Larry Sheehy-073111Listen to Larry Sheehy read his Thinking of God column
In addition to our work in Bulloch County, the church of Christ in Statesboro helps support several efforts to preach the gospel of Christ around the world. These include the nations of Cameroon and Nigeria in West Africa, and Lithuania in Eastern Europe. Spreading the message of Christ is difficult wherever it is attempted. But, for varying reasons, the work is especially difficult in these areas, in some cases to the point of being dangerous.
This isn’t surprising, since Jesus and the writers of the New Testament warned that such would be the case. Jesus said in the great sermon on the mount, “God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the kingdom of heaven. God will bless you when people insult you, mistreat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me.” (Matthew 5:10-11) Because he wanted them to know what they were up against, he warned his disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you....” (John 15:20) The historical record of the book of Acts recorded dozens of the countless instances of harassment and death faced by early Christians. This maltreatment was so much a part of being a Christian that Paul stated matter-of-factly, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
It has been the lot of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth ever since. Let me share a modern day example of persecution with you.
Tom Ekpot is the young Nigerian preacher of the gospel whom we help support in his native country. Along with his wife Sandra and their two boys, Goodnews and Godswill, he lives in the city of Jos and teaches at the School of Biblical Studies.
In recent years, Christianity in Nigeria has undergone tremendously violent attacks from radical Islamic groups. Although conditions are somewhat better presently, the church there has experienced bombings and artillery attacks. Tom reported several months ago being awakened in the middle of the night by gunfire in their neighborhood and having to flee for their lives. Pictures on the internet show buildings completely destroyed, with people lying dead in the streets.
Tom and his family understand that being Christians carries with it the threat of attack from the enemies of Christ, whether those threats and attacks are physical or not.
They do their best to teach others, by word and example, that living faithfully in spite of persecution is what God wants us to do, and it will reap the reward of God’s richest blessing. Jesus said to the church at Smyrna, in ancient Asia Minor and modern-day Turkey, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)
The devil is the instigator of every assault against God’s people because of their faith in him. He intends to destroy us. Let us take Jesus encouragement, “Do not fear...,” to heart.