We have been learning about persecution and martyrdom this week in class. It has been quite interesting. I think the most eye opening part of it for me has been the realization that we generally don’t think about it or talk about it in most American Christian circles. Why? I believe it is mostly for fear.
We just got done reading through some parts of the New Testament that talked about this. Peter told Jesus that he didn’t want Him to be killed. The disciples later told the Apostle Paul that they didn’t want him to go preach the gospel because of prophecies that he would be bound and tried. What happened as a result of this, though? Through Jesus’ death we were given the pathway to re-establish a close relationship with God. Through Paul’s own tribulations we have a majority of the New Testament.
We talk about resistance to what Missy and I are called to do. Oddly, it hasn’t really been about denouncing our faith or rejecting what we believe in. It has instead been motivated out of fear. Guatemala has drug cartels, gangs, poverty, disease, corruption of government, earthquakes, mudslides, and more. Can anyone tell me this doesn’t exist in America? I found a scorpion hanging over my bed the other day…Missy believes it could very well have been “the thing” she felt land on her neck in the middle of her sleep. I’ve seen snakes crawl under our front porch. I’ve been encouraged by friends to carry my pistol while taking my wife on a date to a movie theater. I have felt safer in a war zone with mortars flying overhead than I have sometimes in my own hometown. Why should I let these things get in the way of my purpose in life?
It amazes me how often we let fear make our decisions for us. We have this inner desire for safety and security. Yet as we look around us, we realize there is no innate safety and security. The truth, however, is that while there is no safety or surety in this world, there is safety and surety in Christ. When we view things in a worldly way, we only see that which is in this world. When a Christian, for example, is killed for his or her faith in God, we only see the body die. However, it is the Spirit that lives on. How can I say I believe in Christ if I am not willing to die as a result of that belief?
We see people dying for causes each and every day because they have been convinced that it was worth dying for by men. Yet my faith and belief is not a result of convincing words by men. It isn’t because of a good book I read, even the bible itself. Rather it is a result of my relationship with God. It is our connection with God that is more real than anything we can witness on this earth, supernatural or otherwise. I think the fact that the apostles were killed is a bigger testimony to the realness of God than that which they did up until their deaths. Why would someone die like that, especially given the opportunity to renounce their faith, if it was made up? Rather, they looked at it this way: Philippians 1, “21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.”
Dear friends and family, if there is anything you get out of us going, please know this: it is not for us that we do it. It is not for an idealism or religion. It is not for our own notoriety or fame. It isn’t even to earn our way into heaven, since the entry into heaven and union with God is freely given, not earned. The safest place to be is in the Will of God, whether that is in America, in Guatemala, or even in the grave. So don’t fear for our lives or our safety. Rather take great joy in our close relationship with God. Take pride that He has given us the answer to our prayers of where we fit in His Will and that He has given us the courage to say, “Yes Lord, we will follow You.”
He is real and He is worth it. We pray that He will give you the faith to replace the fear. We pray that all will understand that He is worth it.