This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Forever Young: Living and Dying for Christ (V)M). In the following short account, there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application.
"We must work the works of Him Who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4)
Twenty-year-old Bible student Francisco (not his real name) had a burning desire to bring Senderista terrorists to Jesus. He lived in Lima, Peru, a city that had swelled to seven million because of the number of people seeking refuge from murderers in the rural areas.
Fancisco did not want to flee. He told his pastor that he wanted to attack, and he was asking God to show him how. God answered his prayer as he was walking past the national palace in Lima one day. A car with an open top raced by, and a man inside launched a mortar shell at the palace. It struck the front of the palace and exploded with devastating fury. Never slowing down, the car disappeared around a corner.
The Peruvian police were immediately on the scene and arrested everyone near the palace. Francisco was among them. He was taken to a maximum-security prison, where he was placed in an exclusive holding are for Senderista terrorists. At that time there were approximately five hundred prisoners there.
Like Paul and Barnabas, Francisco did not waste time grieving over his circumstances. Quietly, gently, he began to preach about Jesus to the terrorists, sharing God's love with them. In the Senderista holding area, twenty-four-year old Maria listened carefully to what Fancisco said.
Maria was a student at San Marcos University in Lima. One of her duties with the Senderistas was to shoot wounded victims through the head to guarantee their death. Could God possibly love and forgive someone like that? He could, of course, and He did. Maria finally found inner peace in Jesus Christ. Her days of killing were over, and her sins were washed away forever.
Francisco was held in prison for a year before his trial. During that time he brought over sixty of the Senderista terrorists to Jesus Christ. When he was finally released from prison, he left behind a new church of Christian believers who regularly met to worship, learn together, and help and encourage each other. Though yet in prison, they were free in Christ. The only one they terrified is the devil!
A moment of introspection: What Francisco desired, was revenge; but what God placed in his heart was love. Having told his pastor of his desire to attack the terrorists, Francisco prayed that God would show him how to best accomplish this. But God...
How often do we make plans for a day or week or month ahead, and then find out that our plans have changed? In the book of James, the author says, "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15) Francisco asked God to show him how to accomplish what Francisco wanted, but God showed Francisco how to accomplish what God wanted. And Francisco obeyed. He entered the day, witnessed a Senderista attack, and found himself arrested. Francisco had not planned this day to go as it did.
Having been arrested, his first response might well have been to protest vehemently against his detainment by the authorities--to insist loudly upon his innocence. But his plaints fell on deaf ears, and he was incarcerated. Bad enough, but he was thrown into a cell area filled with Senderista terrorists--the very throng against whom Francisco had earlier plotted to vengefully attack. Now was his chance! But God...
Upon seeing so many terrorists around him, he might well have crept into a dark corner and become disabled with depression and fear, hoping the terrorists would not kill him. But God...
Instead, Francisco obeyed God, and quietly and gently began preaching to the terroristic prisoners--sharing God's love for them. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome (Romans 5:19), speaking of Jesus Christ and about obedience vs. disobedience. Through Francisco's obedience to God, many Senderistas, too, were made righteous. What a change in Francisco's heart, in his will, in his desire. One might even compare him with Joseph in the book of Genesis, who acknowledged, "As for you, you meant evil against me, [But God...] meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20) Wanting to get revenge for the Senderista raids, he ended up attacking not the Senderistas, but the kingdom of Satan.
Facing the crowd of terrorists within the prison, how did this young Bible student know what to say, as he started to preach? Just as promised in Luke 12:11-12, Jesus might have said to Francisco, "do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." With a mind to attack, to seek revenge, the words that came out were gentle and quiet, and the Gospel was proclaimed in love.
Jesus' words might have come to Francisco as he remembered studying the Gospels, too--when Jesus had told His hearers, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." (Matthew 5:43-44)
How might we, hearing of the story of our brother Francisco, respond in our lives? We have the opportunity in each moment to serve God and do His will as we understand it. Like Francisco, we too might well ask God to direct our paths, for if He wills, "if the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24) In our lives, may our "And God..." replace "But God..." May we live our lives in agreement with God--not in contrast to His will. In our lives, may we seek to glorify God in all we do (1 Corinthians 10:31), may we work according to God's revealed will. Take heed, too, that very much out of character, Francisco loved his enemies--as Jesus had instructed him; Francisco was merciful to them, even as his Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36) May our reward be great as we commit our way to the Lord and persevere in the faith, in these unsettled and difficult times. May we do the works of our Lord while the time to work is yet available.
The world’s web of intolerance and attacks is expanding--soon making service to our Lord much more costly. If we have been active for the Lord and His Kingdom, be prepared to offer to Him that which costs us dearly; we will need to count the cost. Before His passion, and now for our sake, Jesus prepared His disciples for the coming difficulties and troubles by saying, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) For the reader who has been idle for the Lord, now is the time to initiate your role as a worker for the Kingdom of God; perhaps we have been created for this time, of starting to serve Him in a way that He and you decide. Let us begin to engage in (or remain in) active service to our Lord, as long as He wills, in ways that He wills--and for as long as we live. Counting the cost, we are in this together.