This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Jesus Freaks, compiled by DC Talk and the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, a brief encounter with worldly opposition was met with faith, providing us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people's trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they're up against: defeat for them, victory for you--and both because of God. (Philippians 1:27b-28)
In Cano, Peru in 1991, terrorists had killed their pastor the night before. His body was on the floor under a blanket with some candles around it. Terrorists had also burned the church and seventeen houses--all belonging to Christians.
The people had no more church, no more pastor, no more houses. Yet, they continued to gather together fearlessly, about thirty of them. They stood in the muddy street to have their song service.
A moment of consideration: Consider our own anecdote--surrounded on all sides, no way to escape, the outlook seems dim and optionless. But may we take a closer look at the specter of surrounding "body" and see to our astonishment that the enveloping horde is comprised by witnesses described in Hebrews 12:1--witnessing our commitment for and to the Lord, seeing if we stay the course during our trials, and encouraging us so to do. The small church in Peru had just such a multitude encircling them, noting their spiritual mettle and reminding them of Christ's words (Revelation 3:10): "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." The Scriptures frequently urge believers to endure, to persevere-- in so many words, to stay the course. When it comes to serving the Lord, though Euripides did not know the Savior, he had nonetheless said "Do not consider painful what is good for you." (Men of Integrity, Vol. 2, no. 2.) We do know, according to the book, Standing Strong Through the Storm, that God always brings good from evil, as we're told in Romans 8:28; Joseph told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…." (Genesis 50:20) Though opposition would falsely seek our weakness and failure, when it comes to working for the Lord, may we Believers agree with the statement that, "It is not up to you to complete the work, nor are you at liberty to give it up." (From the Pirkei Avoth (2:18). Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 7.)
The 30 members of the church in Cano, viewing the carnage of the previous evening's terror, what first went through their thoughts? To give up? To take revenge? To fade into the community? To cease and desist? We will never know, except through their actions. Faced with similar defeat in his horizon, General Grant (US Northern Army Commander) later reported that,
At the close of the first day of the Battle of Shiloh, with serious Union reverses, General U. S. Grant was met by his greatly discouraged chief engineer, James McPherson, who said: "Things look bad, General. We've lost half our artillery and a third of the infantry. Our line is broken and we are pushed back nearly to the river." Grant made no reply, and McPherson impatiently asked what he intended to do. "Do? Why re-form the lines and attack at daybreak. Won't they be surprised!" Surprised they were. The Confederate troops were routed before nine o'clock that morning.
No one is defeated until he gives up.
The members of the Cano, Peru, church chose to remain steady, on course, and to persevere in holding a worship service that day in the street. They persisted in praising God, in worshiping Him, in honoring Him through their faith-filled persistence. This reminds one of Paul and Silas, imprisoned for their ministry in Philippi, singing hymns to God at about midnight, from within their prison cell. (Acts 16:25). As with the other prisoners (jailed with Paul and Silas) and were listening to the apostles sing, it would not be hard to picture other townsfolk listening to the church members in Cano, Peru, as they sang hymns and songs. The effect of the murder of their pastor and the destruction of the church and parishioner homes was that the church members persisted in their faith through the tears, and God was glorified by their faithfulness.
Perhaps we may be offered such an opportunity to "shout to the Lord" through our grief, our tears, and our heartache--and through our faith, perhaps we too may move beyond the path of least resistance to the path of greatest persistence:
A common phenomenon in nature is "the path of least resistance." Electricity moving through a circuit will always travel where it has the "easiest" route. Cars are developed aerodynamically so there will be minimal wind resistance. Rivers always travel around a mountain because it is easier than going through one.
Frequently people are like that, too. It is easier to sit in front of the T.V. than to care for a neighbor's needs. It is easier to get angry at your mate and let that anger diminish (or smolder) over the course of time rather than sitting down and working the problem through. Thumbing through a Reader's Digest is much easier than a time of personal Bible study. And so, we find that we humans are prone to take the "path of least resistance."
But there is one difference between ourselves and electricity or a river. They will never have to give an account of what they have done. We will. Thus, perhaps we should incline ourselves to take the path of greatest persistence (Michael P. Green, 2000)
Persistent faith, enduring faith, overcoming faith--any way we might phrase it, will likely be a requirement of having victory in Jesus in the coming days, until He returns for us. In the face of opposition that seems to grow by the hour, if not by the day, in our land and across the globe, we Christians are going to be tested and opposed. May we develop our resolute faith and join the chorus of voices in Cano, Peru, in the singing of hymns and demonstrating our faithfulness to God in the battlefield that lies before us. May we stand firm in our faith, come what may, donning the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). May we run the race, for an imperishable crown, enduring, persevering and running the race with certainty. (1 Corinthians 9:24-26) Christ’s words, even to us: "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast to what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem…And I will write on him My new name." (Revelation 3:11-12)