In 1948, Harlan Popov, the pastor of an underground church, was taken from his home for a “little questioning.” Two weeks later, he received around-the-clock interrogation and no food for ten days. Each time he denied being a spy, he was beaten. Popov not only survived his harsh treatment but also led fellow prisoners to Jesus. Finally, eleven years later, he was released and continued to share his faith until, two years later, he was able to leave the country and be reunited with his family. He spent the following years preaching and raising money to distribute Bibles in closed countries.
Like countless believers in Jesus throughout the ages, Popov was persecuted because of his faith. Christ, long before His own torture and death and the subsequent persecution of His followers, said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). He continued, “Blessed are you when people . . . persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (v. 11).
“Blessed”? What could Jesus have meant? He was referring to the wholeness, joy, and comfort found in a relationship with Him (vv. 4, 8–10). Popov persevered because he felt the presence of God infusing strength into him, even in suffering. When we walk with God, no matter our circumstances, we too can experience His peace. He is with us.