Sermon: Ministry to Persecuted Believers - Acts 12

What is the best thing you can do for someone who is being mistreated? Some may want to fight their battles and go for the jugular vein of offenders.

Introduction

 

What is the best thing you can do for someone who is being mistreated? Some may want to fight their battles and go for the jugular vein of offenders. Perhaps you do not know any believers who are experiencing persecution, but the way our world is changing, this will most likely not be true for long. Plenty of hurting people are suffering rejection, hostilities, and social ostracism. They need your ministry.

(See the Illustration Thumbnails below for some examples of persecuted believers around the world.)

The story of the church’s persecution under Herod underscores the power of prayer and provides insights into what fellow believers can do.

Outline

    Persecution by evil (12:1-4)
        Killing without mercy (12:2-3).
        Shackling without help (12:4)
    Prayers of believers (12:5)
        Detained without hope (12:5a)
        Praying without ceasing (12:5b)
    Deliverance through angels (12:6-11)
        Sleeping without fretting (12:6)
        Following without knowing (12:7-9)
        Opening without touching (12:10)
        Knowing without doubting (12:11)
    Doubt of believers (12:12-17)
        Believing without seeing (12:13-14)
        Praying without believing (12:15)
        Seeing without expecting (12:16-17)

Conclusion

The first-century church was doing the only thing they knew to do: pray. It was the very best thing they could do. It will be the best thing any of us can do when our loved ones and friends are persecuted. We should pray for the persecuted because it is the best thing anyone can do.

Illustration Thumbnails

    Several organizations provide information related to the persecution of believers around the world. The following links go to some of these sites:

    The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

    Voice of the Martyrs

    The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

    International Christian Concern
    Irina Ratushinskaya's childhood quest for God, even while she was hearing school lectures promoting atheism and mocking Christianity, led her to a deep and unflinching faith. Her poetry expressed that faith and brought inspiration and hope to believers throughout the Soviet Union.
        It also brought her to the attention of the KGB. At age 28, Irina was arrested and sentenced to seven years hard labor in the Bareshevo Work-camp. There she was subjected to relentless interrogations, chilling cold, starvation, hard labor, and months of solitary confinement.
        Irina's faith did not break. During the lonely nights, huddled against the cold wall of her cell, she composed poetry in her head about God. When Irina was finally released, she credited the prayers of believers for sustaining her. Read more...

Related Biblical Texts

    Matthew 5:10-11: In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus expressed the blessedness of those who are persecuted, reassurance for those under abuse for Christ sake.
    Romans 8:35-39: Romans 8 is the hallmark of comfort. Paul says that neither persecution nor death nor anything else can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.
    Hebrews 13:3: The writer of Hebrews instructs believers to pray for persecuted believers in prison as if we were chained with them in prison also.

Application Ideas for Life Stages or Situations

    People of all ages are more likely to understand and feel a passion for praying for persecuted believers once they have heard the testimony of a survivor of persecution. For example, older preschoolers and children especially are moved to pray for missionaries they have met. If a missionary your people know asks them to pray for the persecuted they know, many families will pray for those persecuted believers at bedtime every night.
    Ask children what they do when a friend is left out of their group or someone hurts their feelings. When a playmate is picked on, we can be their friend.
    Persecution among teens can become severe and hurtful. Show how a teenager can best help a friend who is under emotional siege or ostracism at school because they are believers by being a friend and inviting that friend to join in a social outing. This age group can learn to pray specifically for fellow believers.
    Many Christians are under spiritual attack in their lives. Attacks may be launched through employers, fellow employees, or neighbors. Prayer is always a Christian's best resource to help the persecuted.
    One of the most meaningful ministries senior adults can be involved in is prayer. Supporting those who are being ostracized in their work, neighborhood, or families is a valuable and helpful ministry.

Calendar/Seasonal Emphases

Vacation season usually begins at this time of the year. If a church is to marshall its efforts in prayer for the persecuted, the regular habit of praying for God's protection of believers facing other threats to life, health, and safety will develop prayer warriors ready to step forward when crises are identified. So pray also for church members who are traveling. It adds to the fellowship even as it continues to call on people to "pray without ceasing." The church’s prayer ministry is needed more than ever.