Open Doors Message – originally written for January 16th 2016
(I wrote this message with a view to preaching it on the above date when Adrian Smith from Open Doors came to address us at Sion Baptist Church. It seemed, at the time, “superfluous to requirements” – Adrian had said all that needed to be said.
So, in preparation for our upcoming Open Doors Sponsored Bible read (please see website for details), I offer this reflection to you:
Please read: Daniel 3: 13-37 and Acts 7: 54 – 8:8
I cannot begin to imagine how terrifying it must be to be pursued, threatened, beaten or tortured or to watch those nearest to me terrorised, threatened with death and even killed. How would I react under that kind of pressure? Would I bend and bow the knee to the prevailing political or military powers in order to survive? Would I renounce my faith at the point of a blade and convert to some other religion or ideology? The honest answer is I don’t know.
Would I be like Stephen-about-to-stoned?
Could I preach a long sermon, then give my life; give up my spirit - into God’s hands? I don’t know.
Would I “dare to be a Daniel” or be like one of the Hebrew boys who go trustingly into the furnace even as on-lookers mock the God in whom I claim to believe – and in these milder British climes – try to follow?
I hope I never have to make such a choice…
But I would like to think some “Nebuchadnezzar” might say,
‘He trusted in the God of Shradrach/Meshach /Abednego - and defied the king’s command and was willing to give up his life rather than serve or worship any god except his own God…’
I have never been persecuted (not really) for my faith. But I have met with Christians at Spurgeons College where I trained for ministry - men and women who by accident of birth lived in lands where their faith made them marked men and women.
Their faith was strong and it was (is) real. People (Christians) from Burma and India, from Korea, from Ethiopia.
Without fail they were people of joy. They did not complain. They may, in our terms, have had reason to.
They are not people who are given to self-pity – or concerning themselves with “high-class-problems”.
They cried out for greater faith, for strength to stand through the storm – not just for ways to avoid the storm. They would remind us that that the foundation of their faith was Jesus, Himself the victim of injustice and torture.
If it was good enough for Him; there are worse things than death!
While I knew what it was like to be irritated or mildly rejected or ‘tittered’ at by family on account of my calling (and my God), these people knew the cruel realities of persecution – and love God all the more.
They have found God in places I could never imagine – in the strangest of places – some had friends and family behind bars – some had friends killed. And, having witnesses the faith of others, some had become believers. Many, after their training in London, were going back to those places – back to the furnace.
And I never really knew quite how to deal with my feelings; what to say or what to do. Some of it was guilt and the question, why them and not me?
The usual response was PRAY WITH US, have fellowship with us:
3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13)
25... so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12)
They say, “PRAY WITH US, not just for us...”
They pray that their persecutors will see the God we trust – that He has not abandoned us – that they will see he is here in the fire, standing with us through it...
They pray big prayers – that when persecution comes they won’t run away; that they’ll be faithful in speaking and witnessing; that the Gospel will be advanced...
You need real faith to pray such prayers! You need a really big God to pray such prayers!
I may not have experienced or even witnessed persecution at first hand – but I know the God who has delivered me from sin, death and the enemy.
That is what will stand me in good stead when and if the time comes – that is what I pray.
God Bless MFR