Today's Bible Readings
     II Samuel 13
     II Corinthians 6
     Ezekiel 20
     Psalms 66-67
      “But in  ail things we  commend ourselves  as ministers of God : in much  patience,  in tribulations,  in needs,  in  distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings..."  (II Corinthians 6:4-5)
      When the Apostle Paul wrote about these kinds of tribulations and persecutions in his life, he was describing the normal Christian life in the First Century. Throughout the world today, men and women continue to suffer in these same ways for Christ, and many of them give their very lives. But faith is always joyful in tribulation.  (II Corinthians 7:4)
      Paul did not merely submit to persecutions, neither did he overflow with joy because he was  experiencing  great tribulation; but he rejoiced while in afflictions, knowing by faith that this was part of God's perfect will for  his  life and ministry. This is commitment that remains strong even in the face of overwhelming adversity.
      When Paul obeyed the Macedonian call, he was welcomed there by being cast into prison. Paul did not usually call ahead to check the local Holiday Inn because he knew he would wind up incarcerated in the local jail . Scripture tells us in Acts 16, ''but at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them." They sang because they were in the will of God; their faith produced overflowing joy in tribulation.
      To those same Philippian believers, Paul said, ''I have learned that in whatever state I am, there to be content." (Philippians 4:11) Paul gloried in tribulations and could shout, ''I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) He knew that all of these things that he lists here as common events in his life was ''for the furtherance of the Gospel." You may not face the same kind of persecutions that Paul and the believers of his generation faced, but you will face opposition if you take a stand for truth in the modem culture. It is required of you to maintain the same kind of steady perseverance and joyful response to the opposition you receive today.
      We take great inspiration from faithful servants of God today who pay a great price to serve the Lord.
A Christian prisoner in Cuba was asked to sign a statement containing charges against fellow Christians that would lead to their arrest. He said, ''The chain keeps me from signing this." The Communist officer protested, ''But you are not in chains." ''I am, said the Christian. I am bound by the chain of witnesses who, throughout the centuries, gave their lives for Jesus Christ. I am a link in this chain. I will not break it."
      Make it a point to pray today for the House Church Network in China. This is the unregistered church. It is the heart of the true church in China. It has the opportunity, however, to reach millions of people in this immense country. Intense persecution has purified this church. Prayer, revival, simple living, and a Christ-centered theology characterize it. Twenty or more larger networks are known to exist, but their numbers are a matter of guessing. Reasonable estimates range between 30 and 80 million, or 50% - 80% of the total Christian population. Pray for the House Church of China today.
      ''I live in a land ruled by the false teaching of Islam. My people are blinded and I was chosen by God to be His voice. I count all that I have suffered nothing compared to the endless joy of knowing Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life."