Andrew Brunson said he gave up many times while he was imprisoned in Turkey.
“I was broken,” he told listeners at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in Birmingham on June 10. “But I would work my way back into the battle.”
But on one particular day he said he was called suddenly into court and accused of trying to overthrow the Turkish government. The prosecutor was calling for three life sentences and solitary confinement.
“I had been climbing out of brokenness but this really knocked me down hard,” Brunson said.
In that place of brokenness he finally cried out that Jesus was worthy of all of his suffering.
“I began to fight every day,” said Brunson, who served as a church planter and pastor in Turkey for 23 years. He was released in October 2018 after two years in prison.
Persecution isn’t something to be romanticized, he said. Before he was put in prison he held an idealistic view of suffering.
“I had to adjust my perspective,” Brunson said. “I tried to bring my expectations and my mindset into the line of what Jesus wanted.”
He had a choice — to cling to Christ as His anchor or live in constant fear of the future.
“Prison tested my love for God,” he said. “Many people are tested and don’t make it out. The valley of testing is full of dry bones, people who have failed their test. I began to pray, ‘I don’t want to fail in the valley of testing. If You never release me from prison I’ll still follow You.’”
Churches need to teach that persecution is coming and how to stand when it does come, he said, noting how Jesus talked about the dangers of not being ready. While most Christians in the West have never encountered persecution, Brunson said he thinks it is going to become “increasingly difficult” to stand for Jesus and truth in the United States — especially for the next generation.
“I fear many of us are complacent and unaware and I think that means many of us are going to be blindsided about what comes,” he said.
Nothing is more important than “to be faithful in my generation, to love Him, to stand without apology before my King,” Brunson said. “Someday you will also stand before King Jesus. May you do so without cause for regret.” (Grace Thornton)