Egyptian Church Set on Fire Near Minya, Egypt

Parting Thoughts from the 2015 International Conference on Missions

Egyptian Church Set on Fire Near Minya, Egypt

The shell of the Evangelical church of Millawi is all that is left after a group attacked, looted and set it on fire. | Photo: Getty

We Are More Than Conquerors

Celebrating the Persecuted Church

November 1, 2015
Jake Vermillion

“Yes, the Church will be persecuted, but it will never be defeated, for it has been purchased with the blood of Christ” — 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)—a day to intercede on behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ—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 “North Korea of Africa,” Eritrea, Christians are being arrested, tortured, forcibly converted, and killed by a mix of state and non-state actors who—at the end of the day—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. You’re going to hear sermons and receive emails detailing the Islamic State’s anti-Christian rampage across the Middle East and North Africa. You’re going to see preeminent Christian leaders warn you to prepare for persecution here in America. And, in response to all of this, you’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 to—need to—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 Christians—where Blasphemy laws have seen to the unwarranted arrest, beating, and, in some cases, unpunished murder of thousands of believers in one of the world’s most fervently Muslim countries—this Pastor had one message to share: the church will surely suffer, but it will never be defeated.

It’s a simple message, but it’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: “We are more than conquerors!”

Romans 8:18-39 (NIV)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 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. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 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. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 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. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.

It’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.

It’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 we’re going to ask that you verbally—that means out loud—chant, with your family, spouse, friends or colleagues, “We are more than conquerors!” this morning. After doing do, thank the Lord for being so good—so gracious—as to empower us to overcome the enemy, to advance His Kingdom, and to suffer persecution for His glory.

It’s a gift to suffer for the name of Christ.

Celebrate the gift so many of us have received today! And be sure to pass along the celebration to those around you.

Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV)

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 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.

15 Whatever is has already been,
    and what will be has been before;
    and God will call the past to account.

16 And I saw something else under the sun:

In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
    in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

17 I said to myself,

“God will bring into judgment
    both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
    a time to judge every deed.”

18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 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. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upwardand if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

22 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?