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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Is Jesus Worth It?

 1 Peter 4:12-14 "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as your share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you."

I heard a few weeks ago that believers in China pray for persecution to come to America. I remember that struck me in an odd way. Why would you pray for persecution to come to America? The ANSWER? They have seen how persecution has spread the gospel in China. It makes no human sense at all. How can a hurting, suffering church actually grow? I believe it is the power of the resurrection and the power of the gospel message.

Yesterday, I came across a free version of "The Insanity of God" video on Facebook. Since the girls and I have been reading different missionary stories, I thought this would be a great addition to our school day. What I didn't realize is that God had a message for me. Maybe He has a message for you too, since He woke me up at 3:00am to write this blog post. I normally never wake up on my own this early. However, I was wide awake with the Spirit prompting me to write and share what I learned in the video. As I sat here reflecting and asking the Spirit to guide me, I recalled on my plane ride to Nebraska seeing this young couple reading a book called "The Insanity of God". The title caught my eye because it sounded so anti-God to call Him insane. As I sit here now, I wonder if that was God's first attempt to get my attention about this story I'm about to share with you. I don't claim at all to understand God's ways, since I know that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways are higher than mine. But, I also know that if we will listen, He has a message for us in His word and through other people's testimonies.

Through Celebrate Recovery, I have discovered just how powerful people's testimonies are to others. To hear someone share where they have come from, how God has moved in their life, and to hear how God is using them now is powerful. I think that is why Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the HOPE that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." As I typed that verse, I'm struck with the reminder that the first week of Advent is the Hope candle. I believe that is what differentiates believers...the hope that we have in the midst of trials and the storms of life. I have said many times that I don't know how people cope with a cancer diagnosis apart from the hope that we have in Jesus. I also don't know how people handle death without Jesus on their side.

This I believe is what struck me so much about the video that we watched yesterday. My human mind could not imagine some of the things that I heard. Let me give you a quick, brief background on the video. This missionary couple, Nik and Ruth, were missionaries overseas. They saw God move in so many ways during their years of service. Unfortunately, while overseas, they lost their son. Nik shared how he cried out to God that it was too much. God asked too much of him. At this point, God started him on a life changing journey to travel around the world and interview Christians who had been persecuted and ask them, "Is Jesus Worth It?" What followed was literally mind-blowing and challenged my faith. One pastor was tortured for years by the KGB for his faith. When his family was finally able to see him, the guards dragged out an emaciated man. Instead of crying over seeing their loved one in such a state, his eight year old son leaned over and told his father he was proud of him. What?!? That is mind boggling that an eight year old saw his father's tortured body and said he was proud of him for living for Jesus! 

If that wasn't enough, another pastor was thrown in jail for 17 years. He would wake up every morning and sing a love song to Jesus while facing east. He was beat numerous times when guards found scriptures he had written down from memory to revive his soul. One time, the guards had enough and told him they were going to kill him in the prison yard right now. As they dragged him out of his cell, they were suddenly silenced by 1500 hardened criminals with the arms raised up to the east singing the love song that faithful follower of Jesus sang for the last 17 years. 

Story after story of people experiencing such difficult, hard times and suffering. At the same time, story after story of their faithfulness to a faithful God who never left their side. When asked, "Is Jesus worth it?", they always responded the same. Yes! He is worth it all. Such power in their testimonies and it challenged me to my soul. Tears streamed down my face as I heard stories that were like people stepping out of the pages of the Bible, especially in Acts. How many times do we question God sitting here in the comfort of our homes? I know that I am guilty of telling God it's too much to have to raise a child with psychosis and mental health issues on top of having a husband with a terminal illness. Then I hear of these people suffering for the name of Jesus to the point where any human would ask, "Is Jesus worth it?" And their answer is yes! This right here shows the POWER of the gospel and the resurrection! No one would be tortured and suffer such hardship for something that wasn't real to them. That is what was powerful to the testimony of the early church and how the gospel spread, and that is the power of the church now. It is when we are weak that we are strong and God's message can be displayed to the world. When you have been striped of everything and only have Jesus, you discover that He is enough!

Towards the end of the movie was when this message was shared from believers in China. These are the very same people who pray that persecution comes to America and who don't trust people who come into their midst unless they have served time in prison for Him. The next section has almost direct quotes from the movie "The Insanity of God". It was so powerful, I had to write it down word for word in some parts.

When China re-opened their borders, believers around the world looked on to see what happened to the 400-700,000 known believers in China. During this time of closed borders and extreme persecution, the church grew to 10 million Christians. These Christians didn't just survive in persecution, they thrived. This is not a secret church in China. You cannot hide what is currently 85-100 million Christians. This is an illegal church, but it blesses the community in which it exists so much that there have been numerous times authorities have asked the church to help settle disputes within the community. Why have they done so well? Here was their response: They said we have a decision we have to make every day. We ask ourself this question, do I want to identify with believers in persecution or do I want to identify with their persecutors? And when you ask them how do I determine who I identify with, they say by whether or not today you share Jesus with someone else, or you keep Him to yourself. In America, I hear faith is a personal matter and that is from satan. What believers in persecution have said, that's brutally honest, is when I keep my witness from my brother, father, sister, or boss, then I am identifying with persecutors because I'm keeping my witness to myself. In 2000, it was said that 90% of baptists will never share Jesus with another person.This is what's killing believers in persecution. They are saying you are giving up in freedom, what we would never give up in persecution and that is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They said here is the mistake you are making. You think that witness is tied to political freedom and that is Biblically incorrect. I am as free to share Jesus in Saudi Arabia today as I am in Kentucky. An I am as free to share Jesus in Afghanistan today as I am in Ohio. Politics, countries, and presidents have nothing to do with this. God has said you are free and you are to share the gospel with everyone. When we are obedient and exercise our freedom, then we do have the courage to suffer the consequences. 

Romans 8:2, 11, 28 says, "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you freeing Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death...If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you...And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." 

Wow! I know that God used those words to challenge my heart. How many times do I stay silent and not share Jesus with the world around me? We like to say we "share" by how we live. Although this is true, we need to live lives that match the message we are to share, is that just an excuse? I know that out of fear of what people will think that I have shut my mouth in public. What the persecuted believers are saying to us is that we have it all backwards. We think by us having freedom to worship and freedom of religion, we are in a better position than our "poor, suffering" brothers and sisters around the world. The secret they know is that they are actually more free in their suffering than we are in our "free" lives. Freedom and joy come from living the life that God has called us to live. We are told countless times to share the gospel with the world around us. Testify to His greatness in your life and allow your testimony to be the vessel by which God can transform other people's lives around you. May we be willing as believers to fight harder for sharing the truth of God with others as we are to fight for our freedom. Maybe in shedding some of our "freedom", we will actually get to experience true freedom!

2 comments:

  1. What an awesome share Rebecca. Sure woke me up to how many opportunities I pass up to share Christ and, how I take for granted the freedom I have to share.

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  2. WOW!! Leaves me speechless. I'm pretty sure I couldn't watch the film. But your account is enough. All I can do is pray I would have that same resolved to endure such persecution. They are all like Paul to me. I always want to be like Paul. So bold and fearless for the sake of the Gospel!

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