The day started out like any other, but it ended as a nightmare. Esther (not her real name) and several hundred women were kidnapped from their boarding school by a religious militant group. A month later all were released—except for Esther who refused to deny Christ. As my friend and I read about her and others who are being persecuted for their faith, our hearts were moved. We wanted to do something. But what?
When writing to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul shared about the trouble he experienced in the province of Asia. The persecution was so severe that he and his companions “despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). However, Paul was helped by the prayers of believers (v. 11). Though the Corinthian church was many miles away from the apostle, their prayers mattered and God heard them. Herein lies an amazing mystery: the sovereign One has chosen to use our prayers to accomplish His purpose. What a privilege!
Today we can continue to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith. There’s something we can do. We can pray for those who are marginalized, oppressed, beaten, tortured, and sometimes even killed for their belief in Christ. Let’s pray for them to experience God’s comfort and encouragement and to be strengthened with hope as they stand firmly with Jesus.
Who can you commit to praying for by name this week? When have you experienced God’s faithfulness during a time of persecution?
In today’s passage, Paul tells his readers he doesn’t want them to be uninformed about the extent of the persecution he and his traveling companions experienced after leaving Corinth and spending time in the Roman province of Asia. He may have been referring to the intense, life-threatening hours they experienced at the hands of a hysterical mob in Ephesus (Acts 19:23–34). Yet he doesn’t offer any details. Why not?
It’s possible that Paul didn’t want their hope to get tangled in specifics. As he reasoned in his first letter to the Corinthians, he wanted their comfort and courage to be grounded in the God who raised His Son from the dead (15:35–58). He’s the God of all past, present, and future deliverances who offers us hope and assurance—in life and in death (2 Corinthians 1:9–10; 4:13–18).