36”Others had to suffer the trial of mocking and scourging and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death; they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith]; they were sawn asunder; they were slaughtered by the sword; [while they were alive] they had to go about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated” Hebrews 11:36-37 AMP
After the death and resurrection of Christ, Christianity spread like a wildfire consuming thousands upon thousands of people. Think about the day of Pentecost and the powerful display among the thousands there. It continued to sweep across the known world of that time.
The power and display was something that became a concern for the government of the day. It began to be an issue of declaring allegiance to authorities and treating them as “gods.” Christians unwilling to proclaim allegiance to these authorities as gods were persecuted. If their faith was not denounced it meant death in many instances.
Just look at many of the apostles: John died in exile. Peter was crucified, head down. Andrew was crucified. James was thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple and then beaten to death with a club. Bartholomew was skinned alive. James, the elder son of Zebedee, was beheaded. Thomas was run through with a sword. Philip was hanged. Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows. Simon was crucified.
This was thousands of years ago. As horrific as this sounds, we have Christian brothers and sisters that are persecuted in much the same way today. There are still ten countries in the world that are closed to Christianity: Laos, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Yemen, Maldives, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. Lives are compromised daily as people cling to their faith.
Father, I lift my Christian brothers and sisters in these countries up to You. I pray for their safety and safe keeping. I pray for divine protection and divine appointments. Father, I lift them up for refreshment of their souls, bodies and hearts. I pray they be filled with peace that passes all understanding and joy and hope and love. I pray for Your favor in their lives and their circumstances. I pray for strength and persistence in their faith.
Thank you, Father God, for the freedom we have in our respective countries to worship You openly and freely. Let us not take it for granted. Let us praise Your Holy Name and pray that Your love shines brightly in each of us. I pray that it be an attractive aroma that draws others in to experience Your love and grace and mercy.