Devotion Worldwide | 23 October 2023

23 Scriptures persecuted Christians cling to


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They are the words that Christians have spoken, sung, whispered, written and meditated on through the ages. They are the lyrics that David spoke as he hid in caves, on the run from Saul … the epistles that Paul wrote, encouraging and challenging the churches he planted as they faced opposition … the lessons Jesus taught as He shared His life and wisdom with people, preparing them for the difficult path they had chosen. 

And they are the words that persecuted Christians read and still cling to today. 

Together they are the words of the Bible, and they provide inspiration, hope and meaning to Christians around the world, both now and in all times and places.

We asked our sisters and brothers who risk so much to follow Jesus: What are the scriptures you cling to and turn toward for strength, encouragement, courage and comfort? As you read each of the verses they shared and their stories behind them, we hope these passages open your eyes to some you may have overlooked, as well as bring you back to some you’ve read but might now see differently. And we pray that as you walk through your own adversity and trials, you’ll be reminded of these life-giving promises our God has given to all of us in His Word. 

Our sisters and brothers in Laos, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, China and every other place where Christians experience persecution have so much to share with and teach us. 

Psalm 91:4 (NASB): “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.”
“This was my scripture when my husband was imprisoned for his faith. I had great faith in the Lord to keep him safe. I was confident he would be fine because he has God in his life. I believe in God’s promise.” —Bouapha, Laos

Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

“We like this verse because it reminds us that when we pray, our needs are fulfilled by God. We had to leave our house with nothing but the clothes on our backs because of our faith. We always prayed, claiming this verse. Gradually, God made provisions for us through His people. Now, we have income sources.” — Chendo* and Kamala*, husband and wife, Nepal

"God’s love empowers me to face the trials and opposition."

Shekhar*, India
Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

“I had to move from more than three villages because villagers and anti-Christians opposed me. I faced false accusations and have been imprisoned and interrogated. Yet wherever I went, I never stopped serving the Lord. I was able to gather people and pray. These verses always remind me that nothing can separate me from God's love; God’s love empowers me to face the trials and opposition. With my family, I will continue to serve the Lord all the days of my life.” —Shekhar*, northern India

Jeremiah 29:11: “'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” 

“This is the scripture I heard when I first received Jesus. It gave me courage that though I am persecuted, or I am suffering, there is a future, there is a hope, and there is a plan. I won’t remain the same. I won’t remain in the same situation. Because His Word says that God’s plans are not for harm, they are not for pain, they are not for suffering. But they are for joy.” —Waswa*, Uganda

Acts 14:22: “... strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”

“We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul was a very realistic man with his followers. He told them that it was necessary that through many adverse circumstances, trials and difficulties, we would enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And so, I believe this verse was my vision during my tribulation.” —David, Oaxaca, México

Deuteronomy 11:18-21: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” 

“These verses show me what God commands us to do. We shall follow Him faithfully and obediently and raise our children in a godly way.” —Sister Jing*, China

Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.” 

“The first arrest of my husband was when we were engaged. He was suddenly picked from his house. In Eritrea, your life is always at risk. Though we are afraid, at the same time we are also living boldly. This verse assures me: Even though you are in prison, even though you are on the streets, even though you are being hunted, God is with you, wherever. And God understands what we are passing through. Jesus understands. He passed through this for us.” —Mirjam*, Eritrea

“I like this Bible verse because when I need to face difficulties, I know that He is with me. I don’t need to feel fear. I can stay calm and feel secure. This passage gives me much strength to face hardships.” —Brother Ko Aung *, Myanmar

Matthew 5:13-14: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

“I was the only Christian in my university class and tried to show the love of Jesus to my classmates. When everyone was giving each other descriptive names at the end of the year, I was given the name ‘salt of the class.’ I remembered what Jesus said about salt in the Bible and was happy that my classmates gave me that name.”—Hanen, Iraq

1 Peter 5:3 (NLT): “Don't Lord it over the people assigned to your care but lead them by your own good example.”

“I was persecuted by the people in my village. They falsely accused me, and I stayed in jail for three months. This verse gives me strength to live in this village. I am placed here because the Lord wants me to be an example. No matter what I face, I always get encouragement knowing the Lord has me here to be a good example and to win souls for His Kingdom.” —Dorji Rai*, Bhutan

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

“As soon as I met Jesus, persecution followed. My family tried to force me back to Islam. I have run for my life for my faith in Jesus. I have been in prison for Him. I have lost all my possessions, including my home. But He gave His Son for me. He is worth it. I will continue to share His hope.” —Aman*, Sudan

“This verse, Jesus’ words, persuaded me, and I made up my mind to leave Islam for Christianity, I was baptized two years later and started fellowshipping in secret.” —Melanie from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

