In our public prayers, we often thank God for the fact that we live in a country where we can worship Him without fear of reprisal or molestation. Indeed, this kind of prayer is specifically approved in Scripture:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
We should be grateful to our heavenly Father that we can assemble to worship Him in an environment where we are not threatened by civil authorities. It is therefore right that we pray in this regard, so we might continue to enjoy this blessing.
But just for a moment, let us suppose that we didn’t have this privilege. What if we suddenly lost the ability to worship without being threatened or persecuted? What if it meant that we might be arrested, jailed, tortured, or even put to death for expressing our faith and for worshiping God according to His instructions? Would we be deterred in worshiping our heavenly Father under these conditions?
Soon after the church was established (Acts 2), the apostles were arrested for preaching about Jesus being resurrected from the dead (Acts 4:1-3). At first, the Jewish leaders were content simply to threaten the twelve with punishment if they continued their activities (Acts 4:21), but when the apostles were later brought up on charges, they were beaten (Acts 5:40).
What would we do if such were the case today? If the police seized us on the way to worship, bound us in handcuffs, and presented us to a judge who ordered us never to speak of Christ to anyone again, how would our behavior change? If we risked a beating by participating in worship services or Bible studies, where would we be on Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday evening?
Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, three men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to renounce their allegiance to the true and living God by worshiping a gold statue erected by King Nebuchadnezzar. The legal penalty for disobedience was by cremation in a furnace. The three mens reply to Nebuchadnezzar was bold, courageous, and to the point:
If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18).
Would we take that bold and courageous a stance?
Some years later Darius, another king of Babylon, decreed that no one could pray to any deity except the king himself. The penalty for disobedience was being fed alive to some hungry lions.
Let us notice what Daniel did in response:
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days (Daniel 6:10).
What would we have done in this situation?
In the face of abuse and imprisonment, the apostles said, We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Later, while facing execution, Paul affirmed:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Their courage in these circumstances, was the kind of courage that enabled them to sing and pray even while shackled in a dungeon (Acts 16:24-25), and their faithfulness to the Lord is an example to us today.
Paul also warned Timothy that:
All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
Brethren, if our persecution should ever take the form the apostles faced would we remain steadfast and unafraid? (cf. 2 Corinthians 4; Ephesians 6:10-20).
Let’s think about it!
- A Profile In Christian Courage