Standing Strong Through the Storm
PURIFIED BY THE REFINER’S FIRE
He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness… Malachi 3:3
It sounds easy to say we will always forgive others but what happens in your heart when your own son is brutally murdered. How can God make good come from that terrible event?
For answers, we go (in two parts) to the southern Philippines where a decade ago Severino (Junie) Bagtasos, a young pastor, was sitting in the front row of his church in Alat listening to his sister conclude her Sunday message about heaven. Suddenly a man barged into the chapel. Two loud bangs were heard. Before anyone could make sense of what happened, Severino lay lifeless in a pool of blood. The killer made his escape as the distraught church members gathered around their pastor, killed instantly by gunshots to his chest and cheek.
His mother, Purificacion, says, “I miss my son. Junie was the most caring of all my children. He would always offer help when I was cooking. He would often ask me and his father advice whenever he was beset with difficulties in the ministry because his church members were older than him. I was blessed by Junie’s sincerity and faithfulness in the ministry. Nothing could hinder him from going to his Bible studies. Heavy downpours and floods could not keep him from bringing the Word of God to those who needed to hear it. Death threats did not stop him.”
There is not even a hint of bitterness as Purificacion speaks of that painful time. “During one of the services held at the wake of my son, my husband told the congregation, ‘We forgive the person who killed our son. If that person is here, I want you to know that we forgive you. If he is not here, and if anyone of you knows him, please tell him that we forgive him. The God we serve is the God of love and we want to show that love to you.’”
But there were those who didn’t share these convictions. She adds, “Some of my husband’s relatives who were also Muslims got angry at him for saying this. They were eager to avenge Junie’s death. It’s part of their culture. But my husband restrained them and told them that our God is a God who also forgives. We chose to forgive our son’s murderer.”
Purificacion shares what she thinks now was one of God’s reasons for her losing Junie. “After my son’s death, many Christians whose faith had grown cold were ushered back to the Lord.” Now after a decade has passed, she continues to see God’s hand in it all. She adds, “I believe Junie’s death was part of God’s plan. It was His way of opening the doors that have long been shut. You see, before the death of my son, Chinese-Tausug believers were scattered all over Jolo [their island in southern Philippines]. Many of them stopped attending the worship services.
When my son began the work in Alat [a predominantly Muslim town], little by little these believers started to gather again. Junie, their pastor, loved them dearly and was truly passionate for the ministry. One by one they started coming to church again. Before long, these believers were on fire once more and got involved in the work of God.” God’s refining at work!
RESPONSE: Today I will live in the awareness of God’s refining plan for His Kingdom’s expansion.
PRAYER: Lord, purify Your Church and help me to accept whatever consequences this will have.