Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them: “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” Exodus 15:20-21 (NKJV)
My husband has just returned from a trip to India with Mission India. His tells of those he met who are filled with (and exude) the joy of the Lord, even in the midst of great poverty and persecution. The miraculous is common place there as people who have lived their lives in utter darkness are brought into the light of Jesus Christ. They don’t “know any better” than to take God at His word, believing that all the Bible says is true.
“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Luke 18:17 (NKJV)
They haven’t learned to play “church” or put qualifications on what God will do for them. If God said it, they believe He will do it. Their lives are filled with incredible joy and power. Life in India as a Christian is not easy. Even being in grave danger is no deterrent to them sharing the good news of the Gospel. Below are just a few examples of the power of Jesus Christ in their lives.
We heard the story of a man that had to walk on his hands due to a physical disability who travelled 200 miles by bus because he heard Mission India had children’s Bible materials. He was given the box of books he requested but no one quite knows how he got them home.
Or the story of a young lady requesting to enter the Church Planter Program. When asked why she wanted to undertake something so difficult, she told them that when she became a Christian, her family put a fatwa on her life. She didn’t know how much longer she had to live, but wanted to make sure others heard the Good News in whatever time she had left. Several months later, she was killed by her family.
Or the pastor who was beaten to an inch of his life, but returned to the same village after he recovered to continue preaching the Gospel.
Or that of another young lady who was spectacularly beautiful but when she became a Christian had kerosene poured on her and was set afire. When asked how she could be so radiantly joyful, replied, “With all my Jesus has done for me, how could I be any less?”
Or the joy on the faces of the children participating in a Children’s Bible Club that is held on the top of a garbage dump with smells so overpowering as to be almost intolerable.
While I do not make light of the current difficulties we face here in this country, many Christians won’t even bother going to church if it’s raining outside. Does this not tell us the value we place on our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ?
India is not an unusual situation for Christians in the world at large. Many countries have a similar hostile environment. And while we are blessed to live in the United States where we have had incredible freedoms, there are those who believe that persecution is coming–or has already started. I am reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18,
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
These verses tell us to give thanks “in” all things–not “for” all things. God did not intend for His Church to become a punching bag for all the enemy throws at us. He has given us the Holy Spirit to overcome our challenges and difficulties. We tend to forget something our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world have not: we are meant to overcome the enemy. And we can do this because Jesus Christ purchased that ability on the cross through His death and subsequent resurrection.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)
So, the next time we think we have it tough, we need to remind ourselves how much we have been given and should be grateful for. We need to remember the persecution of those around the world who are called by His name, praying for their protection and continued courage to proclaim the Good News under incredibly difficult circumstances. Because no matter what we face here, as yet, we do not fear for our lives.
Perspective is a beautiful thing.
(Author’s note: The above picture was taken during the piece “MASSquerade” presented at Belhaven University as part of the Fall Faculty Concert in 2011. The story depicted in this piece was of the games we play with each other in church. My daughter, Hannah, is the center young lady of the three in the front. My thanks to Matthew Palfenier for permission to use his photograph.)
Copyright © 2013 by Susan E. Johnson
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