year, we’ll see other members of their family coming to Christ as well because they see the difference that Jesus makes even as they’re pressuring, even as they’re persecuting.”
Sam Rohrer: And Todd, we’ve got to run. Ladies and gentlemen, isn’t that the way it should be with all of us as people? See our lives change, they will say, “What’s that difference in your life?” We show the gospel. Stay with us. We’ll come back.
Sam Rohrer: All right. We went to Africa and we’re going to go to the East. I’m going to put it in that way because you’ve got the Middle Eastern and you’ve got the Far East. But persecution is on the rise all across the world. And my guest today is Todd Nettleton. Nobody better to bring us up to date on what’s actually happening. He’s the host of the Voice of the Martyrs Radio program. And many of you I know probably catch that at least on the weekends. But as we’ve covered on this program before, the location of persecution, it primarily occurs in countries where leaders, mostly civil leaders, but it doesn’t have to be limited as we just heard Todd talk to us about in Africa coming from Islamic parents.
But it is generally within countries where the leaders and the culture embraces an anti-biblical worldview of life. The more hostile the ideology, the more egregious the persecution. That’s why atheistic countries that embrace communism and Marxism as an example, have in the last century been historic locations for the persecution of God’s anointed. But within the theology of Islam, referenced in the last segment and we see unfolding in the Middle East right now, there’s a philosophy that is every bit as brutal, if perhaps not more as the adherence of Islam are instructed in their Quran, in the teachings of Muhammad, that all Jews are to be killed and Christians killed or at least brought into some form of subjection, as infidels is how they view it.
Now in our day, we see the rise of globalism, which is more deceptive in some ways I’m going to say, but it’s a rising demonic mentality that sets the stage for the rise of global government, which we know biblically from which and out of which comes the antichrist who will coalesce all of these ungodly nations of the world, which will include the communist nations of the world, which will include the Islamic nations of the world. We know that’s going to happen. But ultimately, he’s going to try to make everybody bow the knee to him and worship. We know that biblically. And those who will oppose are going to be Christians because we cannot do that.
And I don’t plan on being here then, but there will be many people come to Christ during tribulation period and they’re going to have to make that choice and also Jews. And as a persecuting continent, Africa has seen a lot of persecution, as we just heard, but so has the Middle East as we know, and the Far East with communist China and North Korea, communist nations. But there’s also Pakistan, Islamic, terrible. They’re in the front of the pack. So Todd, let’s go here. You’re looking at the East now, we’re going to shift out of Africa. Go to the East, just give me a list, if you don’t mind, perhaps a ranking of the worst persecutor of Christians, Middle East, Far East, group them together right now. Where would you say, give me the top three or four?
Todd Nettleton: The one that has to come to the front of the pack I think is North Korea. And the reason for that is actually very logical. The North Korean regime teaches that the Kim family are divine beings. In fact, kindergartners are taught, when you sit down to a meal, you say, “Thank you Father Kim Il Sung for our food.” Kim Il Sung was the founder of North Korea, the grandfather of the current dictator there.
So if you come in and say, “I’m a follower of Jesus Christ.” It’s not just a matter of, “Well, hey, we don’t really believe that here,” or, “Hey, that’s a foreign religion.” It is treason, it undermines the veracity of the North Korean government for Jesus to be Lord. Because if Jesus is Lord, then Kim Jong Un is not Lord. And so that’s why if you are found to be a Christian, if you’re found to have a Bible in your possession, not only do you go to a labor camp, your children and your parents also go to a labor camp. So they feel like if we get three generations into the labor camp, we can make sure this false ideology that undermines our government doesn’t spread.
So North Korea, like I said, you’ve got to say it is at the top of the list because they absolutely cannot let Christianity spread because they see it as a direct threat to their government. China has gotten worse in the last 10 years and President Xi Jinping, the leader of China when he was a provincial leader, his province was known as one of those where Christians were heavily persecuted. And I believe that he sees that as part of his recipe for success. “Hey, when I was a provincial leader, I persecuted Christians, I tried to control the growth of the church and I got a promotion, now I’m the president of the whole country. So I think he believes that was part of what got him promoted, what got him into the presidency.”
