This week's 'thought' has to do with persecution for the faith. It has to do with our brothers and sisters all over the world who are suffering for their faithfulness in following Jesus. As you know, in many parts of the world loving Jesus puts your life (and the lives of your family) at risk.
Just recently Antonio Audo, Syrian priest and bishop of Aleppo Syria said of the current situation there: "Many churches stand empty, targets for bombardment and desecration... Now our faith is under mortal threat, in danger of being driven to extinction (in Syria) the same pattern we have seen in neighboring Iraq." Muslim militants often use the political unrest as a cover to eradicate Christians and destroy churches.
This particular thought has to do with how we as Western Christians should respond to all that. It is by Steve Lundquist, vice-president for domestic ministry with The Voice of the Martyrs, and was printed in this month's (June 2014) Decision Magazine. I found it insightful and challenging, and for that reason offer it to you.
"Steve Lundquist... has a challenge for Western Christians who are concerned about their brothers and sisters who are suffering for Christ.
First, Lundquist says, realize that persecuted believers do not want your sympathy: "You do these people an incredible disservice to portray them as 'these poor, suffering people' who need you -- you blessed Westerners -- to come and give them stuff. This is not a 'worthy cause' to engage in. This is our family.
Second, understand that the best response is not simply to rush in and try to 'make it better.' Rather, help them to be obedient to Christ's commands, including that of proclaiming the Gospel. Lundquist explains: 'At The Voice of the Martyrs, we ask, 'What do you need to become more successful in evangelism?' We give the people the resources to do things we know will increase the chances that they will be persecuted. And we also provide assistance when that persecution happens.'
Third, count the cost of being a true follower of Jesus. "I could effectively minimize Christian persecution all over the world,' Lundquist says. 'All I have to do is convince every Christian around the world to follow the example of the typical American believer. You know, compartmentalize your life: Go to church on Sunday, but don't talk about Jesus Monday through Saturday.'
'We have so watered it down. We say: 'And now, with every head bowed and every eye closed, slip your hand up.' You know, don't take a risk. And then we wonder why, the first time there is opposition, people are not standing.
'Our persecuted brothers and sisters have something that we so desperately need. If we take their example, our life is not going to get easier. But the message we need to be trumpeting is this: Count the cost. Understand the cross and figure out what it's worth to you, and then decide whether you're in or not.'"
I've been preaching a series of messages from the book of Revelation and am currently focusing on the Seven Churches (in chapters 2-3). Therefore persecution has been a recurring theme (should you desire to listen to any of them, click on the following link: http://www.christcommunitybiblechurch.org/ and go to the 'sermons' page).
This excerpt by Steve Lundquist presents us with the same question. Do we primarily seek our comfort, and thus invisibility, or do we seek to be obedient disciples, realizing it will inevitably increase the world's displeasure with us and possibly put us in the line of fire?
Is it time to ask ourselves afresh: "Would I be willing to lose all for Jesus? Is my love for Him superior to my love for everything and everyone else?" And if so, will you commit (or re-commit) to following Him and obeying Him come what may? Will you pray for the grace to do so?
Yours in the Bonds of Christian Service and Obedience, Pastor Jeff