When I was a child, I enjoyed sports—any sport. At Christmas, I would ask for sporting goods related to football or basketball. For my birthday, which is in early March, I would ask for fishing gear, camping gear, baseball equipment, or a bow and arrow set. I remember one Christmas that I didn’t get a particular fiberglass backboard I had wanted. I got a goal and a net, but it wasn’t the deluxe version I had been coveting. I remember feeling sorry for myself. I was the only one in my group of friends who would have to use a homemade, plywood backboard for basketball.
Such is the way of us who live in the affluence of modern America. I would often repeat this cycle of coveting and crying throughout my life. As if they were riding on a roller coaster, my emotions would rise and fall between expectancy and disappointment as I filed through my list of desires one after the other.
The Lord stopped the roller coaster ride of emotions when he introduced me to His persecuted church. Over time, studying persecution has taught me how to appreciate the abundance of what I have been given in Christ. Understanding persecution (and being acquainted with the persecuted church) has enabled me to get outside of myself and see more than what I want. I can see in the oppression and injustice of persecution something of what Christ desires for His Bride. He desires that she prosper, that she be vindicated, that she be exalted and blessed. (and so she is!)
In Cuba, Christians have historically been oppressed and persecuted. They are often very poor. So, pastors in Cuba are particularly poor (monetarily speaking). But they are rich in Christ. The Voice of the Martyrs sponsors a Pastor Support Fund in which pastors of persecuted churches are given $35/month in order to feed and supply basic needs for their families. Just $35 per month feeds and houses a pastor and his family. Not too long ago, I read of a particular pastor in Cuba who, upon receiving his $35 stipend for the month, promptly found 2 of his pastor friends and shared the money equally with them.
It’s really hard to pout about not getting a particular fiberglass backboard when you are aware of Christian brothers and sisters who can live victoriously with $35 per month, divided three ways. Understanding persecution helps us put an end to self pity.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Romans 8:37, ESV