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 Mehdi Dibaj (from Iran, imprisoned, released and murdered for his faith in Jesus Christ), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)
My dear son, does it ever happen to you that you weep all night? But morning comes and joy flows.
Very soon we will see the fruit of the hard things in our lives and we will be satisfied.
This is our hope, the blessed hope that Christ is coming. He will lead us to life-giving springs.
To be with you, O Lord, is Paradise
To live in the Spirit is sweet and full of fruits
To die in your way, O Christ, is life itself.
They once asked: 'What will you do in the day of hardship and pressure?'
The answer: 'I welcome the difficulties with joy, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'
In the triumphal procession of Christ
We will go forward by the power of God
And spread the good news of His salvation.
A moment of introspection: Pastor Dibaj asked us the same question: "What will you do in the day of hardship and pressure?" The Apostle Paul alerts us to the fact of hardships and pressure, as he said, "But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty." (2 Timothy 3:1-9) What will we do when such difficulties or persecution confront us? How will we respond when our faith is sorely tested? Jesus admonished His disciples to not worry about tomorrow, as today has enough troubles of its own (Matthew 6:34). In his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul provided additional encouragement to refrain from worrying. (Philippians 4:6-7) Can we Christians expect persecution? Yes, Jesus Christ said that. (John 15:20) One way to reduce anxiety that pervades our times is to prepare for such times, and Eric Barger has produced a downloadable video entitled "Preparing for Perilous Times" that can help to avert anxiety in the days in which we live. It is well worth the minimal expense to learn from that video. We are to be about our Lord's work regardless of the presence or absence of trials and tribulations.
Are we active in praying for the persecuted, then let us continue to be active. Do we lead a HOPe gathering each month? Then let us continue to provide such leadership. Do you desire to pray for the suffering body of Christ in the world today, and perhaps know of others who would likewise be interested in interceding for those who as Christians bear the brunt of the world’s fury? Invite them to pray together with you. Perhaps you would like to begin a House of Prayer (HOPe) through Christians In Crisis (CIC)? Contact CIC and we can help you start a HOPe in your area. It's easy and truly a blessing to do. If we serve in other ways within the Church, continue to do so. If we serve the disadvantaged in our cities, in the name of Christ, continue to do so--showing the love of Christ to all. There are many ways to serve God. If you are inactive, find a ministry and volunteer. Get involved! There are many ways, for instance, to help the persecuted church. Some of these were outlined in a recent devotional entitled "Shall We Leave Them Be...Alone?" In Paul's letter to the church in Rome, he acknowledged that "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others." (Read Romans 12:3-13; verses 4-5 cited). Within this passage, Paul entreated the Roman church, saying "Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically." (Romans 12:11)
When hardship and pressure come our way, shall we agree with Mehdi in saying, "I welcome the difficulties with joy, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"? In a recent blog, Grace Taylor (VOM USA) asked the question "How is it possible to be happy in the midst of suffering?" In her Blog of May 16, 2013, she differentiated between happiness and joy; she said "I would argue that it may not be possible to be happy in the midst of suffering." But she continued:
Instead, I would argue that what we see in the faces of our brothers and sisters and what we hear them speak of comes from joy, not happiness. Joy, unlike happiness, is not something dictated by circumstances. In fact, it is not necessarily an emotion. Joy comes from being in fellowship with Jesus Christ. Our brothers and sisters who seem strong in the face of persecution use their joy as their source of strength, like we see in Nehemiah 8:10, "...The joy of the Lord is your strength." Therefore, when you lose your joy, you can also lose your strength, but when you find your joy in Christ, you find your strength...
Imagine if the scripture in James 1:2-3 read this way: "Consider it pure happiness, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds." That would be ridiculous and impossible. But instead, it states, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, for we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance."
Pastor Dibaj would agree, and would add that we can welcome the difficulties with joy, because Christ strengthens us to do so. For those who weep all night through, take heart; joy comes with the morning. Are we active in serving God? Keep up the good work, enthusiastically. Are we idle? The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy and us to "Work hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) Let us not be idle, let us work--as the day is fast slipping away; let us learn to welcome difficulties in our lives, and let us persevere. Mehdi adds, "Very soon we will see the fruit of the hard things in our lives and we will be satisfied." We are in this together, as we serve the risen King!