September 24, 2016
READ: Acts 8:1-4
A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria (v.1).
There are few events of greater historical significance in the 20th century than China’s Cultural Revolution. The Communist Party instituted changes at every level of society to enforce its ideology. These included the persecution of the nation’s Christians, with many sent to labor camps. It’s estimated that the Cultural Revolution resulted in the death of 30 million Chinese people and forced the church underground. But decades later, it turns out that the efforts to wipe out Christianity had the opposite effect. Experts believe that there are more Christians worshiping in underground churches in China than there are total believers in the US!
We see a very similar dynamic at work in the book of Acts. “A great wave of persecution” broke out against the church following the death of Stephen, and Christians fled Jerusalem for Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). But as they journeyed, they shared the gospel with others (v.4). And as they did, the church began to spread and grow. In Acts 7, there was only one local church (in Jerusalem). But after Acts 8, churches sprang up all over the known world!
The news is full of reports of Christians being persecuted around the world. Experts agree that Christians are persecuted in more nations of the world than any other religion. But there’s no reason for us to lose hope! As terrible as persecution is, we can remember that it’s not able to halt the plans and purposes of God. The sovereignty of God is such that He’s able to use the most terrible situations for His glory and for our good (Romans 8:28). Let’s stand in prayer, hope, and God’s strength as we remember our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
365-day plan: Luke 23:1-12
Read Acts 9:1-20 to see how God turned a persecutor into one who actually spread the gospel!
Have you ever seen God use something negative or discouraging to accomplish something amazing? If yes, how did that change your perception of God’s power and ways?