I’ve been digging more into a book that I mentioned in a previous post, “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripkin. It’s an incredible read.
In America, we are used to practicing our faith without persecution, but in countries like China, Iran, and others, it is the exact opposite. To them, it’s not if persecution will happen, but when.
“It was clear that these Chinese believers were not seeking persecution. However, their attitude about the likelihood of persecution seemed to be an attitude of calm acceptance. The attitude was not so much “if it comes.” The more common attitude was “when it comes.” I was reminded of what the old Russian pastor had said to me earlier. Here, too, it seemed, that “persecution was like the sun coming up in the east.”
East Vs. West
In a way, believers in these countries have a strength in their faith that we have never had a chance to develop. We go to church or listen to Christian songs or read the Bible without fear. We never have to worry about imprisonment or death. If that was the case, how strong would our faith be? If real religious persecution was to be a permanent reality in this country, how many of us would hold fast to Christ, and how many would not? It makes me wonder where I would stand. How strong would my faith be? What would I be willing to sacrifice to practice my faith? What wouldn’t I?
Even if my life or a possible prison sentence wasn’t on the line, would I be willing to sacrifice my children’s well-being? In the former USSR, it was common to abuse and humiliate children of faith-filled families.
“He told how his children were regularly ridiculed in front of their classmates for coming from a believing family. Keeping his children after school, school administrators would tell them: “It is because your father is a minister that you are being embarrassed in front of your classmates. That is also why you don’t have any friends.” The communists evidently believed that if they could demean and discredit the parents’ beliefs, they could turn the children against their parents. And, if they could do that, the churches would die within one generation.”
I want to believe that I would be strong and that my wife and kids would be strong, but you can’t know the situation until you’re in it. You can’t say precisely how you would act until you’re there.
A Time to Reflect
In the West, we have religious freedom, and our main sacrifices after being saved are usually reflected in our finances and our time. There is little fear of worshiping or proclaiming Christ in public. No one is going to arrest us or harm our families. No one is going to fire us and take everything we own away. We have security that Christians in other countries don’t have. That is a good thing, a very good thing. It is something that I hope and pray is always the hallmark of our country.
Not long ago, it was unfathomable to think that could change. However, the past few months have made us realize that our freedoms can be ripped away in an instant. I’m optimistic that reason will prevail, and we will return to the foundation that our country was built upon. But no matter what happens, we should take this time as an opportunity to reflect.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I believe one of the things that Paul is saying is that he has learned how to live both in times of blessings and persecution. The persecution that is brought on as a result of following Jesus.
We have lived a long stretch of history where our religious freedom has been almost taken for granted. We are thankful for it, but it’s something that we can never truly appreciate as much as believers who have had everything stripped from them.
As a result, there’s been a trend to be silent when it comes to our values. We are afraid of offending others or that we will be looked at as judgmental. We’re concerned with what others think of us, and that’s been a mistake. Whether the cause was what we perceived as kindness or something else, it doesn’t really matter. Ultimately a lot of us have hidden our lamp under a basket. We’ve done this of our own free will. No one has forced us or threatened us with jail or death, as sometimes happens in other countries. We simply kept our mouths shut. Which begs the question, what good is not offending if we never share our faith?
The stories throughout, “The Insanity of God,” are difficult to read. The torture, imprisonment, and death that some believers sacrifice for Jesus is unimaginable, but also encouraging.
The beauty in it is that even in the darkest places, there is hope. Miracles are happening and continue to happen all around us, miracles that defy our understanding. Even more importantly, there are stories of the church exploding under some of the strictest and most authoritarian governments.
“The Insanity of God” even speculates that the church’s growth in modern-day China has been more exponential than throughout all of human history. That alone is incredibly encouraging.
In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Instead of being disheartened, we need to thank God that we live in a turning point in our history and that we can use this as an opportunity to glorify Him.
May we learn from this little persecution that we are experiencing now. May great wisdom be brought from it. May we truly come to understand what our brothers and sisters in other countries are experiencing and fight for them. That we may move beyond merely giving money and time, but also to be willing to make sacrifices. Sacrifices that we never would’ve made otherwise. Sacrifices that we never considered were even on the table but sacrifices that are nonetheless desperately needed. Let us stand together for the oppressed as we stand as one for Jesus.
Let any loss that we experience be an opportunity to proclaim Him all the more and strengthen our faith and the faith of those around us. May we be joyful in times of struggle and glorify God all the more for it, knowing that he is working through it and through us to bring his kingdom to this earth.