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 Brother Jacob (from Mozambique), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
The Lord provides food for those who fear Him. (Psalm 111:5)
When I was arrested I was worried about my family. How would they cope without me? I realized however that to worry about them would not solve their problems; neither would it make prison life easier for me. At the same time I had to prove to my fellow prisoners that, as a Christian, I had no reason to worry. I prayed for my family, that the Lord would take care of them.
Some weeks after my arrest, a woman brought some food to me in prison. This is a custom in our country. The food was nicely prepared: a bowl of rice with meat on top. I started eating the food with great enjoyment. When I got close to the bottom I saw something was hidden there.
I carefully scraped the rice away with the spoon to find a tiny plastic bag. Inside the bag was only a piece of paper. My hands shook as I pulled the scrap of paper from the plastic. It was a very short note from the lady who had brought me the food, saying: 'Your family is fine. Other Christians are looking after them. We pray for you.'
Peace and joy flowed into my heart.
Worry breaks us down.
Trust builds us up.
Put your trust in the Lord--for yourself, your loved ones, and for your fellow Christians, because He cares.
A moment of introspection: Bearing man's wrath, Brother Jacob found himself not only arrested as a Christian but also imprisoned for the name of Christ as well. Christian persecution (paying the price of faith) is a reality in our world. We Christians, today, experience the truth of Acts 14:22 - "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." We pray for many who thus gain entry into the kingdom of God. For many Christians in this world, "it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake." (Philippians 1:29) Brother Jacob was imprisoned for his faith. In the country of Mozambique, it has been the custom that prisoners, including Christian prisoners, would be brought daily sustenance by their family. In Vietnam, sometimes Christian prisoners' family members may walk for as much as a day or more to bring a meal for their imprisoned kin. Many of the pastors, evangelists and workers who are beaten and imprisoned for their bold witness leave behind sons, daughters and spouses to fend for themselves. We pray for wives and family of those imprisoned. As noted, above, sometimes a wife is also forced to provide for her husband in prison. If she is also arrested, then together they have to bear the anguish of leaving often young children to fend for themselves. So Brother Jacob's concern for his family was genuine. In each of these situations, please place yourself in the position of the one in prison and the one(s) left at home. This is a lesson for each of us, that whether in prison or not the grace of God is needed Christian lives; in our lives as in the ones of Brother Jacob and his family, pray that we all may endure, for we each have need for endurance. (Hebrews 10:36)
But the lesson from this believer continues, for he felt strongly that he "had to prove to my fellow prisoners that, as a Christian, I had no reason to worry." How do our lives prove this to our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends? God's Word tells us that God's peace replaces fear through prayer and thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6-7) When beset with troubles and otherwise fearful situations, look upward, direct your thoughts toward God (Isaiah 26:3-4). In such situations, may we find that God's grace is sufficient, and God's power is perfected in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) For Brother Jacob as for us, God supplants worry with peace. The word "worry" is from a word that means "to strangle." That's what worry does to us. It chokes us. It cuts off our emotional and spiritual air supply so that we get frustrated and angry. Brother Jacob worried about his family. He wrote "How would they cope without me? I realized however that to worry about them would not solve their problems; neither would it make prison life easier for me." Like Brother Jacob, we too have the responsibility as Christians, to show those around us that we have no reason to worry about those things that try to make us anxious--whether we can (or cannot even begin to) list all of the problems we have--such as money, health, job, family tensions, etc. In these areas, pray with supplication and thanksgiving--open your heart to God, and then ask Him to give you the wisdom to change what you can, and the courage to endure what you can't.
The lessons learned through Brother Jacob's writing teach not so much about scraps of paper beneath a bed of rice, as they remind us that persecution is a reality in today's world. Check out Christians In Crisis' Latest News page, for evidence that opposition to the gospel is multiplying, not waning. The lessons from Brother Jacob give us a surmountable challenge, to show others around us that we Christians have no reason to worry--though worrisome and fretful occurrences happen every day in our world. The lessons from Brother Jacob encourage us to not only pray for those imprisoned for their faith in Jesus Christ, but also to pray for those left at home to struggle without the imprisoned bread-winner, trying to make ends meet without the strength of character and guidance the imprisoned Christian had been providing within the family. In Brother Jacob's life as in ours, worry breaks us down. Trust builds us up. May we indeed put our trust in the Lord, for ourselves, our families, and our fellow Christians. God does care.