This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Ferenc Visky (Mr. Visky and his wife, both Romanian, write in a moving way about their life with the Lord despite heavy persecution), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
But a time is coming and has already come when...you will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. (John 16:32)
In prison, and also outside, the realization of being delivered and then abandoned is the most difficult thing to deal with. In our cell, we began every new morning with worship. It is true that we had no Bible, but the Holy Spirit fulfilled the promise from John 14:26: 'He will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.'
One morning, the following text came to my mind: 'The time has come when you will all leave me alone.' I pondered on the meaning of this text. What did it mean: leaving Jesus all alone? Does it mean that I must let You be the only one to stay with me, Lord? Will my brothers be taken away from me and will I be alone in this cell? No, it can't be true, Lord. After all, they prayed me back from death one time. They shared their last piece of bread with me and supported me in everything because I am the weakest of them. In my struggle, I clearly heard Jesus' voice: 'Am I not enough for you?' I couldn't give a negative answer. Yes, Lord, You're enough!
After this, I felt relieved. I passed this text on to my brothers. A few minutes later, the door of the cell was opened and some Securitatè officers came in. They read out a list of names of people who had to move from the cell. I knew beforehand that they wouldn't read out my name. I was on my own now, yet I was not alone. Jesus' glowing presence filled my heart with joy.
Jesus' presence makes up for everything. You can be sure that He only takes something or someone away from you in order to give Himself even more fully.
A moment of introspection: Abandoned, forgotten, cast aside, ignored--these and other words describe the not-uncommon feeling felt by Christians imprisoned for their faith in Christ--yet nameless in our eyes; believers living in restrictive nations imposing harsh penalties for even being Christian--un-prayed-for and unencouraged; Christians fleeing from terrorists who have taken their village and their homes from them--too many to consider and pray for, etc. Ferenc Visky has known what it is like to be abandoned by his friends and cell mates. In Jesus' earthly career, at times, He felt a close bond with His Father in heaven (John 8:29). Yet at times He, too, felt unintentionally alone--in the Garden of Gethsemane, as an example, as the disciples slept; or in the denial of Peter (verbal abandonment). On the cross, as well, Jesus felt an intense separation from His Father, God (Matthew 27:46).
How might we respond to such feelings of abandonment, of being forgotten, cast aside or ignored? God's Word says we are to remember, to encourage, to hold up and strengthen. The author of Hebrews asks us to remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them (Hebrews 13:3). In their place, with them, would we value knowing that fellow Christians (we who are also in the body) care about us? Probably. Most likely. Assuredly. Our family in prison knows that God cares about them, and many prayers go up from within the dark, dank, and punishing cells. In 1 Timothy 5:5, we read of a widow really in need and left alone; her plight, and her hope are placed in the Lord's hands over and over again, to Whom she prays and asks for help. In prison, similar petitions and trust are brought before the throne of grace, and thousands, perhaps millions of prayers seek God's help. What can we do, to remember these dear ones? We can learn about them (check out Christians In Crisis Latest News, subscribe to the VOM USA free newsletter, visit Open Doors' informative website, etc.), pray for them, and encourage them in their suffering, support NGO organizations who provide funding, healing, Bibles and training for beleaguered saints. Paul's Second Letter to the Church at Corinth reminds us that God comforts us in our afflictions, so that we might in turn comfort others: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." We are to comfort, encourage, pray for those of our worldwide body of faith who bear the marks of the world's hate (John 15:18-25), and even petition authorities in advocacy for the persecuted Christians. VOM Canada has a wonderful tool that enables us to encourage Christians around the world who suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ, and provides us the means to write to governments and advocate on behalf of suffering believers. VOM's description of this tool is as follows: "Prove our persecuted family is not forgotten. Through isolation and loneliness, the devil can prey on imprisoned Christians' faith. When a prisoner receives a letter, whether they can read it or not, they know someone cares." Click on the title of the VOM encouragement tool—"Doing Time for God" to view or download that exceedingly helpful resource. Another great online tool to encourage persecuted brethren, is the Prisoner Alert website. Click on the link, and select a prisoner to write to--sponsored by VOM USA. On this site, you can write letters to encourage those in prison and those who suffer for their faith--and print out your letter in the language of the one(s) to whom you are writing. Open Doors also offers opportunities to write letters of encouragement to suffering Christians.
In His Word, God tells us and those who are persecuted for their profession of faith in Christ, that He will never leave us. This assurance comes in a variety of messages; the author of Hebrews exhorts us to refrain from materialism because God has said He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Moses encourages us to be strong and courageous, for God will not leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Jesus promised the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, and in promising this, emboldened his disciples and us by asking us to obey His commands, and following it up by promising to ask God to send the Holy Spirit, and saying "I will never leave you as orphans" (John 14:15). God remains Emanuel--with us. In whatever situation or plight we and our family around find ourselves facing, we remember that we have an Advocate in heaven, a High Priest--One who has experienced on earth much of what Christians around the world face and experience today. Let us remember those who suffer, and encourage them even as we ourselves are encouraged. Today, let us "reach out and touch" a hurting brother or sister--with the love of God. Through these actions, what we do on behalf of, or for, the least of these, we do for Christ (working out our love for Him, through aiding others) (Matthew 25:31-40). Such a good deal!