Read Acts 12:1-3, 24
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to size Peter also...But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.
Have you seen leaders or governments try to suppress or ban God’s Word? Was it effective? Why or why not?
According to the Open Doors World Watch List, Iran is ranked number 9 out of 50 countries in the world who exhibit high to extreme levels of persecution towards Christians. Given this information, one would think that the Gospel is being stifled in those areas. And yet, amazingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
In Iran, it is illegal to preach the gospel or be a part of a house church but that has not stopped the Gospel from going forward. This same organization cited a study of 50,000 Iranians aged 20 or above. 1.5% of the people who responded said that they identify as Christians. This data suggests that when extrapolated across the population of Iran, there may be as many as 1.2 million converts to Christianity in Iran.
This is not the first time persecution increased the spread of God’s Word rather than prevented it. The Book of Acts records the growth of the early church in the midst of persecution. In Acts chapter 12, we see James, the brother of John killed by the sword and Peter imprisoned. But Acts 12:24 tells us that the word of God flourished, or multiplied.
When one considers the persecution the church has faced over the course of history, it’s a miracle in itself that the Word of God has survived, let alone thrived. Since the very beginning of the church to the present day, Christians have been stoned, crucified, imprisoned, beaten, burned at the stake, fed to wild animals, beheaded, restricted, mocked, had their private property confiscated, were exiled, etc.
But people keep coming to faith in Christ! Despite initial church persecution, here we are over 2,000 years later reading the Word of God, gathering with other believers, and sharing the Gospel with others
The prophet Isaiah said, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Men can try but they cannot thwart God’s plans. The great commission continues and the Word goes forth unhindered by the very measures meant to contain it.
The Gospel has proven itself unstoppable. Friends, let’s allow God to use us to keep sending the Word of God out into the world no matter what persecution we may face as a consequence.
Father, I pray for my brothers and sisters who are facing terrible persecution because of their faith in You. Protect them and encourage them to continue to stand firmly on Your Word. Give me the strength and courage to keep the faith despite the cost. Amen.