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 a Chinese evangelist (imprisoned for Christ), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
A noted Chinese evangelist from prison wrote a letter to his wife. In these brief words, this saint explained the meaning of the cup, saying, "After you have drunk the cup of suffering, then comes a fountain of blessing."
Later, he wrote another letter to his wife, expounding on the cup--the nature of suffering, and its value in our lives: "Without fire, how can gold become pure? Without chiseling, how can a rock become a statue? Without pressing, how can grapes become wine?"
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:34)
A moment of introspection: So often, we who labor in prayer for the persecuted family of Christian faith, read, and intercede for those who because of faith in Jesus Christ, suffer the hatred of the world. In this time of inward learning, and outgoing prayer, we consider the nature of the cup which our Savior "drank" in acceding to the will of His Father. It is interesting to note that Christians across the globe are very often given the choice of living without Christ and surviving easily without "fire", without "chiseling", without "pressing", without suffering, but without "a fountain of blessing"--or living with Christ and often with "the cup of suffering", with "fire", with "chiseling" and with "pressing"--but without the rewards the world offers to those who believe its lies. A young Chinese woman preacher, when asked if she might get into trouble for her preaching replied, "It is the way of the cross." An obscure proverb described the cross of suffering as, "Crosses are ladders that lead to heaven." Perhaps there is value in suffering. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, "...but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5) Indeed, a sage by the name of JeVaux asserted that a cross willingly carried is easier to bear: "The cross is easier to him who takes it up, than to him who drags it along." Human nature would disagree, perhaps, but Jesus Himself asserted that, "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39) Jesus did not choose the cross, yet he also said "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (John 10:14-18, emphasis mine) No, the world chose the cross for Christ. He chose the cup of the Father's wrath, but the world chose the cross. And Christ willingly laid down His life. A noted Chinese evangelist (after spending many years in prison) said, "If you accept suffering for your faith as a privilege, it becomes your friend, and brings you closer to God."
Richard Wurmbrand (founder of the Voice Of the Martyrs ministry) was quoted as saying, "We are Jesus’ sheep. Sheep do not run from the wolf. They cannot defend themselves, but they witness for their Creator by enduring their deaths patiently, without turning their backs to the enemy." Chinese pastor Wong Ming Dao said from prison: "We are soldiers under the banner of Jesus Christ in a spiritual battle. We can only advance and never retreat." A message has come to us from the persecuted church and from our Savior:
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.' (John 15:18-25)
The message of the world toward us as Christians, today, is that we shall tolerate and accept its dictates, or we as believers in Christ will be belittled, imprisoned, beaten, or tortured, fined, fired from our job, forcibly indoctrinated (the experience of the Uygur Christians in China), and worse. A Russian judge instructed a Christian under prosecution before him, "We don't mind that you believe in God, but leave living according to your Bible until you are in heaven." To this, the Christian replied, "Your honor, if I do not live according to the Bible on earth, I will never go to heaven."
We as Christians often experience living under the masterful hands of the Potter, the Blacksmith, the Jeweler, the Vintner, the Sculptor. Would we choose to live under the hands of Satan, the deceiver, the fallen angel, the outcast from heaven? No. So we accept the cup at the Father's hand, the love, the chiseling, the grace, the pressing, the forgiveness, the abrading, the compassion, the grace, the fire. Each of these gifts from the Father above, brings us to the point described by a Chinese proverb: "Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle." Instead of opposing the gifts we receive from the Father's masterful hands, from His perfect will, let us light a candle. God's communication to man has come through the Christ of the cross. A Nepalese Christian, recognizing this, was quoted as saying, "It is not that I was in prison and Jesus was with me. It was that Jesus was in prison, and I was with Him." The Christ of the cross, is the victorious Christ. Pastor Mehdi Dibaj, an Iranian Christian martyr, described what the suffering (of the cross) meant to him:
"God gave me the privilege to spend nine years in prison for His Name sake. They turned out to be the best years of my life, because what I had believed while free, is what I experienced in prison: 'Lo, I am with you always.'"
If we are imprisoned (as God’s Word says that that may happen), we find the victorious Christ already there, in suffering, in bearing the cost of our faith; this same Jesus has overcome the world and its hatred of Him and of us by association. Perhaps our Chinese evangelist knew something we might learn: we are with Immanuel in suffering. Then comes the blessing; may the weeping and the pain be replaced by rejoicing, by perseverance, by character building, by hope that does not disappoint. "After you have drunk the cup of suffering, then comes a fountain of blessing.