This week's devotion is an excerpt from Pastor's February CP letter, which will shortly be arriving in your mailboxes!
About a decade ago the Twitter hashtag, #firstworldproblems, went viral online through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The hashtag was a condescending way to talk about problems that everyday people face in the Western world – slow internet connections, poor phone coverage, and getting a bad haircut. Problems that, while they may be inconvenient, pale in comparison to the real challenges that people face around the world.
A few weeks ago, we learned one specific way to receive God’s provision this year – through trials. Since that message, I’ve been thinking about the #firstworldchurchproblems that Christians in the West face, and their comparison to the real suffering that our brothers and sisters around the world experience.
We may complain about the worship styles of certain churches, judge the quality of the coffee served or the appearance of the building. I don’t mention these things to belittle or downplay the experiences of Christians in the U.S. The truth is that the things we do worry about in the church in the West DO MATTER to our ability to reach people far from God in our community. However, we’d do well to remember and pray for those persecuted believers around the world.
You may remember a particular example I shared in my Provision through Trials message. It was the story about a woman from Iran, who became a believer and was forced to practice her faith underground for fear of being caught and killed for her belief in Jesus. There are countless others who face immense persecution for simply pledging allegiance to Jesus. They face the same kind of problems that the early church believers came up against in Acts.
In two short weeks we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Couples exchange chocolates and cards, while every schoolkid in America gets a chance to find a “special” valentine in their classroom. But moreover, Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated to remember St. Valentine. He was a minister in Roman in the third century – during the Roman emperor’s genocide of Christians.
Often today associated with romance and devotion, St. Valentine is more aptly remembered as a symbol of Christian martyrdom. According to historical tradition, he was caught helping persecuted Christians and sentenced to death. He was martyred in Rome on February 14, 256 AD. Even leading up to his death, Valentine tried everything he could to share the Gospel with the Roman emperor and see him accept Jesus as his savior.
And maybe this month, as you celebrate Valentine’s day, you can reflect on the sacrifice of Christians around the world. Pray for them as Paul instructs the believers in the New Testament.
Open Doors, which serves persecuted Christians around the world by organizing secret missions and Bible supplies in places where the Gospel is not legal, has a prayer pledge. I’d encourage you to sign up for it and commit in this Year of Provision to praying for provision for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.