And he has brought that philosophy to Beijing. He has brought it to the national government and now it is being pushed down to all the provinces. “Hey, you have to control religion, you have to get a handle on the growth of the church.” And so churches there are being told, “Hey, you used to have a picture of Jesus at the front of your sanctuary, let’s put up a picture of President Xi Jinping, that would be better than a picture of Jesus.” “Hey, you used to sing How Great Thou Art at the beginning of your service, let’s sing Communist Party songs at the beginning of our service.” That’s for the registered church. Now the unregistered, the house church, they’re not even allowed to meet. They’re completely illegal, everything they do is illegal. So you have to talk about China.
I’m glad you mentioned Pakistan. There was a major attack in August against a Christian community in Pakistan. 26 churches destroyed, more than 100 Christian homes either looted or burned or both by a radical Muslim mob that simply got angry. They heard that pages of a Quran had been torn and they marched through this Christian area to make the infidels pay for this disrespect of the Quran is how they would say they acted that day. But like I say, 26 churches destroyed.
There’s another country. Iran is the site of the fastest growing church in the world, also though it’s a place where our Christian brothers and sisters are paying a heavy price for following Jesus. So I would list those come immediately to mine, but there are more than 70 countries around the world where Christians are regularly persecuted. So it’s hard to say, “Hey, this is the worst one or this is the best one.” Because when you’re the one being locked up or you’re the one being beaten, it doesn’t matter where you are on the list of countries, it just matters that you really need the Lord to show up and you really need the prayers of his people around the world.
Sam Rohrer: Absolutely. And that’s why, Todd, you are involved in helping to bring to awareness of people, which we are also today here right now in the program, that this Sunday is set aside for people who when they gather to worship, that they don’t forget to pray for those who are persecuted. We should be prompted to pray, as a true believer, even if there’s only one person out there being persecuted. But we know the numbers are great and when we talk about in terms of more people being persecuted now for their faith in Jesus Christ than ever before because there are probably more people alive than ever before. I’m just curious, do you have an estimate of the number of people, and put this way, living under the threat of or maybe living under active persecution, however you want to phrase it. Because I know however you ask that question, you get a different answer. But quantify it somehow if you can for our listeners?
Todd Nettleton: It is something that’s hard to quantify. I believe if you add up all of the Christians that are living in a hostile or restricted nation, so a place where Christians are regularly persecuted, it is something like 200 million Christians. Now, are all 200 million of them facing persecution right at this moment? No. But they all live in a place where they could face persecution. So it’s difficult to get a number, but it is certainly a huge issue for many parts of the body of Christ.
Sam Rohrer: Okay, appreciate that. And ladies and gentlemen, can I just put a thought in your mind here right now? We as we’re sitting here right now are sitting here, most all of you listening to me are here in the United States. We have been free from active persecution, but I want to bring to your attention right now, we’ve talked about it before, but in our own country, our own Department of Homeland Security, do you know who’s listed as a terrorist? It’s Christians. You and me. We’re just not seeing it actively imposed, but it could, and it’s on the books.
So let us not think when we pray here on this Sunday and we talk about the persecution of Christians today, that it’s always over there somewhere. No, it could be here. It could be here and the law would support it. No, it’s not good law, but it’s the law. It’s in print. So anyways, I just wanted to put that out there, Todd, because it brings it home. And here we can take a lot for granted, can’t we? I mean that’s one of the problems probably you face when you talk about the persecution of Christians is that we tend to think that, well, it’s always over there. What do you think?
Todd Nettleton: We do. And one of the best ways to prepare ourselves is to study the people who’ve already been persecuted, to read their stories, to see their stories and to know that God showed up in the midst of their persecution. As we hear about their faithfulness and God’s faithfulness in the midst of persecution, it inspires us and encourages us so that if the day comes when we face persecution, we know how to respond because we have seen brothers and sisters who have responded victoriously even in the midst of persecution.
