Why Does God Allow Christians in the Middle East to Be Beheaded?

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Why Does God Allow Christians in the Middle East to Be Beheaded?

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Why Does God Allow Christians in the Middle East to Be Beheaded?

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If God hears our prayers, then why doesn't He prevent Christians from suffering the tragic beheadings that we have witnessed in the Middle East? In the Western world, we live far removed, both historically and geographically, from Christian persecution, but Jesus explained that the world would hate His followers just as they had hated Him (John 15:18-19). True to that statement, Christians have been tortured and killed throughout history, beginning with the first-century Church.

As Christians, we can be certain that trials and difficulty will come in our lives because we live in a world that is overcome with evil and controlled by Satan, who is actively seeking to destroy us.

The short answer to why God allows Christians to suffer is that the world is currently under the influence and power of Satan, and that God does not promise His followers that they will escape trials during their mortal life. On the contrary, God allows His people to endure hardship in order to build and perfect our faith, promising a future glory that will totally eclipse the present sufferings of this age (Romans 8:18).

This world is not under God's rule

As surprising as it may seem, the Bible reveals that the world we live in today is not under God's rule. Paul referred to the Devil as "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4) and "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2). It is not until immediately before Jesus Christ's return, when the seventh trumpet of Revelation is blown, that God's rule on the earth is finally proclaimed (Revelation 11:15). Until then, Satan has the power to deceive humanity into committing all kinds of evil, and this is the primary reason why people are separated from God, giving rise to the persecution of those who know Him.

Bible prophecy indicates a future time of tribulation when the religious freedom and protections we enjoy in the West will be removed and many will be killed for their Christian faith (Revelation 6:9-11). The beheadings that have happened in the Middle East in recent times are only a small foretaste of the worldwide violence that God's followers will endure just before Christ's return.

We must be willing to suffer

Not every Christian is called to face such extreme tribulation, but anyone truly seeking eternal life must possess the same deep conviction that would allow them to do so. Jesus said that "he who loves his life shall lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).

Daniel 3 is an instructive lesson in being faithful in the face of death. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were part of a select group of Jews forced to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar's court. The king commanded that the whole kingdom must worship an idol or else be burnt to death in a furnace. These three men defied the king's orders, saying: "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods" (Daniel 3:17-18, emphasis added). They acknowledged and accepted the possibility that they may die, being certain through faith that God alone was supreme and able to deliver them at His discretion.

Many of God's servants throughout history held this same faith but were not delivered, as Hebrews 11 records:

"Others were tortured . . . Still others had a trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented" (Hebrews 11:35-37).

Hebrews 11:35 points out that these people suffered willingly, "not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego likewise expressed their willingness to die if God chose not to deliver them. We observe then that Christian persecution is a choice, if all one has to do for relief is deny their faith in God and submit instead to their oppressors. But those who commit themselves to God and Jesus Christ have already chosen to "forsake all that [they] have" (Luke 14:33)—even their own lives.

The purpose of trials

The apostle James, who ultimately was killed for his faith, said to "count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience" (James 1:2-3). Paul wrote in in Romans 5:3-5 that "tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope." Paul suffered a number of severe trials throughout his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-28), and was eventually beheaded. The apostle Peter, who would later himself be put to death for His testimony about Jesus, warned the members of the early Church that they should expect trials: "Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

As Christians, we can be certain that trials and difficulty will come in our lives because we live in a world that is overcome with evil and controlled by Satan, who is actively seeking to destroy us (Revelation 12:17). Christians will continue to be beheaded in the Middle East, and worse persecution on a larger scale is in store for the future (Revelation 6:9-11). Nevertheless, our commitment to Jesus Christ and faith in God must be absolute, even to the point of death, knowing that our reward is not in this life but in the Kingdom of God to come. Through our patient obedience by faith, God works to make us "perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:4), so that we may inherit the reward of eternal life.