“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Tim 2:8-9)
Every year, Open Doors produces ‘World Watch’ – a comprehensive list of the 50 countries in which Christians are most persecuted for their faith in Jesus. Even if you’re not a believer, it’s worth taking a look at the list to have your eyes opened to the human rights violations that take place around the world every single day. But for Christians in the West, the list is a great encouragement to prayer, and a reminder that the comfortable world we inhabit is not shared by countless millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
For the twelfth year in a row, North Korea tops the list. Here’s part of the ‘World Watch List Challenge’ email I received today from Open Doors (you can subscribe to this weekly email list here):
“All other religions are seen as harmful to North Korea’s Juche ideology, which stresses the importance of man’s self-reliance. Because the people are forced to worship their leaders, there is simply no room for other gods…. Christianity is [seen as] the religion of North Korea’s enemies. Christians are seen as spies of the “imperialist Americans” and the “treacherous South Koreans.” North Koreans are told that Christians use religion to poison their “glorious nation.” As a result of this, the church has been completely pushed underground. It consists of 200,000 – 400,000 believers. Of these, between 50,000 – 70,000 are held in Nazi-like concentration camps and prisons…. Despite being the most difficult place to be a Christian, the underground church in North Korea continues to grow – even in the prison camps.”
Hearing that the church in North Korea continues to grow, even in the face of such extraordinary persecution, blows my mind. And it reminded me of the great truth captured in the apostle Paul’s words, written from a first century prison cell: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Tim 2:8-9)
If you’re the praying kind, let me encourage you to take a few minutes to pray for North Korea – pray that God would sustain his people and bring real change to this country, but also thank God that his word is not bound, and his church can continue to grow even in what seem like the darkest corners of the earth.