He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says . . . He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Rev. 2:11)

PASTOR RICHARD WURMBRAND was arrested in 1948 for preaching the gospel and pastoring an “unapproved” (underground) church in Romania. He spent fourteen of the next sixteen years in prison, where he suffered brainwashing, mental abuse, physical torture, and denial of medical care, resulting in lifelong damage. When his wife, Sabina, was also imprisoned, their son, Mihai, found himself alone on the streets at the tender age of nine. By God’s grace, the Wurmbrands survived, were eventually reunited, and fled Romania.

From Abel in Genesis to the first-century church, through the Reformation, and into modern times, many have paid a high price for obeying God. In Eastern Europe, China, Southeast Asia, Cuba, and the Muslim-dominated nations of Africa and the Middle East, many have suffered or forfeited their lives.

Religious persecution may not always be in other times and other places. In North America, we have long enjoyed great religious liberty, but it is not guaranteed forever. Even now, some disturbing changes are beginning to surface. But as today’s Bible passage makes clear, God sees every sacrifice for Him. Persecution and suffering do not mean that something has gone terribly wrong, and trying times don’t nullify His expectations. God is still on His throne, and expects us to fix what needs fixing in His church and to hold the line until Jesus comes again.

Decide now that, whatever trials life brings, you will make God proud.

Neil S. Bowers lives in San Diego, California, with his wife and four children. A state correctional officer, he enjoys poetry and wood carving.