Tomorrow is the day we all pray for the Persecuted Church all around the world.
Colossians 1:24 says: "rejoice in sufferings." Whenever I read this verse I cannot help but think about my fellow Free Methodists in Orissa, India, in Mainland China, in the Middle East, and many other places where they are persecuted. I believe some of them are actually rejoicing in their suffering--rejoicing because God has counted them worthy to suffer for Jesus. But still, it is very hard for me to imagine them being joyful in the midst of their persecution.
However, as I looked deeper into this verse, into the purpose for this "rejoicing," we see that it is for the sake of God's church, the body of believers. Paul says, "I rejoice in my suffering for your sake. . . so that we may present everyone mature in Christ." (Colossians 1:24-28, ESV) It makes sense then that we can all rejoice in the suffering of a few faithful ones. We can celebrate their sacrifices. As they are persecuted, we here in America can claim their victory as our own. We can say: "If they can rejoice in the midst of their persecution, then there is no reason for us, who are living in this beautiful country of wealth and abundance, to feel defeated and discouraged." We can vicariously appropriate their victory and continue in our Christian pilgrimage becoming more mature Christians for the Lord. We struggle with all our energy that God so powerfully work within us (Col. 1:29).
So, the next time you hear about fellow Christians being persecuted for Jesus' sake, pray for them, and pray with them as if you also were one of the persecuted ones. Then live out that prayer and continue to grow in your faith and commitment to Christ becoming a mature Christian man or woman for God. In this way, we partake in Christ's affliction as one body.