Sam Rohrer: That is a very excellent point, Todd. In the next segment, ladies and gentlemen, when we wrap up the program, I’m going to ask Todd to review again what’s set aside here for Sunday. He’s also got a special emphasis on the Voice of the Martyrs program for this weekend, I want to share with him. And I also want to take in and just revisit briefly why it is it seems that believers persecuted for their faith don’t ask to be taken out of their persecution, ask for the prayers of people to successfully go through it. Think about that. We’ll be right back in just a…
Sam Rohrer: Before I go back to Todd Nettleton, who’s my guest today, host of the Voice of the Martyrs Radio, just want to, again, give a personal invitation, particularly to all of you who are within driving distance of our studio here. Now, lots of you are listening to me right now, I hear from people in Alaska and Hawaii and all of the states. I don’t really think you’re going to come to our 10th anniversary celebration on Tuesday night, November 14th. It’s more than a couple of hours, so I know it very well. But there are many listening who are within driving distance and so I would like to ask all of you, please consider coming. It’s Tuesday evening, November 14th, it’s our 10th anniversary this year. We want to give thanks to God, recognize what he has done miraculously to take the message of this program and our other two radio programs and TV and now take it across the world.
What he’s done through you, he’s made it possible, obviously we know that, but he’s used people and many of you he has used. We want you to come visit all of our co-host team, meet all of them, our special guests, George Barna and Michele Bachmann will be with us that evening. I’ll be interviewing both of them briefly. You will find what they say to be, well, I’m going to tell you this, very relevant because we’re going to be talking about whatever is the big issue of the day on that day. And things are happening so quick, I don’t know what it will be, but it will be relevant and it will be biblical. Music, there’s going to be singing, you will be encouraged. I would invite you to come. Our website standsinthegapradio.com. You can go there, you find information, you can get all of that. Come early, we start exactly at 06:30, but there’s going to be things happening before. So get there early and get a seat.
All right. Todd, let’s go back to you here right now. And I want you to pick up on this before you go into, again reminding about Sunday and what is available for people, then what you’re going to be featuring on your weekend Voice of the Martyrs program. And that is this, when you talk with people, and we have as well, I’ve talked with people who’ve been persecuted, I’ve talked with people who used to sit in Soviet Russia camps, pastors who sat there and people listening have heard. But there’s always something remarkable and you started the program by saying this, that the first thing they ask for is, “Pray for us.” And I went a little bit further and said what I have found is that I have not heard that they say, “Pray to get us out of this persecution,” as much as, “Pray that God gives us the strength to go through this persecution.” Comment from your observations on that and apply it for all of listening today.
Todd Nettleton: One thing that would surprise our listeners, if they were to meet a persecuted Christian today, one thing that would surprise them is the joy that persecuted Christians have. And let me share an example, just a couple of weeks ago I was with the young man in North Africa who was kidnapped by terrorists, then he was interrogated by police, he was forced out of his country. He said when the terrorists had him, he wasn’t really worried about his own safety, he assumed they were going to kill him and he was going to go to heaven. But he was worried about his wife, he was worried about his children. “Lord, how are you going to take care of them? What’s going to happen to them?” So he went through this very traumatic experience and there are still some traumas that he is processing and dealing with even today. But after he told me the story, he said, “I wish every Christian could go through an experience like that.”
And I was like, “I’m a Christian, I don’t want to go through an experience like that. How can you say you wish every Christian would go through that?” And he said, “Well, their faith would be so much stronger afterwards.” He said, “Before this happened, I thought I knew God, but now I really know God. After going through this trial, I really know God.” And so that’s the thing I think that would surprise people is not only are they not downtrodden and depressed and discouraged, they are joyful. But they also say things like, “Hey, I wish every Christian could have this experience because look at my relationship with God now after going through persecution, it is so much better and so much deeper than it was before I went through persecution.”
