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:
And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)
Finally the inmates' mocking laughter stopped.
Boris did not smile.
On purpose--to humiliate him for his faith in Christ--the prison guards had issued him a uniform that was twice his size. The sleeves reached down to his knees; his gigantic shoes made him look like a clown. When he entered the barracks, the criminals, incited by the camp commander, greeted him with laughter and ridicule.
A prisoner came and bowed in front of him with fake piety. "I greet you, Holy Father. You are the Ambassador of Christ Himself. Do you represent the interests of heaven?"
His shocking words gave Boris courage. He forgot how ridiculous he looked and boldly answered, "Yes, I do represent heaven. That is why the atheists hate me and have imprisoned me."
Boris recalled, "While I was preaching to those despising sinners, the sermon affected me too. Soon, I wanted to hug them for having reminded me of my high calling."
A moment of consideration: Today, Boris is a good example for us. For in his experience, we find scripture borne out, the Kingdom promoted, and the opposite of Napoleon Bonaparte's quip, "There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous" exemplified. In Boris' life, there was only one step from the humiliation to the noble and sublime. Boris must have wondered, as the humiliation began and proceeded, what he might say (Mark 13:11), but such anxiety was calmed as shocking words provided the impulse for saying 'whatever is given you in that hour' and he experienced for himself the working of the Holy Spirit. In Boris' account, 1 Peter 4:12-14 is exemplified, as he was insulted for the name of Christ, and blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rested upon him. Thomas Carlyle said that "ridicule is the language of the devil." In this instance, the statement shows its verity.
Boris' experience of humiliation reminds us of the experience of Christ during His Passion. "And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and struck him with their hands." (John 19:2-3) Similar ridicule may be more common in the experience of persecuted Christians, these days, than we know. God's Word speaks of a Christian's mindset, and humiliation is an attack on our sensibilities, our feelings and our peace of mind. Consider God's Word: "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8) Boris was faithful in this trying experience. He displayed the courage of Stephen when Stephen saw the persecutors pick up the stones, and spoke forth a spirit-filled sermon while they waited with stones poised. Boris, too, while he was speaking to the "despising sinners," was moved to sermonize. Boris rejoiced at the privilege to speak the Truth to his audience, and was blessed with the spirit of an overcomer. The Apostle Peter encouraged his own readers, and us, saying, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." (1 Peter 4:12-14)
Boris, in his incarceration and his mortification, was supported by Immanuel, Who walked with him and never left him through the ordeal. God promised that Presence to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 31:8, and Christ Himself "…has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5b-6) John Ortberg (Evangelical Christian author, speaker, and Pastor Emeritus of Menlo Church in Menlo Park, California) reminds us that "God is closer than you think." In Boris' experience, Immanuel’s presence carried him through the abasement from his cellmates and prison officials. In our given role as ambassadors for Christ, Immanuel walks with us as we represent Him and the Father. That’s what the Spirit-provided courage enabled Boris to do as he spoke forth, "Yes, I do represent heaven. That is why the atheists hate me and have imprisoned me." Boris tacitly acknowledged the encouragement of the Scriptures: "So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)
Throughout the Bible, God urges Believers not to fear. As our own nation experiences its own dis-integration, social chaos and entropy, anxiety levels might edge upwards, and become fear. According to Henry Ward Beecher, fear is a kind of bell…it is the soul's signal for rallying. Fear provides opportunity with the working of the Lord, for rallying or, as God's Word says, "Have this mind among yourselves…" A French proverb has said that courage is often caused by fear. It may be that fearful situations such as Boris' elicit courage. Such courage will be helpful in the coming days, and God's Word again tells us not to fear: "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested and [for a short time] you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)
These times will likely involve heightened risk for Christians in the world. Like fear, risk can be beneficial, for without risk there is no faith, and the greater the risk, the greater the faith. (Soren Kierkegaard, in Concluding Unscientific Postscripts) Logic and cold reason are not helpful tools in combatting fear, as Jawaharial Nehru has observed: "Logic and cold reason are poor weapons to fight fear and distrust. Only faith and generosity can overcome them." Faith proved useful in the response to the humiliation of Boris; "Having this mind in him…" helped him win victory over his ridiculers and remain devoted to the Lord. We, too, would rightly choose to develop a close walk with the Lord in this life--practicing the presence of God (The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence) and applying this to our walk in grace, each day. Put on the whole armor of God to aid in our daily work for the Father; seek opportunities to walk by faith (to overcome fear). Faith sustained Boris and can help to sustain us in our role as Ambassadors for Christ:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
In this role, let us study, learn, meditate on, and apply the Word of God, so that we may accurately convey the message He wishes to communicate to the world around us. "Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2: 23-26) Take time for regularly scheduled prayer, and don't give up on it; learn how to pray effectively and powerfully. Seek to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance. We are in this together, and Boris encourages us to stand firm in our faith. Be strong, Ambassadors!