Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
It is certainly striking that people who were being persecuted for proclaiming Christ went around proclaiming His Word as they escaped the persecution. It is this sort of response that has caused the Church to grow in almost every instance of persecution in the 2000 years since Pentecost. I hear credible reports that the Church is growing at a considerable rate in Iran, which is certainly the best hope of avoiding nuclear conflict there. The growth of the Church under Communist persecution in China is well known, to the point that China is currently the nation with the largest number of active believers in the world. That too should give us much more hope than the headlines would indicate. Even Christians tend to undervalue the power of God in changing lives, and through changed lives. I’m not at all saying that social and political action are to be avoided or even looked down on, but I am saying that focusing on those things without focusing of God first leaves us in humanistic limbo, with no power to accomplish that which we see as clearly desirable. It all comes back to Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” When our focus is on God and what He has done for us in Christ, then we will be able to appropriate His power to do His will, which certainly includes justice and mercy, not to mention the saving of lives for now and for eternity.
I have seen a very sad dichotomy practiced, even proclaimed, in the Church, with “Social Gospel” people forgetting to proclaim Christ and “Evangelical” people ignoring suffering. It is no accident that the highest-rated “charitable organization” is Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, because they are very effective in meeting needs and relieving suffering, but they do it, clearly and always, in the Name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Meeting needs is certainly what the Gospel is all about, and I must never forget that. People need to be saved spiritually above all, but they often can’t recognize that when they are overwhelmed with other needs. I am to do as Jesus did, healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, and feeding the hungry, all the while proclaiming the kingdom of God. If I will do that, then people whose lives have been transformed will go on to transform society, just as those early believers ended up transforming the Roman empire.
Father, the Japanese persecution of 400 years ago has been the most effective (from the persecutor’s standpoint) in Church history. You know the reasons for that, certainly better than I do. Help me get through to the Japanese who are in my care to turn them on to sharing Christ in spite of the societal restrictions. May we be a people who live out our faith so radiantly that many will be drawn to Your light in us, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!