I have always had the privilege of living in countries where Christianity is allowed. Even when I lived in West Africa, where there is a significant Muslim population, I have always been free to worship.
This privilege, which I often take for granted, is not given to every Christian. Many believers around the world have never had the freedom to worship Christ without dire repercussions. For them, professing Christ is synonymous with beatings, torture, imprisonment, and even death. And most, if not all, of these Christians have incredible stories that illustrate God’s tender mercies.
Todd Nettleton, the host of the Voice of Martyrs Radio (VOM), has interviewed hundreds of persecuted Christians worldwide for his work. And in his new book, When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians, Nettleton takes us on a journey around the world to discover some of these believers who suffered for the Savior. He shares their stories so we can learn from their example.
He says, “We’re not home here, because we’re not of this world. We’re only traveling, heading toward our real home: heaven. So as we take this journey together to meet persecuted Christians, I hope we learn some truths for our other, more important, journey: the one that will take us home.”
The book is written in a devotional style to be read over 40 days. Each day features the story of a persecuted believer, a space for reflection, a prayer to help us apply what we have learned, and an entry from Nettleton’s journal.
When Faith is Forbidden is my second VOM book, the first being Hearts of fire. As with the previous one, I tremendously enjoyed reading stories of persecuted brothers and sisters and their faithfulness to our Lord.
What marked me most about these believers is their attitude during their persecution. Despite their many sorrows, they are not bitter, wallowing in self-pity, or even complaining. On the contrary, they are full of joy in the Lord! They are not contrite or broken, as one would expect, but persevering in hope. They are real-life examples of the apostle Paul who was joyful and content despite his chains.
Our persecuted brothers and sisters understand the truth that we, who live in the free world, have forgotten, that suffering for Christ is as much a gift as having faith in Him. Therefore, an opportunity for joy.
I also admire their focus and priority in sharing the gospel. Their Lord and Master gave them their marching orders to go therefore and make disciples, and they obeyed it at all costs. They let nothing such as imprisonment, gunshots, death threats, and more get in their way. When I think of the million excuses I find not to share the gospel with my neighbors (the sum of which is not even a tenth as grave as theirs), I am properly ashamed and encouraged to follow their examples.
I must say though that I was a bit uncomfortable with all the extra-biblical revelations in this book. Many believers claimed to have seen Jesus in their dreams and even actual visions which makes me skeptical. But besides that, I enjoyed the book, and recommend it.
When Faith is Forbidden will surely inspire you and remind you of the high cost of following Christ. No Christian is exempt from intense persecution. If or when it comes, the examples of those who went before us will be invaluable to encourage us.
Moody Publishers graciously gave me a copy for an honest review.