We Are More Than Conquerors
Celebrating the Persecuted Church
November 1, 2015
â€œYes, the Church will be persecuted, but it will never be defeated, for it has been purchased with the blood of Christâ€ â€” ICOM Presenter from Pakistan
Today, we have the awesome pleasure of being able to celebrate the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP)â€”a day to intercedeÂ on behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christâ€”in a country where we, as Christians, have no reason to fear repression for practicing our faith.
Across the world, Christian persecution affects more believers today than it ever has in the 2,000-year history of the global church. From North Korea to the â€œNorth Korea of Africa,â€ Eritrea, Christians are being arrested, tortured, forcibly converted, and killed by a mix of state and non-state actors whoâ€”at the end of the dayâ€”are little more than witnesses to the power and glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today, you are going to see posts and news articles painting a terrifying picture of the state of persecution throughout the world. Youâ€™re going to hear sermons and receive emails detailing the Islamic Stateâ€™s anti-Christian rampage across the Middle East and North Africa. Youâ€™re going to see preeminent Christian leaders warn you to prepare for persecution here in America. And, in response to all of this, youâ€™re going to be asked to donate to support the persecuted church through this organization or that.
Sadly, today has become a day for mobilization. A day for fundraising. A day to promote fear in the pews of America’s churches.
Which is why we want toâ€”need toâ€”share an amazing word that a pastor from Pakistan shared at the closing session of the 2015 International Conference on Missions (ICOM), right here in our home town of Richmond, VA.
In the face of a worsening situation for Pakistani Christiansâ€”where Blasphemy laws have seen to the unwarranted arrest, beating, and, in some cases, unpunished murder of thousands of believers in one of the worldâ€™s most fervently Muslim countriesâ€”this Pastor had one message to share: the church will surely suffer, but it will never be defeated.
Itâ€™s a simple message, but itâ€™s the message that needs to be communicated on this IDOP Sunday morning. Rather than promulgating a message of fear and hate, as regrettably so many others will, we are only interested in advocating a message of hope, a word of encouragement, and a story of victory.
And so, to do just that, we want to share the passage of Scripture this Pastor drew from in asking ICOM attendees to chant: â€œWe are more than conquerors!â€
Romans 8:18-39 (NIV)
18Â I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19Â For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20Â For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21Â thatÂ the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22Â We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Â Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24Â For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25Â But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26Â In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27Â And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for Godâ€™s people in accordance with the will of God.
28Â And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whoÂ have been called according to his purpose. 29Â For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30Â And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31Â What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32Â He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us allâ€”how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Â Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Â Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who diedâ€”more than that, who was raised to lifeâ€”is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Â Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36Â As it is written:
â€œFor your sake we face death all day long;
Â Â Â Â we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.â€
37Â No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38Â For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,Â neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39Â neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Itâ€™s our hope that you would share this passage this morning rather than sharing the articles, emails and sermons pushing American Christians to fear by focusing more on the evil acts of ISIS than on the sacrifice our brothers and sisters voluntarily make in service of the one true King.
Itâ€™s our hope that you would join us in praying for the persecuted among us, and that in doing so, you would encourage them in their boldness, rather than pray against their suffering.
The scriptures tell us openly that as Christ suffered, so too shall we; but the scriptures tell us that Christ himself said the miracles He performed while on this earth would pale in comparison to what the Holy Spirit would do in and through us after His ascension to the right hand.
It may sound silly. but weâ€™re going to ask that you verballyâ€”that means out loudâ€”chant, with your family, spouse, friends or colleagues, â€œWe are more than conquerors!â€ this morning. After doing do, thank the Lord for being so goodâ€”so graciousâ€”as to empower us to overcome the enemy, to advance His Kingdom, and to suffer persecution for His glory.
Itâ€™s a gift to suffer for the name ofÂ Christ.
Celebrate the gift so many of us have received today!Â And be sure to pass along the celebration to those around you.
Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV)
There is a time for everything,
Â Â Â Â and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2Â Â Â Â Â a time to be born and a time to die,
Â Â Â Â a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3Â Â Â Â Â a time to kill and a time to heal,
Â Â Â Â a time to tear down and a time to build,
4Â Â Â Â Â a time to weep and a time to laugh,
Â Â Â Â a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5Â Â Â Â Â a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
Â Â Â Â a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6Â Â Â Â Â a time to search and a time to give up,
Â Â Â Â a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7Â Â Â Â Â a time to tear and a time to mend,
Â Â Â Â a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8Â Â Â Â Â a time to love and a time to hate,
Â Â Â Â a time for war and a time for peace.
9Â What do workers gain from their toil? 10Â I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11Â He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yetÂ no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12Â I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13Â That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toilâ€”this is the gift of God. 14Â I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
15Â Whatever is has already been,
Â Â Â Â and what will be has been before;
Â Â Â Â and God will call the past to account.
16Â And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgmentâ€”wickedness was there,
Â Â Â Â in the place of justiceâ€”wickedness was there.
17Â I said to myself,
â€œGod will bring into judgment
Â Â Â Â both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
Â Â Â Â a time to judge every deed.â€
18Â I also said to myself, â€œAs for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19Â Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20Â All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21Â Who knows if the human spirit rises upwardand if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?â€
22Â So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?