This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, an Indonesian Christian provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)
They huddled inside the room while hearing the screams of fellow Christians being butchered outside. Pastor Hendrick Pattiwael and his wife were helping to lead the Indonesian youth camp, and they felt responsible for the young people in their care.
The camp had been a joyous time of spiritual growth and worship. Then they were attacked.
When the radical Muslim mob surrounded the building where they hid, Pastor Pattiwael went outside. Distracting the bloodthirsty mob's attention away from his wife and the young people, the pastor was attacked while the others escaped.
"Jesus, help me." They were his final words.
His wife next saw him lying in a coffin. Ugly wounds crisscrossed his torso and arms. In shock and anger, Mrs. Pattiwael cried out to God. "How could you let this happen? Why didn't you protect my husband?"
But the Holy Spirit reminded her of her husband's words only days before the attack. "If you love Jesus, but you love me or your family more, you are unworthy of Christ's kingdom." He told her that he was ready to die for Christ's kingdom.
Remembering those words, she refused to become bitter. She still works with her church in Indonesia. The advice that she would give Christians in free nations is simply this: "Seek God more earnestly, so that you can stand in the midst of more trouble."
FURTHER: We don't have to go looking for trouble. It already has our address. Jesus often reminded His disciples that trials are part of daily living. Seeking God more earnestly does not mean seeking more trouble in our lives. No, the benefit of seeking a deeper relationship with God is to better prepare us for the inevitable. We don't have a choice about what troubles come our way. However, we can choose to have a relationship with God that prepares us for trouble. Some trials may mean losing our lives for Christ's sake. Yet this is not the real sacrifice. The extreme sacrifice must come long before. We must sacrifice selfishness at every level in order to develop intimacy with God ahead of time. When we have sacrificed all to pursue a preeminent relationship with Christ, we will have already done the hardest part.
A moment of consideration: In law enforcement records, 3rd degree means of lesser culpability; in gauging burns, a 3rd degree burn is more severe than other burns. The "nth" degree is used to connote "ultimate" in the scale being addressed. But how would such a rating be applied to our relationship with God--our earnestness in seeking Him? Let's consider. Mrs. Pattiwael exhorts us in "free nations" to seek God more earnestly. What does this mean in terms of our faith? Christ used a parable to describe our responsiveness to Him and His message of salvation; in this parable of the sower and the seeds, our success in serving Him relates to how we have responded to the gospel:
"Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. (These are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.)
Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. (And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.)
Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. (They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.)
And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." (the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
And He said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:3-9; 4:10-20)
George Whitefield (English minister and preacher, ca 1714-1770) noted the reason "we have so many 'mushroom' converts, [is] because their rocky ground is not plowed up; they have not got a conviction of the law; they are rocky-ground hearers." Remember the explanation Christ gave, concerning the rocky ground. (Matthew 13:20-21)
Let us not be "mushroom" Christians, so that as Mrs. Pattiwael said, we "can stand in the midst of more trouble." Let us be earnest in seeking a relationship with the Lord. To that end, think carefully about what "more earnestly" looks like. Consider these synonyms:
actively, ardently, assiduously, committedly, decidedly, decisively, determinedly, devotedly, devoutly, exhaustively,
fervently, fervidly, firmly, for real, heart and soul, heartily, in all seriousness, intensely, intently, like a bulldog,
painstakingly, passionately, persistently, purposefully, relentlessly, resolutely, seriously, sincerely, single-mindedly,
sober-mindedly, staunchly, steadfastly, steadily, tenaciously, thoroughly, thoughtfully, unswervingly,
wholeheartedly, with total dedication, zealously
These synonyms are revealing--evoking mental images of passion in: seeking God (via Bible reading/studying), being totally dedicated to knowing God, exhaustively seeking and learning of Him, being devoted to Him, giving wholehearted resoluteness to the relationship, being "sober" (as we are exhorted to be in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-11) revealing our need to be clear-headed and serious in our relationship building; and being intense, committed, persistent, active and decided in our lives of faith. In a sense, they describe a Christian “nth” degree to which we would be wise to aspire.
If we are to "seek God more earnestly", we might search the Scriptures as the Bereans did in Paul's and Silas' journey through Macedonia: The Jews in Berea "received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11) They tested "the spirits" of the day (1 John 4:1), and checked out the missionaries' messages to see if they "held water" or were true. The parable of the sower and the seeds speaks of receptivity to God's Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Earnestly seeking God in His Word in prayer and in quiet meditation upon Him are wonderful and very good ways to seek Him in relationship.
Seeking God earnestly means loving God more than we love our father or mother, our sons or daughters. (Matthew 10:37) We seek God single-mindedly. There is a sense of urgency for us end-times believers, as God's Word admonishes us to "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6) Jesus stressed this, when He said to His disciples, "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) If we wish to read of an example of earnest seeking, consider King David in Psalm 63:1-8. Consider the Psalmist who ask poignantly, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25-28) So, let's seek Him first in our lives: "And He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern." (Matthew 6:33 NLT) As the report on Rev. & Mrs. Hendrick Pattiwael encourages us to understand, we don't need to go looking for trouble. As Bob Marley popularly reminded us, "in every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double". But as our Lord more cogently said to us, we needn't worry (Matthew 6:34) about trouble that may happen; as Iranian Christians have said to us in a recent video, trouble and trials are coming to us quickly. But Mrs. Pattiwael encourages us to be resolved to "Seek God more earnestly, so that you can stand in the midst of more trouble." Let us then seriously consider the words of Israel's king who said to Ben-Hadad, as we look to God and say "I and all that I have are Yours." (1 Kings 20:4b) We must sacrifice selfishness at every level in order to develop intimacy with God ahead of time. When we have sacrificed all to pursue a preeminent relationship with Christ, we will have already done the hardest part. The easiest part remains--to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. God has provided His Word to show us how to do this. In its pages, seek Him.