The African Forum on Religion and Government (AFReG) calls on all Christians to increase our prayers as a faith community dialoguing on “African Identity, Dignity and Justice in the 21st Century.” This Tuesday, September 15, 2020, our theme is “Persecution & Trials: Counting it all Joy.”
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4.
This is the scripture that points us to the reason our response to persecution and trials should be joy. Humanly speaking, persecution and trials will produce pain and sorrow. No-one would ordinarily choose this estate for themselves or for those they love. In this passage there is a completely different expectation—one of pure joy— unsullied joy. Few things in life can claim this ability. Yet in this seeming paradox there is claim of this sure outcome. For the citizen of faith, it takes a certain kind of posture of heart and renewal of mind to walk in this reality.
Firstly, the certainty that every persecution and trial comes from above, “traced upon our dial by the Sun of love” (hymn by Frances R. Havergal) should help our hearts settle. Nothing comes our way without His absolute permission. He will not let us be tried beyond our ability to endure. The sure knowledge that God is good and in Him there is no evil or darkness toward us must steady our gait. Let us consider Jesus’ own plight, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and scorned its shame (Philippians 2:8). Secondly, the assurance that He is with us in the midst our greatest times of persecution and trial. His promise is sure—He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). His Spirit in us gives us resilience and the wherewithal to surmount any challenge that comes our way. We have an anchor that keeps our soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll (hymn by Pricilla J. Owens). Thirdly, the grace and faith in which we stand give us the sure ability to reign in the most difficult of circumstances (Romans 5:17). “For by grace we are saved through faith; and this not of ourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). The word “saved” in the Greek is “sozo”. According to Strong’s Concordance, “sozo” is not only the forgiveness of sins but it also carries the idea of being physically healed of diseases and being delivered from our enemy—the devil and his demons (sozoministries.net). In other words, He gives us the assurance for the provision of anything we could ever need or require including perseverance through persecution and trials to perfect us. Yes, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness and through His precious promises we participate in His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4). What can’t we do?
In the case of the many injustices, persecutions and trials we may suffer for no fault of our own in the course of life, we are presented the opportunity to experience the greatest joy we can. When our faith is tested it stirs up power within us to endure all things. As our endurance grows even stronger, it releases perfection into every part of our being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking (James 1:2-4, TPT translation). May our joy abound through every persecution and trial!
Through every trial and persecution dear Lord, our eyes are on You. Thank You for setting us a perfect example for how to count it all joy in the severest difficulties we may face. Thank You for Your presence in our life and the assurance that is You are working to perfect us as You help us persevere. Thank You for Your grace that is always sufficient to see us through. Help us see everything as You want us to.
May we abound in joy through every persecution and trial so that all may see the Christ in us and be drawn to Him.
We pray also that you bless and anoint our AFReG panelists during this week’s Webinar. We lift up to you Mr. B.J. Thompson, Dr. Emily Obwaka, Bishop Ngwiza Mnkandla, H.E. Ambassador Arikana Chihombori Quao. We ask that you bless the moderator of the Webinar, Prof. Delanyo Adadevoh. We also pray against technological glitches and for many people to connect and receive life changing lessons from the topic shared.