“This verse is my anchor. It says we are Jesus’ witnesses to others. Witnesses in how we speak, how we act, how we live, in everything we do. Our lives are a witness. So, I must be a witness to others. Even to those who make life hard for us. In our identity card, our tribe name is Chin and religion is Christian. When people see it, they don’t give us the priority. We are discriminated [against]. This is the first thing we experience in Myanmar. They do not care about us. This verse strengthens me to teach others and lead others to God. Even though the journey is hard, there is joy. I don’t consider it a problem because it’s our burden to share what we have learned from the Word of God, and when we do it—when we obey and be His witnesses—the burden becomes light.” —Cho*, Myanmar

Psalm 141:1-2: “I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” 

“My story is a testimony of faithful prayer. It is impossible to live without it. We pray that our life might be changed. We pray that God may bring peace to our country, we pray for our child.” —Lalise*, Ethiopia

Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

“With this verse, I recalled the past when I was struggling financially, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and how God had given me rest. This confirmed to me that God has really chosen me for His work. I shared from the Bible to everyone and shared my testimony, that I had found the one and only true God. From that day, I started visiting people and praying for them.” —Shekhar*, a Hindu-background believer, Nepal

Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

“Those words accompanied me throughout the days after the earthquake, God protected me and my family. I have no idea where I got the strength to do what I’m doing, but I know God was with me and still is.” —Merry, earthquake survivor, Syria

"I have no idea where I got the strength to do what I’m doing, but I know God was with me."

Merry, Syria

Psalms 23:4-5: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” 

“Thirty years ago, I started an underground Bible school. I experienced a lot of persecution. I was beaten, jailed, forced to run away from local authorities in the forest. There were times when I was stopped by local police that  my heart nearly popped out of my chest.  Throughout my journey, God has always there for me. God made miracles happen, He protected me, comforted me. Psalms 23 has been very true for me.” —Open Doors partner Pastor Barnabas*, Vietnam

(Today, there are thousands of disciples across the country who graduated from the underground Bible school that Barnabas founded.) 

Galatians 6:14: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 

Deuteronomy 7:6-7: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” 

“When I read these scriptures, it encourages me to keep going. It is He who encourages and strengthens me. He keeps me going despite all my challenges. I want to tell people the gospel and how Jesus has helped me through all the difficult situations I have faced. My husband and son died, but I have found rest in the Lord.” —Worke* in East Africa

Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”

“Because the environment I was in seemed dark to me; so much need, violence, I clung to Jesus as that light, but also as that salvation in times of despair, that I should not fear if I was with Him, even if enemies were lurking. It is a verse that inspired me to trust and rest in Jesus.” —Laura, Colombia

Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

“My uncle slapped me and blamed me for my father's suicide. After that, my aunt forced me to abandon my belief, saying that she would provide a wonderful life for me and allow me to be with my siblings. But I refused. Even though what I am going through is dark and risky, I know that God is with me when I recite this psalm.” —Rinna*, Southern Philippines

John 10:29: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

“Trusting God’s favor in this, her darkest night, was my only option. In the forest and during my weakest time when I lost my baby daughter, I held on to Jesus’ words.” —Hajaratu*, Nigeria

Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” 

“This is my faith verse. It really encouraged me to stand up and be willing to take risks to follow Jesus. I was the first one in my family to make Jesus the Lord of my life and have suffered for that decision. But Jesus said that I must daily take on His cross—I pray I can always follow Him.” —A Lam* in Vietnam’s Central Highlands

Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd …” 

“When I was imprisoned, I held on to this scripture, especially verse 1: “The Lord is my shepherd.” This is my favorite Psalm. I learned it back in China, and I meditated on it every day in the [North Korean prison] camp. I knew it was a message of encouragement in a terrible place. This Psalm taught me a lot: I may have been imprisoned in a dark valley, but that didn't matter. Jesus is my Shepherd, and I experienced peace despite the circumstances. Even though it felt as if I was literally in a valley full of the shadow of death, I wasn’t afraid of anything. God comforted me every day.” —Hea Woo*, North Korean refugee

2 Timothy 3:12: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 

“One day, I stumbled upon this verse. It touched my heart and fortified my faith. I began to accept that maybe the Lord allowed my son’s death because He was testing me, because He wants me to depend on Him even more. This verse also sparked a new vision for me: What about the new converts who are persecuted, beaten, whose houses are burned down and threatened if they refuse to renounce their faith? If we don’t visit and give them encouragement, how will they stand strong in their faith? I know how it feels to be in pain and to long for people to encourage me. I want to be there for these believers.” —Maixay*, Laos

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

“In spite of how difficult the situation was for us, I always remembered these words in my mind and kept them in my heart, knowing that God was always there in the midst of everything I was living through.” —Víctor in Jalisco, México


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