New Devotional Book Highlights What We Can and Need to Learn From Persecuted Christians

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on May 23, 2024

Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern (ICC), is a student of the persecuted church around the world. He’s traveled to 79 countries, brought victims of anti-Christian persecution to Washington D.C., and continually hears from his traveling staff about the victims ICC is serving.

All the persecution he’s become aware of over more than a decade at ICC, King says, is “a bit of a horror show.” He also explains that the lessons he’s learned from the persecuted church are highly relevant to and needed by believers in the West, as we experience our own versions of suffering and learn to surrender our lives more fully to the Lord. That’s why he wrote The Whisper: Lessons of Renewal from the Prisons of the Persecuted, which came out earlier this year.

King, who is an evangelist at heart, felt God calling him to take his position with ICC in 2003 through a miraculous dream: He was asked to lead a business after the owner dropped dead. About 20 minutes after he woke up from the dream, he was asked to lead ICC because the founder had unexpectedly died.

In his early days at ICC, seeing images of beheadings and other horrors, King asked God why He had called him to this work. He sensed the Lord whispering to his heart time and again, “I want you to learn the lessons of the persecuted and the martyrs. These are transformative lessons. They’re not just for you. I want you to shout them to the world.” He thought he would learn the lessons quickly, but it took him about ten years.

A Meeting With Formerly Imprisoned Chinese Pastors

Soon after starting his job, King went to China, where he met with pastors who had endured long prison sentences. He said this meeting was “a life treasure.”

He asked them, “Tell me about persecution.”

They said, “Persecution is a gift.”

He asked for more explanation. They said, “It’s not a gift you’d ever want. It’s not a gift you’d ever want to give to anybody. But it’s a gift nonetheless because it breaks our self-reliance, our self-strength, and this is our big problem. So when that is broken, He can really flow. When we become desperate and hungry and we cling to Him, He can flow through us. So it’s a gift. It makes the Church pure.”

King asked, “What would the Church be without persecution?”

They told him, “You would have famous people who are talented speakers running around — but not people who had an anointing, not people who deeply knew the Lord and have a sense of His power.”

King was astounded. “I was like, ‘Wow. Okay,” he says now. “Then the big one was this. I said, ‘What’s your biggest worry?’ They said, ‘Our biggest worry is that that the pastors we’re mentoring that are coming up after us — they haven’t been hunted and arrested and tortured and murdered like we were.’ I was like, ‘My gosh.’”

Around him, King saw a suffering church, and yet those people were the most devoted to God and grew the fastest spiritually.

“They Have Their Doctorate in Suffering”

King then began to realize that though he had thought of persecution as a special kind of suffering, Western Christians experience suffering as well — and the lessons of suffering are relevant regardless of the type.

“Our prisons have different names; they’re called depression and bankruptcy and anxiety and relationship and marriage and illness, but those are all prisons,” King says, adding that we should learn from the persecuted church “because they’re the experts. They have their doctorate in suffering.”

But are the sufferings Western Christians face truly comparable to the literal prisons of persecution?

“Oh my gosh, yeah,” King says. He watched a friend receive some of the same lessons through cancer that believers around the world receive from religious persecution.

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One of his best friends is a deep Christian who nevertheless was a chronic worrier. King shared with his friend the concepts he was learning from the persecuted church, but those conversations were never transformative. But then his friend was diagnosed with one of the most deadly cancers.

“There’s not even chemo for it,” King says. Soon his friend started echoing back to him the lessons King had previously been sharing.

“In the prison of cancer, he found freedom. He found the relationship he had never known before,” King recalls. “All of a sudden, there’s nothing left to worry about. It’s like you’re facing your own demise and then you’re just going to live day to day and your mission is to cling to Jesus.”

The Whisper’s devotional format offers stories and questions to ponder for personal reflection. King has embedded many lessons from persecution in them because “information is not transformative. It’s information when it comes with revelation and with His touch — that’s when we get transformation.”

 

Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow her on X @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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