To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. 1 Peter 2:21-22
In many places of the world, it’s not easy being a Christian. A 2016 Pew Research Center study revealed that 83 percent of the world’s population lived in countries with high or very high religious restrictions, with Christians facing the most widespread religious restriction. Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted Church, estimates that 260 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution.
Living a vibrant spiritual life is all the more difficult when there is a price to pay for your faith. What about Christians in these areas? Have they learned something which the rest of us vitally need? Have they learned secrets of spiritual survival which have escaped some of us who take so much for granted?
Paul Estabrooks spent most of his life ministering to the suffering church. He worked with hundreds, if not thousands, of house church leaders and ordinary men and women who have paid an extraordinary price for their faith, many of whom have been imprisoned unjustly because of their commitment to Jesus Christ.
In answer to the question, “How do they do it?” Estabrooks authored a book entitled, Secrets to Spiritual Success, which contains the true-life stories of men and women who look up and smile in spite of living with very high levels of persecution. Estabrooks wrote that he found that there are seven reasons they have been able to survive and to do so joyfully.
Secret #1: Wholehearted love for God. Estabrooks says, “What our good and loving God wants most from you and me is our undivided love for him—above all else—proved in obedience to him and love for all others.” He tells about meeting a man named Wang Ming Dao, the father of the house church movement in China, who spent 22 years in prison. “What can we in the West pray with you about?” Estabrooks asked the scarred saint. And old Brother Wang replied, “Pray for us that we will love the Lord more.”
Secret #2: Wholehearted commitment to God. Having taken up the cross of Jesus Christ, they are committed. No compromise, no vacillation, no wavering. They have crossed the line and they are willing to pay the price of doing so.
Secret #3: Wholehearted service for God. British missionary, C. T. Studd, said, “If Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” Those of whom Estabrooks writes have made that commitment, often risking their lives for others and the cause of Christ.
Secret #4: They enjoy the trip. Filled with the Spirit of God, people who are so committed find a joy and happiness often lacking in our lives. Having almost nothing, they have nearly everything. They seem to have what money cannot buy—real peace, happiness, and contentment.
Secret #5: Spiritual strength for the battle. Taking the Word of God literally, suffering believers often see the power of God in ways that those of us who worship in leisure only read about in the book of Acts.
Secret #6: A passionate love for people. Having first loved God, they love their brothers and sisters and those who are lost in real and costly ways. They pass the test which Jesus gave when He said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Secret #7: They are confident that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ, even unto death. These brothers and sisters in Christ “quietly communicated the simple but deeply profound message that what God asks of us—above all else—is our wholehearted love for him--A ‘head-over-heels, white hot love for God,’” that even death does not change.
Resource reading: Philippians 1:12-30