IDENTIFYING WITH CHRISTIAN PRISONERS
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
The letter to the Hebrews was written to first-century Jewish believers in Jesus who were being persecuted. Some were so discouraged they were considering returning to Judaism. The writer encourages them to persevere because of the superiority of Jesus over everything and everyone else. And He will return to establish the ultimate kingdom.
Chapter 13 begins the author’s final instructions. First, we are to continue (repeated action) loving one another as brothers and sisters. This love is to be practical and reach out even to strangers who we are to entertain as we may not realize when one might be an angel. Then in our verse for today, our love is to extend to those who are in prison for their faith, even to the point of assuming we are in there with them. That makes a huge difference as to how we show practical love.
Russian Christian prisoner, Aleksandr Ogorodnikov, shares, “One night I was thrown into a cell with a broken window. The KGB was determined to do an experiment and freeze me. Later they would say, ‘He broke the window in his cell and died of cold.’ I felt despair. I thought to myself, ‘Has God really left me? Am I really forgotten and neglected? Have my years of suffering been in vain?’
“And in my despair, I began to pray. I usually pray silently, but this time I started to appeal to God out loud. ‘God, have You left me?’ My cries were bursting from a heart literally in utter despair.
“And right then, I suddenly felt palpable, physical warmth. Not the kind that comes from a heater, but like when a mother draws her freezing child to her breast and warms him with her tearful breath of compassion. It was a very living, human warmth. It penetrates you as if piercing you to the heart. And inside your heart, a spring opens up, out of which flows peace—a wonderful, magnificent, soothing peace.
“I felt a very loving, brotherly touch—someone’s caring hand touching my shoulder. I actually felt it. In the morning, it was a shock to my executioners. They couldn’t understand. I wasn’t simply alive, but my temperature was the same as that of a normal person. I heard a doctor explaining to my executioners in the corridor, ‘This is impossible! We can’t explain it.’
“It so happened that many people began praying for me. And that was exactly when they released me.”
RESPONSE: I will continue to remember my brothers and sisters around the world who are in prison for their faith.
PRAYER: Lord, give the sense and touch of Your presence to those suffering for You in prison today.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission.