"More Christians have been killed for their faith in the 20th century than in all the others."
- What did persecution do to the cause of Christ in that day?
- Why does difficulty make the gospel message go out even more effectively?
- What do you have inside of you that would enable you to face persecution with boldness?
00:06 One of the most challenging books I've ever read in my life is Fox's Book of Martyrs and to hear the stories of those who suffered for the sake of Christ before us. But, as you probably know, suffering didn't stop in the first century. Today we're going to talk about that in First Thessalonians 3:1-4. It says this: "Therefore, when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we've been destined for this, for indeed, when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction so that it came to pass just as you know."
01:07 More Christians have been killed for their faith, believe it or not, in the 20th century, the one we just finished 10 years ago, than in all the others. Every day, somewhere in the world, Christians are martyred for their faith. In fact, the 20th century had far more Christians die for their faith in Jesus than in any other previous century. The grizzly way they died, if you read the stories in some of the Muslim countries and some of the communist-influenced countries, it makes your flesh crawl with horror. Christian persecution has always seemed so far from us - not so today. Our nation is literally turning against Christians. Here are some very recent legal actions that were taken against Christians. In the famous case of Brandon vs the Board of Education, in a district, a federal court saw that nothing can be more dangerous than an adolescent seeing the football captain, the student body president, or the leading actress in a dramatic production participating in a communal prayer meeting in the captive audience of the setting of a school. Unbelievable. A child in Kentucky was told that she could not submit her chosen drawing for an independent school project because she had drawn a cross. An Arizona teacher disciplined a second grader in class for typing the word Jesus on her school computer during a computer lab. You believe that? In Virginia, the Department of motor vehicles refused a pastors request to have "For God So" on his license plate. Six students in Illinois were detained in squad cars and threatened with mace because they prayed around the school's flagpole. I believe we're only seeing tip of the iceberg. If Jesus doesn't return first, you and I will see increased hostility towards Christians and towards our belief. If you believe in pro-life now, if you believe that abortion is sin, a crime, murder, you're labeled a narrow-minded anti-abortionist. If you believe in only man in woman marriages, you're scorned as a homophobic bigot. If you believe devoutly in Jesus, you're called an uneducated freak. The media mogul Ted Turner said publicly that Christianity was for losers. Being martyred for faith in Christ is getting closer and closer to home every day. But I see kids across this country who disagree. I see students across this country, I see business leaders across this country who carry their bibles and wear their crosses and they live it with passion and they live it in faith, and they're not ashamed of the Gospel.
03:51 So here's your questions. Today as you read the pages of scripture: What did persecution do to the cause of Christ in that day? Why does difficulty make the gospel message go out even more effectively? And with this question we'll close: What do you have inside of you that would enable you to face persecution with boldness? And I want to just tell you, go for it. Here's the lifeline today. Hot fire tempers a band of steel. It makes it strong enough to carry a sharp edge. The hot fires of persecution put the edge for the Christian's lifestyle.