A couple of years ago I read a book titled, “The Insanity of God, by Nick Ripkin. Nik is a missionary who saw firsthand the devastation that happened in Somalia after its Civil War. He did a lot of work trying to help the people that were just struggling to survive. For years he and his family dedicated their lives to helping the people in Africa.
Ultimately, after the death of his son, and feeling like it had all been a waste (no churches were founded, hardly anyone came to Christ), he was left struggling with his faith. He wondered what was the point. Why had God sent him there only to lose a son? Why had he sent them there with no real progress to show for it?
It was a dark time as I can only imagine what any parents who loses a child would experience. I don’t think there’s a worse thing that could happen to a parent than losing a child. Anything in comparison would be a walk in the park.
At this point in the story, it would’ve been so easy for Nik to have walked away from his faith. Many in similar situations have. To feel like you’ve given everything to God, only to lose a child, tears at your soul.
Miracles Still Exist
Nik didn’t give up though. He started a new chapter in his life. You have to forgive me here because it’s been some time since I have read the book, so I can’t remember exactly what the incident was that drove Nik to seek out believers in oppressed countries, but that’s exactly what he did. He sought them out to hear their stories and get their insight into how he could be a better missionary.
He went to Russia and spoke with people that lived their entire lives under a brutal regime, a regime that imprisoned or killed anyone that dared practice their faith. He went to China and spoke with believers in underground churches. Believers who were risking their lives by meeting with him and each other. Despite all of this, they still continued to practice their faith. Even after people they knew were taken away and never seen again.
It wasn’t just those two countries alone though. He went all over the world and heard stories from oppressed believers in the Middle East, Africa, and South America. He saw it all.
Along his travels, Nik kept expecting to find people who were depressed or had been beaten down. He expected to find people that were full of hope but lacked any joy in their life. How could they be joyful after the stories that he had head about these places (tortures, imprisonments, and executions)?
What he actually found, couldn’t have been further from his original perception. He found people that were full of joy, even more so than in America. These people weren’t just full of joy, but they were excited to share their stories of faith and the many ways that God had blessed them. They didn’t focus on the horrible tragedy, they focused on how God delivered them from it or gave them the strength to get through it.
Nik also discovered that many of their stories were full of miracles. Miracles that were verified by other people and had no discernible exclamation other than that they were a miracle produced by a loving God. Not only did he hear miracles, but he saw miracles happen and saw people practicing their faith in ways that made our practice in America look sterile (to lack a better word).
It was in these oppressed countries that the people Nik encountered reminded him of the first followers of Christ. It reminded him of the miracles and the joy that was so evident in the New Testament. These were people willing to give up their lives and everything they had just to share Christ.
Covering The Lamp
In America, we tend to look at the New Testament through a lens. We tell ourselves that miracles like that don’t happen anymore or that their boldness is irrelevant today. They had to be more bold and joyful back then to spread the word. In our modern times, that only isn’t unnecessary but it can be counterproductive.
We think of that mindset as belonging to another time, but when Nik went to these other countries he saw the mindset of the early church in these people. These very people that were so horribly oppressed.
Now I’m not saying that what we are experiencing in America now (with the lockdowns) can compare to some of the stories in, “The Insanity of God”. Being not allowed to sing in a church or gather together, does not compare to being imprisoned or killed for practicing your faith.
Yet, for many of us, it is the first real test of our faith. We can see in some small way, what the first believers and the believers in these other countries experienced. In this, there are two roads we can take. We can choose to be bolder about our faith, to be more open in sharing it, and standing together (no matter the consequences). Or we can choose to allow ourselves to be cut off from the body of Christ and God himself. We can choose to decide that faith isn’t that important.
Whatever your personal decision. What’s really important to know is that the attack against the church is nothing new. It has been a long process. We’ve been giving into compromises for years.
Our culture has conditioned us to believe it’s shameful to talk about Jesus. There is a mindset in our country that believes in acceptance, except when it comes to Christianity. Sharing your testimony equates to preaching and preaching equates to judgment. If you share Christ then you are judgmental.
We have replaced Merry Christmas, with Happy Holidays. It makes sense in a way. You don’t know what someone might believe or what might offend them. So as to not cause offense, we hide our values and our beliefs. It’s been that way for a long time. We have become comfortable with it.
We have become comfortable with not sharing our beliefs or who we truly are. That’s the way the world is. That’s normal. We tell ourselves that God would not want us to offend somebody, while we ignore the fact that Jesus offended many people throughout the Bible. We twist things in order to avoid a confrontation or keep our personal comfort at the status quo.
Stepping Out in Faith
In light of all that, maybe what’s happening now is a good thing. Maybe we need to get a glimpse of what oppression is, in order for us to truly realize and practice our faith the way it was intended to be practiced.
I have always hated the term, “The New Normal”. It suggests that our independence and freedom is over in a sense. We have to rely on the government to solve our problems. That things will never return to the way we lived before. That our children will never experience real school. That we will never be able to gather in person in a church as we did before. That wearing a mask in public has become a permanent fixation of our culture.
The new normal also suggests that the way we lived was wrong. Maybe that is true, but not the way that the people that invented the slogan believe. Maybe the way we practice our faith (at least in America), is flawed. Maybe the way we’ve been living for the past several decades, of hiding who we are because we don’t want to be perceived as judgmental, maybe that’s ‘the normal’ that needs to change.