Recently, when my pastor said in a sermon that living for Jesus Christ in this country is easy, someone challenged him. The critic was adamant in insisting that we have it just as hard here as other believers throughout the world.
We ought to be ashamed if we believe that.
The July 12 issue of the Florida Baptist Witness tells of a missionary to Southeast Asia (country unnamed) who was teaching a number of evangelists from various countries in his part of the world. The missionary said, “They soak(ed) up the lesson on I Peter like it’s news from a long lost friend.”
At one point, the missionary/teacher asked, “How many of you have been persecuted for your faith?” He has taught this lesson before and knew to expect a number of responses.
Not a single hand was raised.
Thinking they might have misunderstood, the missionary said, “How many of you have suffered for preaching the gospel?”
Again, no hands were raised.
This had never happened before. The missionary knew these men and women lived in a SE Asian country where religious groups are required to register and get permission even to read their Bibles and pray. Why was he getting no response?
Finally, the missionary said, “How many of you have been imprisoned for sharing the Gospel?”
Every hand in the room went up.
Then, one by one, they began sharing their stories. It soon became apparent why they had not raised their hands: they did not consider imprisonment persecution.
One evangelist told of a pastor he knows who was tortured by authorities for preaching the Gospel. After being left outside overnight with no clothes on, still that brother was eager to return to share the gospel with his people. They were hungry to hear about Jesus, he said.
At one point, 14 of these evangelists had been arrested and thrown into prison. But this did not stop them. They continued talking about Jesus. One evangelist led many prisoners to Christ. He even conducted worship services in the prison yard. When the authorities discovered what was happening, they chained him in solitary confinement.
Another of the evangelists returned home to see his newborn son for the first time, but plans to continue his ministry in the area where he was arrested and imprisoned for a full year for preaching Christ.
The missionary said, “Now I (understood) why no one raised their hands the first two times I asked the question. The evangelists simply do not equate imprisonment with persecution or suffering. Sure, some were stoned, imprisoned, beaten, or evicted from their villages, but to them it’s the expected response for sharing the gospel.”
Toward the end of his session with the evangelists, the missionary heard their reports and added up more than 900 baptisms.
The Apostle Paul had a word for people who live such sold-out lives for Christ. “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed. For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (II Timothy 1:12)
Sometimes when I hear someone tell of their battles with cancer–of the endless chemo treatments, stem-cell implants, and bone marrow transplants, all the unbearable suffering that seems to know no end–I think back to my small bout with cancer in 2004-05, and keep my mouth shut. Mine was nothing compared to what they are enduring.
Throughout the world, our brothers and sisters are doing so much for Christ with so little. You and I have so much yet do so little.