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 Pastor Samuel Lamb (imprisoned for over 20 years, and persecuted for his faith in Jesus Christ, by Chinese Communist Authorities), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. (Luke 22:31,32)
During the sixteenth year of my imprisonment something dramatic happened. All the prisoners--Christian and non-Christians--were called together to have a session of so-called self-criticism. Some Buddhists were asked to criticize Buddhism--others were asked to criticize Confucius. I was asked to criticize Christ. I quickly prayed to God. 'Sir, I cannot criticize my God. He is the way, the truth and the life.' 'Criticize' the man shouted, 'it will benefit you.' I thought: Will I be released after sixteen years instead of after twenty years? It would save me four years of hard labor. But then I thought: If I criticize Christ to come out of jail four years early, the sixteen years in jail would have all been in vain. I was trembling. Freedom so near--temptation so real. Then the Scripture I mentioned came to mind: 'Be alert, your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith...' (1 Peter 5:8). I also thought of Peter, who boasted of himself...and fell. 'O Lord, keep my faith', I cried. If Peter denied Him three times, I could easily deny Him thirty times, three hundred times. Thank God, He heard my prayer. In those twenty years in jail I have not denied the Lord once, not because I was so strong--but because the Lord protected me. Praise be to Him and to Him alone. 'I have prayed for you.' Thank you, Jesus.
A moment of introspection: Plausible deniability. Peter learned the skill, applying it three times. Almost unassuageable grief: the result of denying his Lord. In God's Word (Matthew 10:33) Jesus tells us that "...whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven." Serious stuff, right? Let's take a look at today's world, and consider the overt and often subtle calls to deny our faith.
Requests for prayer often, these days, reveal the enemy's ploy of trying to deny heaven to those who express belief in--and allegiance to Jesus Christ and our heavenly Father. Consider the following sampling of news stories culled from prayer requests in recent months:
Undated - Kenya - "A heavily armed militia of extremists hijacked a public bus. They put the
passengers through a faith test and all those who failed were lined up
and executed. A total of 28 people died."
March 23 - Philippines - Reports continue to emerge of Christians being specifically targeted,
forced to recite Muslim prayers attesting to Allah being the one and only god.
May 23 - Philippines - A truck transporting nine Christian laborers was ambushed at a militant
checkpoint. After being pulled from the truck, the men were bound and ordered
to recite the shahada (Islamic statement of faith). When they could not, they
May 26 - Egypt - "Bear witness that there is no god to be worshipped but Allah, and that
Mohammed is the messenger of Allah," they demanded. A busload of Christians
were killed for refusing to deny their faith.
May 31 - Pakistan - Christians were coming out of the court after attending the hearing, the Deputy
District Public Prosecutor (DDPP) offered to acquit all 42 suspects if they converted to
June 16 - India - "The mob supported by the village president forced us to drink gangajal [water from
the Ganges River, considered holy), eat tulsi [basil considered holy] leaves and declare
that we deny Christ," Pushpa Kumari told Morning Star News. "When we resisted, the
men and women of the village beat us even more severely."
How often the strident demand is, to Christians around the world, "deny your faith in Jesus Christ!" Satan knows his time is short, and 1 Peter 5:8 tells us to "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." He will accomplish this openly through governments, terrorists, families of MBBs and other new Christians coming from other religions. But he also devours through deception, temptation, sensuality, the love of money, etc. "Try this; it won't hurt you. It'll be fun..." (Proverbs 16:25) In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul speaks of "the defiled"; we certainly would not use that term in self-description, yet if we take a look at some of the ways people become defiled, it might open our eyes. The Dake Annotated Reference Bible (Available from Dake Publishing) lists a number of things that defile a person; a sampling of these might open our eyes and make us think: Theft, Bearing False Witness, Covetousness, Deceit, Hatred, Selfish Ambition, Wrath/Anger, Drunkenness, Lying, Idolatry (putting ___________ before God or Jesus), Ungodly Passion, Filthy Language, Ignorance, Unnatural Affection, Abusing Others, Lasciviousness/Lust, Pride, Envy, Boasting, et al. For Believers, we can thank and praise God for the forgiveness inherent in Romans 8:1; but these might constitute part of the test referred to in 2 Corinthians 13:5-7. Satan will work his wiles surreptitiously and subtly, or hurtfully and observably. We who live, live to the Lord. (Romans 14:8) As such, Satan has us in his sights, and will use any of the listed means to draw us away from faith.
Let us not live in such a fashion as to deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. Rather, let us agree with the apostle Paul: For us to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21). For us to live is to love God and obey His commandments (1 John 5:2), to serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:2), to develop and sustain a deep spiritual rootedness in Christ (John 15:5), to bear much fruit (Luke 8:15; Matthew 21:43), to glorify our Maker in everything we do (1 Corinthians 10:31), to walk in the Lord, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith (Colossians 2:6-7), and to place the Lord first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). In Pastor Lamb's situation, would we have chosen to deny our Lord? It's hard to say. But the closer we live our lives to what the Holy Scriptures teach us, the more likely we will be to remain faithful in times of trial and tribulation. Stand firm, friends. Know the One in whom we believe. Spend time with Him through His Word and through prayer. My prayer for each of us is that we may be found faith-filled in times of trial (James 4:7).