Monday, October 15, 2012

Engage or retreat?

So much of what is taught in North American churches implies that when we suffer, it is because we did something wrong, not because we did something right. But in nations where religious freedoms are restricted, I often meet Christians who, when persecuted, follow the example of the apostles after they were beaten by religious leaders: “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41,42). They refused to retreat. Instead, they rejoiced.

The Sermon of the Beatitudes
by James Tissot
Scripture lays it out very clearly: suffering for Christ is normal and even expected. In the Beatitudes, Jesus told His disciples, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22,23). Notice again that suffering is not only normal, but is cause for rejoicing.

Have you experienced rejection from family or friends as you have shared Christ with them? On some level, all of us who want others to know about God’s love for them will experience ridicule and rejection.... [But] too many of us let that fear of rejection keep us from telling others about God’s forgiveness and grace. We excuse ourselves from being active in sharing the gospel because we do not want to be offensive to others.

However, Paul wrote to Philemon, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 1:6). We cannot have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ if we are not active in sharing our faith.

To consider:
  • Think about a time when you knew you should talk with someone about Christ, but fear made you stop. Are you more or less likely to share today? Explain. Does realizing that God is loving and patient with you make you more or less likely to share?
  • When was the last time you told someone about the good things God has done for you? Ask God to help you to share about it today, and then choose to take advantage of the opportunity He brings.
Excerpted from Closer to the Fire: Lessons from the Persecuted Church by VOM-Canada’s Greg Musselman. In Canada, you can order a copy of this book from our online catalogue. You can also purchase this book through Amazon.

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