Jesus made it very clear that to follow Him means denying ourselves and taking up our cross (Matthew 16:24). It means being hated by the world (John 15:18-19), enduring persecution and suffering (2 Timothy 3:12), and even losing our lives (Matthew 16:25). When we feel afraid to accept the missions to which God has called us, we can recall the reassuring promise of His unfailing presence in Joshua 1:9 (ESV):
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Today, there are more than 360 million Christians living in nations where they are subject to high levels of persecution for their faith. As these believers undergo daily threats to their freedoms, securities and safety, the basis of their courageous faithfulness lies in the great promise of God’s presence with them in every difficulty they face.
Courage to Rise Above is the theme for this year’s International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, which will take place on Sunday, November 5th. This is a day set aside by Christians around the world to collectively pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer persecution because of their faith.
Each year, major ministry partners collaborate to produce helpful resources to encourage the body of Christ to engage in active prayer for those encountering persecution. Included in the resource kit are details about the “Countries of Focus.” However, if there is another country that is of current concern to you, please add this region to your list and pray as God leads you.
As we pray for them, may we likewise be motivated to remain resolute in our faith, living courageously and without fear, knowing that our Heavenly Father is always with us.
Blessings from your friends at The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.
Courage to Rise Above: Remembering the Persecuted Church
by Alan Doerksen, Intercede International News Service
For the past 20 years, Intercede International has been part of a group that plans out Canada’s International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). IDOP Canada exists to encourage Canadian Christians to pray for their persecuted sisters and brothers around the world.
Amid rising levels of strife and tension around the world, Christians today are suffering increasing persecution beyond what we can imagine. “More than 340 million Christians experience high levels of persecution for their faith. That’s one in eight Christians globally,” reported Open Doors Canada recently.
Their churches, homes, families and very lives are daily at risk because of their belief in Jesus – but still they are not abandoned by their Lord. As members of the body of Christ, we are one with these persecuted believers; and when we pray for them, we become part of their journey, their comfort, and what gives them hope to remain unshaken.
Around the world, Christians in more than 130 countries stand in prayer with our persecuted sisters and brothers through the International Day of Prayer every year.
IDOP is a day set aside by Christians around the globe to collectively pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer because of their faith. This year’s IDOP Sunday will be November 5 — with the theme Courage to Rise Above. Each year, Intercede and five other Canadian Christian ministries—Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs Canada, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, International Christian Response and Take Heart—collaborate to produce and share free, helpful resources to encourage the body of Christ in Canada to engage in active prayer for those experiencing persecution. These are available to download from www.IDOP.ca.
An Inside View of IDOP
It has been a privilege for me to participate in IDOP Canada for the past 20 years on behalf of Intercede. Representatives of the other partnering agencies have been excellent to work with. We have a mutual understanding that the IDOP project is focused on encouraging Canadian Christians to pray for our persecuted sisters and brothers around the globe. We are not out to promote our respective ministries, but to work together with that one common goal.
One of my favourite people to work with on IDOP was Paul Johnson, the late Executive Director of Open Doors Canada — who passed away in September 2016. For many years, Johnson played a key, pioneering role in IDOP Canada. If there were any questions of discontinuing IDOP in Canada, Johnson consistently would respond, “IDOP will happen because it has to happen.”
Paul Johnson served faithfully as Executive Director of Open Doors Canada for 24 years. Johnson’s heart was always to champion the faith of persecuted Christians and to share their story nationwide to both encourage and excite Christians in Canada to understand that many believers around the world wake up facing the threat of persecution every day.
Part of my involvement with IDOP for some years has been to choose suggested songs and hymns to tie in with each year’s focus. On several occasions, the Lord has inspired me to write a song connected with an IDOP theme. One of these is Victorious in Christ, which contains these key lines:
“We can be victorious in Christ;
Trusting Him Who paid the greatest price.
Who are those who overcome the world?
Only those who trust in Jesus Christ.”
Courage to Rise Above
Each year the IDOP Canada team thoughtfully chooses Countries of Focus based on recent on-the-ground reports of rampant and rising persecution against Christians. Included in the resource kit are details about each nation, as well as country-specific prayer points. This year’s focus nations are: India, Nigeria and Nicaragua.
IDOP Canada encourages participating churches to:
• Use the powerful IDOP main video to demonstrate the incredible importance of your church’s prayers.
• Preach a sermon that highlights the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters. You can find some Scriptures to help you prepare, and creative ideas for a service within the latest IDOP resource kit. IDOP offers Country Profiles and Prayer Points for how to pray specifically this year. There is also a helpful list of suggested hymns and songs that fit well with the IDOP theme.
• Lead your church in a time of congregational prayer for our brothers and sisters facing torture, imprisonment, harassment, or even death because of their Christian faith.
In recent years, IDOP Canada has received creative ideas from churches and individuals who have participated in this event. Here are a few of them:
• For IDOP Sunday, encourage members of your church to wear dark clothes as a memorial to those Christians who have died for their faith (reminding people one week ahead of time).
• Have people pray in different languages.
• You may be surprised how many members in your church have only degrees of separation from actual situations of persecution or have experienced it firsthand. Investigate and invite them to participate. Have them read a letter or recount a story.
• “We did two Sundays. The first Sunday we had a service in the dark, crowded around the Communion table (we are a small church). I had people rip out a page from an old Bible and told them to take it home and read it. We sang and did Communion in the dark, hoping to give them a sense of meeting in secret. I gave a message and part way through I had someone come in and rough me up and ‘arrest’ me. One of my leaders then debriefed and asked how people felt. It was powerful. The next Sunday I spoke on Romans 5:1-5 and we prayed for the Persecuted Church.”
Please consider how you or your congregation could participate in IDOP Canada this year. Let us keep praying for the persecuted church on a continuous basis.