The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41
Today’s devotional comes from Ron Boyd-MacMillan’s excellent volume Faith That Endures:
The Biblical scholar William Barclay famously described a New Testament Christian as having three remarkable characteristics: “One, they were absurdly happy; two, they were filled with an irrational love for everyone; and three, they were always in trouble!”
Persecuted Christians are constantly in trouble. As a Palestinian pastor put it, “If you speak truth to power, power always reacts.” An encounter with the persecuted reveals the incendiary nature of this gospel we follow, and if our witness does not provoke some sort of explosive reaction, we have to check whether our gospel powder is damp or dry. We should be in trouble for Jesus! If we aren’t, something is wrong…
Persecuted Christians are not tempted into the illusion that the world is actually a friendly place that does not mind our identifying with Christ. The world for them is unmasked in its hostility to Christ.
Once when visiting Czechoslovakia in the 1980’s, I delivered a Bible to an elderly pastor. He had not seen a Bible in years. He smelled it, kissed it with trembling lips, cradled it, and then with great reverence, opened it. Then he turned to me and said, “Let me tell you of my wounds.” And he poured out his trials for God, which included seven beatings by the secret police and the awful seduction of his daughter by a government agent who then fooled her into betraying him. Then he turned to me, his eyes boring into my soul, and asked, “What wounds have you for the Master?” I was embarrassed to have so few to share.
The questions of the persecuted church are simple: Are you in trouble for Jesus? Where are your wounds? If you don’t have any, maybe you’ve forgotten you’re in a fight at all. Whatever culture we are in, we are always being subtly coerced into spending our money, or time, on what is not of Christ. Persecution afflicts us all if we stand up for Christ. The world, the flesh, and the devil will never reach an accommodation with Christ. Like it or not, we are caught up in cosmic warfare. The gospel has landed us in it. We will all be scarred by the battle. We will all experience persecution. The difference is only one of degree and type.
RESPONSE: Today I will evaluate my life and assess what are my wounds for Christ. I will then rejoice in suffering for Jesus.
PRAYER: Lord, I submit to Your Lordship over my life and accept whatever wounds You will enable me to bear for Your sake and the gospel’s.
1. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Faith That Endures (Grand Rapids: Fleming Revell, 2006), pp. 322-323.