Monday, March 30, 2009

The Positives of Persecution

A pastor, Craig James, spoke at my church on Sunday night about his experiences preaching at three pastors’ conferences in India & Nepal this past January. He told how when someone in those two countries becomes a Christian, he does so with the knowledge that he could easily be signing his death sentence. For this reason, they do not baptize any child under the age of 18. Christians’ homes and churches are repeatedly burned. Christians are beaten, threatened, and killed each day. Christians lose their families. And yet he spoke of their amazingly great fervor for Jesus, in the face of a life of terror that I have never once experienced…a fervor much greater than my own.

One story he told was about how, due to a flat tire, his group was nine hours late for the first conference. NINE HOURS. And yet the thousand people were waiting in joyous anticipation for him and four other pastors to come preach the Word of God to them. Nine hours! And they weren’t ticked off that they had to wait! After that, the people sat for 12 hours to listen to preaching. He showed pictures of teenagers with their Bibles open as they listened and took notes, enraptured by the Word.

He also told how at one of the conferences, Hindu militants stood outside the windows of the building and yelled threats. At any moment, they could have burst through the doors and taken the life of every Christian there, but even with that threat, Bro. James said he never sensed fear from those inside. They truly believed the words of Elijah in 2 Kings 6:16: “‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” Before their third conference, the pastor’s brother was beaten and the Hindus threatened to kill him if the pastor didn’t call off the conference. When Bro. James asked if he ever considered doing just that, the pastor said, “Never. My brother would be ashamed of me.”

I so much take for granted that I can pray and read my Bible when and where I wish, that I can assemble with fellow Christians, that I can post my beliefs to my blog and not fear that I’m in the crosshairs, under attack by some cult—and because I take these things for granted, I don’t appreciate the privilege. And what I don’t appreciate, sometimes I don’t do or I sigh about doing it. How spoiled and pampered I am compared with Christians around the world. It’s so easy to take a stand when there are no repercussions.

But, when I think about it, I believe Satan uses this “ease” of being able to worship or not to worship as a pit to ensnare Americans. A take-it-or-leave-it salvation is not true salvation at all, but that’s what most Americans have. And what I have discovered about myself is that the hardest days and weeks of my life are when I am the most adamant about Christ, when the very marrow in my bones wants to shout for Jesus and accomplish something great for Him. When I am not suffering or going through a trial, that’s when my attention to Jesus fades and the minutia of life comes to the forefront, clogging my mind with meaningless, worldy, fleshly concerns like plaque in an artery.

I pray for these persecuted Christians. I cannot imagine their suffering. But, perhaps Americans should actually envy these Christians whose persecution makes them more committed to Christ than ever, makes them never go a day without their Christianity ever-present before them. Seeing how they take a stand for Jesus, how they suffer daily for the cause of Christ and how I don’t even have that chance to suffer like them in an apathetic America, how I don’t have the chance to see if I would stand when suffering in such a manner for my faith----it makes my faith seem so small, so insignificant, so untested…so weak.

I know that’s ridiculous—we all have our trials, and my faith has been tried by fire the past 4 years and has remained not only firmly grounded but has deepened and strengthened to become a wellspring of life, hope, and promise within me. But still, the trials God has given me seem so insignificant compared to these people’s trials.

I thank you God for all the blessings you have given me, and I repent of my own selfish complaining over everything that is meaningless in light of eternity. I count my trials as blessings because they keep me close to you, something which is extremely difficult in a culture that offers me so many diversions that could easily take up all my time, energy, passion, and love if I let them. I praise you for knowing that hardships are best for transforming my soul, even when I would rather the easy route.

No comments:

Post a Comment