For the Church to step into greater blessing as they embody the teaching of loving their enemy and blessing those who do evil. To take the road less traveled.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. – Romans 12:14
Do not be overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 12: 11-12
Today’s prayer focus is that the Church will embrace persecution, forgiveness, and the blessing that comes with it. I’d like to call this the hard beautiful. Praying that the Church would do the hard things of sacrifice (actually the impossible things without God) trusting that God will make all things beautiful.
Just recently I heard this testimony of a Lebanese man (whose name is changed for safety) from my dear friend who runs StepForward ministries throughout the Middle East:
It all happened New Years Day, 2000, in ISIS torn norther Lebanon. John’s sister, brother-in-law,y and niece had enjoyed the evening at his house and had went home for the night. Two hours after they left, gunfire erupted outside. Being pregnant, John’s wife begged him to not go out.
Instead, John picked up his phone and called his sister, and a strange man answered. The terrorists has taken her house and the surrounding village.
Being a trained military machine, special guard to the President, John grab his gun and ran. Being saved at 15, he began praying to the Lord, “Lord deliver us!” Shooting was going on all around him but he reached his sisters home. It was near collapse, and the battle continued. John watched 11 soldiers killed in front of him, with nothing to do but watch the bloodshed. The next day he learned that his sister and niece were fatally wounded. His brother in law, also terribly injured, stayed with them until they passed away and escaped out a window.
John lost it! He began to beat his head against a wall and people had to restrain him. Over time, anger and revenge raged inside him. His heart became like stone. He swore he would not only kill some Muslims but that he would destroy the village and kill everyone, especially the man who had killed his family, as he knew who had done it. He lost his home. He worked as a salesman but always carried his gun. He couldn’t live as a Christian man and started to forget everything Jesus taught about love and forgiveness.
A few years later, one terrorist came to Christ, and all John could think was, “That will never happen, I don’t want those guys to be Christians.” But the guy who came to Christ became a totally different person. He started coming to John’s mothers house, kissing her hand and serving her. John’s hardened heart hated to see it.
Things began to slowly change in 2004 when a revival came to their church. John went with his wife out of obligation, yet he began feeling the Lord inviting him back into his loving arms. The Lord was bringing him back in a very strong way, to the point he was spending all night reading the Word of God.
But a voice kept whispering, “If you truly come back to the arms of God, you must forgive the terrorist Muslim group that killed your family.” After prayer and fasting he knew it was the voice of God.
He had been looking for this man for years, and even though he was a fugitive he tracked him down. He went to the killers place and asked to see him privately. Seeing that John was unarmed, the terrorists bodyguards receded and left John alone with him.
Looking him in the face, John struggled between loving him and killing him. A trained fighter, he could have finished him off. A voice in one ear said, “kill him”, and the other said, “love him.” Finally, as if supernaturally, he was released to love him.
When he told the terrorist who he was, the terrorist jumped back in shock. His eyes filled with fear; He knew his life could be over. But John responded, “Do not be afraid, I am not here for revenge. I am not here to kill you. I came to you with the love of the Lord. This love changed me and did a turning point in my life. I came here because of the love of the Father God and His Son Jesus Christ.” He continued, ” I came to tell you that I love you, and I forgive you.”
The terrorist could not even face John, He couldn’t lift his eyes. He tried to justify what happened, but John said, “I want to hear no justification, Its over and done. I care about only one thing: I want you to hear clearly that God loves you, and I forgive totally. If you think you’re pleasing Allah by what you are doing look at yourself. The only thing that will bring joy to the heart of God is when you accept Jesus Christ as the Savior of your life.”
John gave him a Holy Bible as a gift. The man took the Bible, and John invited him to read it and search for the true God. They had a long talk, long into the night, and John still sees him from time to time. When they see each other, the man gives John a salute.
What an true illustration of the power of the Holy Spirit to make something beautiful out of darkness. John is now a minister to the 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and his wife and family join him sharing food, blankets, and supplies at the border. One man who once vowed he would never share the gospel with a Muslim, now was filled will love for them.
Although we often don’t have this imminent danger all around us, we can easily be infiltrated with slander, gossip, judgment, rejection, or abandonment. It pits individual against individual, church against church, denomination against denomination.
Each day we encounter small, unexpected invitations to surrender. Our mistake comes when we consider these invitations as inconsequential or trivial. Rather, it is these daily invitations to deny ourselves and surrender our wants that prepare us for the larger risks and invitations God may ask of us in the future.
So let us all heartily petition the Lord that his Spirit would fill us with love. That we would rest in His Word alone, which promises in Isaiah 61 to make beauty out of ashes, and let the Lord be our defender in both the small daily challenges and the larger ones.
Heavenly Father, forgive us for any hatred, unforgiveness, and contempt we hold within the Church. Purify our hearts to embrace forgiveness to one another. Empower us with your Spirit that we may bless those who curse us. Anoint us for the hour of persecution that we may stand against the enemy and do good when all seems dark with our worldly eyes. Father, give us the eyes of Heaven, that we may cultivate faithfulness. Abba Father, we love and trust you with our everything. Father anoint us to live as Christ and die to self that we may gain the Kingdom of Heaven and glorify your name. We pray these things in the precious name of your son, Jesus Christ.