In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
–John 16:33

Miriam Ibrahim, a young medical doctor, was arrested in the Sudan and tried and convicted for apostasy and adultery. She was convicted of apostasy because she converted from Islam to Christianity, and she was convicted of adultery because she had sex with her husband, who was a Christian, and the Muslims did not recognize that marriage. After her trial, she was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy and to 100 lashes for adultery. The Sudanese prosecutor gave her the opportunity to recant her faith in Jesus Christ, but she refused. As a result, she was shackled and sent to prison. Prison officials refused to unchain her even when she gave birth. Due to the outcry of millions of people, Miriam Ibrahim was finally released. In an interview, she said, “There are many Miriams in Sudan and throughout the world. It’s just not me.”

One of the signs that Jesus said would precede His return to earth is an increase in the intensity and frequency of persecution for those who follow Him. Jesus said it this way in John 16:33: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Today when we hear stories like the one of Miriam Ibrahim, we think, “That kind of thing happens in other places around the world, but it would never happen here.” There is no guarantee in Scripture that Christians who live in this country will be exempt from persecution. In fact, there is every guarantee that we will experience persecution.

Jesus said as much in Matthew 5. In verses 1-10 He describes the qualities of a disciple, in what we call the Beatitudes. Then He says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (vv. 11-12). Jesus was saying, “If you are a follower of Me, then be ready for persecution.”

We are seeing an increase of persecution around the world. Did you know that there were more martyrs in the twentieth century than in all other centuries combined? Open Doors USA has reported that the level of persecution against Christians in the world is now at the highest level in modern times. Jesus said these things are going to be like the birth pangs of a woman; they will increase in intensity and in frequency. Persecution was part of the Christian movement at the beginning, and we are seeing it increase in frequency and severity around the world today. This is one of the signs that Jesus said would precede His literal, visible return to earth.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Christians in the Crosshairs” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

“Exclusive: Mariam Ibraheem Opens Up About Harrowing Ordeal on Kelly File,” Fox News, September 25, 2014, http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2014/09/16/exclusive-mariam-ibraheem-opens-up-about-harrowing-ordeal-on-kelly-file.html. Perry Chiaramonte, “Christian Persecution Seen in More Locations Across Globe, New Report Shows,” Fox News, February 2, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/02/02/christian-persecution-seen-in-more-locations-across-globe-new-report-shows.html.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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