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 Sister Maria (who has been imprisoned under severe circumstances in Mozambique; writing under pseudonym because of present danger), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange was happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ. (1 Peter 4:12-13
Many Christians today live with the false hope that peace will come to this world one day, that famine and persecution will end.
This utopia is not in accordance with God's Word.
When I was arrested, His words immediately came to me: "When these things begin to happen,'...be on your guard.'" (Mark 13:9)
Instead of peace on earth we see hunger, disease and war. This happened in my country too. We were promised food, health and peace, but we soon discovered that there was no room for God in an atheistic environment. Our churches were closed, our Bibles burnt and our pastors arrested. Because I taught our children about the Lord, I, too, was arrested. Only when the heavy cell door shut behind me and I was left naked in the cold darkness, did the words of Jesus make real sense to me: 'Be on your guard.'
I do not want to be negative and frighten you. I only say: '...be on your guard.'
Even when things look like improving in the world today, we do not have any guarantee of freedom from persecution.
Together with the warning: '...be on your guard' comes this other truth: 'Rejoice'. Peter said it, Paul wrote about it from prison: Jesus exhorted us: 'Rejoice'.
I can only add: you can.
A moment of introspection: In this devotional offering, I really wish to echo the words of Sister Maria, when she says, "I do not want to be negative and frighten you. I only say: '...be on your guard.'" In these days, we who understand the times see more and more news reports describing a full-frontal attack on Christianity in our society. The enemy has not chosen any longer to hide his tactics and to subtly undermine the security we as citizens have enjoyed and counted upon in the past. He brings us notice as Christians that we are being assailed. In our Holy Scriptures, we are told, "Watch therefore... be on your guard." (Matthew 25:13... Mark 13:4-14) Though we would rather not know, it behooves us to remain vigilant and at the ready--to be watchmen and watchwomen at the wall (Ezekiel 33:1-11). There is a new book that is on the market, entitled The Harbinger (by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn; DVD version, "The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment", by World Net Daily Films), in which the author spells out the nature of the coming judgment of God upon the United States, and the reasons for it. In novel form, the author has said the book is 90% fact. "Be on your guard."
Some would take umbrage with the thought of coming divine judgment, believing that there will be a great revival coming soon. As one studies the Holy Scriptures, though, it appears there will be no coming great revival until the end of the great tribulation, when millions will come to faith in our Lord Jesus.
For an insight into the awaited divine judgment and what it may be like to experience such judgment, consult your Bible and check several accounts from within its pages, showing the judgment of God on two countries: Kingdom of Judah (Jeremiah 14:13-22 and surrounding verses), and northern Kingdom of Israel (Isaiah 9:8-17 - in which Israel is judged for its arrogance and oppression). In each case, God removed His divine hedge of protection around these countries and allowed Babylon to take Judah into captivity, and Assyria to invade Israel. Times for Judeans and Israelites were very hard. Times for Christians in America will likewise be much harder than we know at present, as God appears to have removed the divine hedge of protection He provided our nation for so long. Be on your guard, but also rejoice!
In his prison letter to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul related to church members that it is indeed possible to rejoice in righteous suffering for the Kingdom of God and in the name of Jesus Christ. For the apostle Paul's rationale, read Romans 5:3-5 --
"Not only so, 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." Paul went further, explaining his view of Christian suffering in a letter sent to the young church at Philippi (Philippians 3:1-11): "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..." (excerpt - Philippians 3:10) In the larger quotation, Paul expounds upon the admonition to rejoice despite the conditions of rejection or opposition the new churches experienced.
Sister Maria is onto something here, and it would be worthwhile to consider further in our own hearts and minds. Through the application of His Word, God has encouraged us to be vigilant--to be on guard. Through the apostle Paul, though, God has let us know that even in the throes of tribulation and persecution, there is reason to rejoice. There is hope in the midst of the seeming hopelessness of the Church in the days ahead. God is faithful. Rejoice! Jesus Christ is God with us. Rejoice! The Holy Spirit is present to comfort and to guide.
Rejoice, and again I say rejoice!