I Prayed have prayed
Lord, help us to choose boldness in the face of fear. Let none of our trials ever be wasted. Amen.

Almost two years ago, an intercessor named Nancy contacted IFA about a dream she’d had over two decades ago. The dream centered around a coming persecution of the Church as concerns the LGBTQ agenda — though this was long before that acronym had even come into widespread use. Since then, though, that aggressive agenda has indeed been advancing, infiltrating even our schools and churches.

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Christians are considered enemies for taking a biblical stand against the LGBTQ agenda. You don’t have to look very hard on social media to find videos of street preachers sharing the love of the gospel message and getting mocked and threatened for it. Most recently and distressingly, one preacher was shot on a street corner in Glendale, Arizona. As of now, he remains in critical condition.

This made me think about our nation, and I began pondering: Is the American Church prepared for persecution should these tensions continue to escalate? Are we teaching our children that we may see such things happen, not to instill fear in them, but rather to help them prepare?

From the beginning, the Enemy has had one purpose in persecuting, threatening, beating, imprisoning, and even killing believers: to paralyze the Church with fear. A scared Church would have been a compliant Church, and a compliant Church could be silenced and rendered ineffective. Since the disciples refused to keep silent about Jesus, however, the religious and political leaders sought to eliminate them. And fear was their tool of choice. But instead of being fearful, the believers turned Jerusalem and the surrounding regions upside down instead, boldly preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the book of Acts, the early Church suffers greatly for the Lord. What we see happen is the opposite of what many might expect. The persecutions caused the Church to grow. After Stephen was martyred, we see believers spreading the gospel and many unbelievers coming to the Lord.

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:19–21 NIV). 

Persecution unified the early Church. The believers prayed together after Peter and John were arrested (see Acts 4:23). We find the Church in prayer when James is martyred and Peter is arrested.

The Lord sends an angel to release Peter from prison, and the apostle then hurries over to the home of John Mark’s mother, to show them that he has been released.

And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.” So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying (Acts 12:11–12).

God has worked unimaginable miracles by means of persecutions. In Acts 7, as Stephen is being stoned to death, the garments of his stone-hurling attackers have been placed at the feet of one Saul of Tarsus. But God has better plans for Saul. No one would ever have imagined that God could take such a man, one who is so openly and aggressively hunting down the Christians, and remake him as an apostle and servant of the same Lord Jesus Christ he has been defying. Ananias had certainly never expected it (see Acts 9:13). But God!

Thank You, Lord, for this blessed hope that no one is too far gone to be saved. Much later, the converted Paul and his companion Silas are arrested and beaten in Philippi for preaching the gospel. In their jail cell, they begin praying and singing praises to God at midnight. God works an astonishing miracle in which the entire jail is physically shaken, and after the jailer witnesses this power of God being so stunningly demonstrated, he gets converted — together with his entire family (see Acts 16:25–33). 

Altogether, among all of Jesus’ mentions of the gospel message, there are some 60 references to suffering for His name. Let’s be honest: None of us wants to be beaten, threatened, jailed. We do not want to be persecuted for our faith. In fact, whenever we go through a minor storm, we often try to pray our way around the suffering, failing to realize that nothing is ever wasted before God. Indeed, many scholars believe that Stephen’s death eventually contributed to Paul’s conversion. 

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (2 Corinthians 4:8–12 NIV).

The Lord Will Never Leave Us

In three of the gospels, Jesus warns His disciples about persecution. But He did not just warn them about it; He told them to actually expect it. He tells them that their being handed over to persecutors will be among the signs of the end times. But the Lord is faithful to His word, and He has promised never to leave or forsake us. No matter how difficult things are now or may become later, we can always be assured that we are not alone. 

At my first defense, no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also, I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! (2 Timothy 4:16–18). 

God demonstrates His power in our weakness. It isn’t demonstrated when we are at our best on the mountaintops, but rather when we are clinging to Him in the valleys. His power shines through our weakness.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV).

Nothing is ever wasted with God. Our suffering produces a glory greater than we could ever comprehend.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16–18 NIV). 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:12–16 ESV).

Persecution opens the door to sharing the gospel message with others.

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear (Philippians 1:12–14 NIV). 

“But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! Even those closest to you — your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends — will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But not a hair of your head will perish! By standing firm, you will win your souls (Luke 21:12–19 NLT).

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples when they asked for signs of His coming. His promise to them is His promise to us. He will be with us during times of persecution, even giving us words of wisdom before men. I believe this is what God did with Stephen, who spoke with such authority and wisdom that his face even shone like that of an angel (see Acts 6:15). After telling the disciples that they would often face arrest, Jesus told them to use the opportunity to speak to their persecutors about Him. That is precisely what the disciples did. Peter and John preached before the Sanhedrin (see Acts 4:1–22). Stephen shared the gospel before Saul of Tarsus and the Sanhedrin (see Acts 7). Paul and Silas shared the gospel with the Philippian jailer (see Acts 16). Paul preached the gospel before King Agrippa (see Acts 26:1–29). What we see as a fearful experience, Jesus sees as an opportunity.

Called to Suffer?

Bible verses about persecution and suffering are unlikely to get many hand claps and amens from the congregation as being encouraging verses. And yet, this is a reality that we may well have to face. The Lord tells Ananias that Paul was chosen to go before Gentiles and kings and that he would suffer for the name of Jesus. Consider that we have all been called — but are we armed to suffer? 

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:15–16). 

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). 