Sam Rohrer: Ladies and gentlemen, how’s your faith today? I asked myself that same question. Do I walk more by faith today than yesterday? I hope so. We need to be. And the days and the things that may come to us may force us to that point, but that’s why Jesus said, “Don’t run away in fear, expect that these things will come. I will be with you.” It’s a test of our faith, it’s a growth of our faith. Anyways, we’ll just leave it in that perspective. Todd, in the remaining minutes here, let’s go back here. Remind us of Sunday and the kinds of things that are available for pastors and churches to be able to use this coming Sunday, all available at persecution.com.
Todd Nettleton: Yeah, persecution.com. This coming Sunday, the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. We have lots of resources, persecution.com or if you want to go directly, persecution.com/idop for International Day of Prayer, we have a video for you to show to your congregation or your Bible study group or even in your family devotions. We have a slideshow of specific prayer requests. There is a sermon builder tool. If you want to talk about this in your class and your leadership role, there’s a tool to help with that. Again, though, the important thing is every church praying for persecuted Christians, the first thing they ask us to do.
And you mentioned Voice of the Martyrs Radio, this coming weekend we have a conversation with a lady whose husband was martyred in the Middle East. And we actually recorded the conversation almost 10 years ago, but after recording it, it was like, “Wait a minute. We don’t want to put the work there at risk. We don’t want to create danger for my former coworkers in that part of the world. And so wait, please don’t broadcast this.” And we said, “Okay, we absolutely don’t want to put people at risk.” But it’s such an amazing story. And so every year or every 18 months, I would send her an email and say, “Hey, could we air it now? Is it calm down? Is the situation on the ground changed? Is it okay to air?” And finally, just a few weeks ago, she said, “Okay, I’ve checked with my friends in the Middle East, it is okay, go ahead and air the broadcast, air the conversation.”
So that is what’s coming up this weekend. And I am so excited for people to hear her faithfulness of, “Yes, it was hard when my husband was killed. And yes, I went through some seasons of asking, God, why? How could you let this happen? We loved you, we went to the Middle East to serve you. How could you let my husband be killed?” And yet she also says God was faithful to her and the work in the Middle East increased because of that sacrifice and because of their willingness to serve in spite of the risk of death and even through the death of her husband. So it’s a great conversation. I’m looking forward to people hearing it this weekend on the Voice of the Martyrs Radio, which you can find it on a local radio station, you can also find it as a podcast. Either way, you’re going to hear from Sister Jane and hear her amazing story of God’s faithfulness as her husband was killed.
Sam Rohrer: Todd, that’ll be very appropriate. So we’re looking forward to that very much. We have just a couple of minutes left. We’re talking about prayer. I’m going to ask you right now, you pray briefly, pray for the persecuted Christians as you would pray. And if there’s time, I will conclude. Okay?
Todd Nettleton: I would love to do that. Father, we lift up our persecuted family, your family in hostile and restricted nations around the world. And Lord, I’m particularly cognizant of three pastors who are in prison right now. Pastor Wang Yi, serving nine years in prison in China. Pastor Haile Nayzgi, Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel, both of them serving prison time in Eritrea, both of them now more than 19 years in prison. And Lord, I just pray for these three men and for their families and for all those who are suffering in prison today because of their active Christian witness, because of their testimony for you.
Lord, sustain them, encourage them, if they are having health trouble, we pray for divine healing on them, that they would have strength and energy. And Lord, we pray for them to have opportunities to share the gospel. We pray for their persecutors to come to know you in a personal way. Lord, I pray that every church in America is praying for persecuted Christians. Not just this Sunday, but often, they are lifting up our persecuted family members. Thank you for their faithfulness. Thank you that you are using them even through their suffering. Bless them today in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sam Rohrer: Amen, Brother Todd. And to that, I say, Lord, amen and amen to what Todd has just prayed. Ladies and gentlemen, hope you joined in prayer in your own hearts as Todd prayed and that you’ll be encouraged by this program and pray for those. We don’t know these people, most of these people we’ve never met and we never will until we stand before the Lord. But they’re part of the family of God and when one part hurts, all should hurt. And we should pray for those. Even though we don’t know them, they are there. And that’s what the Lord tells us to do. So pray for them, International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians this Sunday. And let’s pray every day. Todd Nettleton from Voice of the Martyrs, thank you for being with me.