This past week at Element Church we continued our Christmas sermon series called “My Advent: What does it mean for me?” In this series we are going back to our Christian roots, lighting a candle in the Advent wreath each week, and talking about what Advent truly means for me. But we don’t want to leave the sermon in the auditorium each week, we want to help you bring it home with you and apply it to your everyday lives. So each week, we have created a video devotional that will help apply the message from the weekend to your life with some practical next steps. Below you’ll find a short, 6 minute video that you can watch as a family, small group or individual. You’ll also find a manuscript, that if you want to lead your family or group through this devotional on your own without the video you can do that as well.
If you’d like to watch last week’s devo you can do that HERE.
This past Sunday we talked about how being spiritually aligned with Jesus will sometimes pit us physically against the world. Now, we might experience some of that in America today, but let’s be honest, any opposition we get today pales in comparison to what other Christians go through around the world. And I don’t say that to make us feel guilty. We are blessed to be in the country where we live, with the freedoms that we enjoy. But I do think that we need to be aware of what other people go through and do our part to serve them in whatever way we can.
According to the latest research, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions and many of these people are Christians. That means three out of every four people around the world live in some sort of religiously restricted areas. Also, according to the U.S. State Department, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or neighbors simply because they believe in Jesus. So what do we do about that?
Hebrews 13:3 says Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
Now I do think we should seek and serve all people who are incarcerated or being mistreated. There are great ministries out there that go into local and state prisons to spread the Gospel of Jesus, but I don’t think the writer of Hebrews was talking about prison in general. He was specifically talking about people who are in prison or mistreated for their faith in Jesus.
That verse has haunted me for quite some time and I’m still not sure what the answer is to do, but it got me thinking about this question: “If I were in prison for Jesus what would I want done for me?” Hebrews says to remember those in prison and who are mistreated as if I were there myself. So as I thought about that, here are three things I said, “This is what I would want someone to do for me.” Isn’t that the Golden Rule? Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.
- I would want people to provide for my family. — If I were in prison, I would want someone to care for my wife and kids. To help provide them with the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter.
Did you know that through The Voice Of The Martyrs, you can actually help provide physical resources to people and their families who are being persecuted? Go to www.persecution.com and click on “Get Involved” and you will find different ways where you can help physically provide for a mistreated Christian family.
- I would want people pray for me and my family. — If I were in prison I would treasure the prayers of my Christian family around the world lifting me up to God. Not everyone can do something financial for those in need, but we can all join together in prayer. The Voice Of The Martyrs offers a free monthly newsletter, a prayer calendar, a free prayer app and other avenues to stay connected to the prayer needs of persecuted Christians around the world. On the Voice Of The Martyrs website you can also write letters to Christians who are in prison for their faith. Maybe you and your family could sit down and write to someone letting them know that you are praying for them and standing with them.
- I would want people to follow Jesus no matter the cost. — If I were in prison I would want people to continue following Jesus. No, none of us want to be chained for our faith, but like the Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes–the Jew first and also the Gentile.
And also 2 Timothy 2:9 And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained.
After prayer and after provision, I think the best thing we can do for those who are in prison is to continue to follow Jesus no matter what. Some people say, “I’m willing to go to prison for Jesus.” But the question is, am I willing to live for Him while I’m free!
Take some time by yourself, your small group or your family to think about what you could provide for someone in prison. Spend some time in prayer and then commit yourself to follow Jesus no matter the cost. Share one of the verses on social media, 2 Timothy 2:9, Romans 1:16 or Hebrews 13:13 and then hashtag it #MyAdvent.