Though we do not know how or when it will happen, the Bible does discuss the certainty of perilous times to come. If you are troubled or feeling fear as you read all this, we can pray right now: 

Father, we have already seen so much over recent years. We have prayed, fasted, and grieved over decisions our leaders have made and laws they have passed that contradict Your Word. And yet, many Americans have been too comfortable in our position as a mighty nation. We too easily think that what is happening in other countries could never happen to us here. All the while, our brothers and sisters abroad are losing not only freedoms but even their lives. What will it take to wake us up?

You predicted the days in which men would call good evil, and evil good. We recognize that we are in those days. Grant us boldness to continually preach the gospel in the face of any threats. Stretch out Your hand with healing power. May miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Jesus. Let our prayer gatherings shake with divine power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Help us, like the early disciples, to count everything that comes our way as an opportunity to declare the gospel of Jesus. 

We remember our brothers and sisters in other nations who are prisoners for Christ’s sake. Let them feel your presence and know that they are not alone. Let Your Church band together and pray for them, as the disciples did for each other in their day. We pray that persecutors would be radically saved and transformed, even as Saul of Tarsus was. Use every circumstance to advance Your gospel. 

And do prepare us for whatever is coming — make us fit and ready. Let us be like those members of the early Church, who were so confident in the Messiah that they considered it a joy to face trials, and they rejoiced to be considered worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ. Amen!

Share your thoughts and prayers below about the times to come.

IFA contributing writer Gloria Robles is a passionate intercessor with a prophetic voice for today. For more from Gloria, go to Spotify or Anchor and listen to her podcast. Photo credit: 3Trinity/Getty Images Pro.

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Margaret Womack
December 13, 2023

What an encouragement! Dear Lord, help me to remember that you are always with me.

Karma
December 5, 2023

Father, give us the courage to stand up for right thinking and right doing. But also help us to have a heart to win the lost to You. It’s a hard line to walk. In Jesus’s name, I ask this!

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Darlene Estlow
December 5, 2023

Father, may your people tremble in fear of persecution but be lights for you in a dark world, willingly suffering for you if called upon to do so.

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Grant Windholz
December 5, 2023

Absolutely, we as believers choose boldness over fear. It’s the Holy Spirit that gives us peace and strength 💪 🙏!!

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Nancy Rife
December 5, 2023

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). “. Lord, may we shine for you in the places where you have given us a voice and a platform to speak. May Jesus be lifted up in all we think and say, and do! And may your kingdom come, and you will be done on earth as it is in heaven, especially in these tumultuous days. In Jesus name, amen!

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Margaret Dutkowski
December 5, 2023

Lord be with those in THIS NATION who are being persecuted for holding a Biblical view. Like the January 6 prisoners still jailed after 3 years without even a trial date set, for those sentenced to decades in prison for minir offenses, for those innocent citizens like the County Suoervisors in Arizona charged with 3 felonies and years in prison and millions of dollars legal fees for asking for a vote recount, For President Trump who faces 700 years in prison and the loss of his business for nothing done illegally.. and for us who grew up in a free country who now see it slipping away.

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    Darlene Estlow
    December 5, 2023

    We pray for he restoration of true justice, especially for the Jan 6 prisoners.

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Mary Beth
December 5, 2023

A difficult message and yet a necessary one – thank you, Gloria! LORD, many years ago, You spoke a word to me, “There may be ‘Stephens’, but there will be ‘Pauls’. So I pray that there will be no unnecessary martyrs, but that we as Your people would be willing to die if that is Your calling for us. And from every drop of martyr’s blood may You raise up apostolic leadership in our day. LORD, even in Your creation You pictured the truth that life comes through death – unless a seed dies . . . Our Savior’s death resulted in eternal life for those who trust in Him. Death was a direct consequence of our sin – not part of Your perfect plan, and yet You have redeemed even that and used it to accomplish Your redemptive plan for us and for Your creation. What an awesome God!! Worthy of all praise, honor, glory, dominion, worship . . . – and worthy of our lives being surrendered to moment-by-moment death to self and even physical death if necessary. As a friend of mine says, “MAKE US BRAVE”, or as a great book title states, help us “CHOOSE BRAVE”!

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Sheree Hall
December 5, 2023

Without a doubt, we are only in the very beginning stages of persecution that most of their nations have experienced either in times past or currently in great measure. Our family has experienced horrific persecution, and the challenges calling it what it is because it seems like humans attempting to destroy others when it is persecution. Andrew Brunson has clearly spoken that through his captivity he overcame and most of the believers in the United States. Don’t have a clue of what that means. We truly have been asleep and not recognizing the realities before us. My prayers that we see through circumstances, and identify them as persecution , and receive the strength to live above no matter the outcome. I think that is one of our challenges, because we have been taught so much about having a victory in our circumstance that looks like what we identify as victory when God sees things that we cannot, and knows all . My prayer is that we arise as the body of Christ to walk on a much deeper foundation of our walk with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

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    Becky
    December 6, 2023

    AMEN! To Sheree’s well said prayer. AMEN! Praise and HUGE Thanks to You Lord for Gloria’s good word! Of encouragement, wake up and warrior call, not to fight with more hate, fear, control freak laced violence, but to put on the armor our Poppa G-D gives, to suit up in Jesus, our great M &M, maker and master🥰the Commander of the Heavenly Host and fight the good fight by standing in Love Light…and being HIS light bearer in whatever dark He leads us through.

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Davene
December 5, 2023

Amen 🙏.

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