This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, the account of a Romanian Christian provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)
"Are you not afraid of what we will do to you?" the Communist colonel asked, his tone a combination of mockery and challenge.
Young Pastor Kochanga, having preached only one sermon in his career, stood before the colonel, knowing that the man held the power of life or death over him. He answered in a respectful, yet fervent tone.
"Sir, truth is never afraid. Suppose your government would decide to hang all mathematicians. How much would two plus two be, then? Two plus two would still be four."
"We have truth, as true as a mathematical equation. We have the truth that there is a God, and He is our loving Father. We have the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world and wishes to save everyone, even you. We have truth that there is a Holy Spirit who empowers men and gives them light, and we have the truth that there exists a beautiful paradise."
"Whatever whips and whatever instruments of torture you have, it will always remain so. Two plus two still equals four."
Kochanga was beaten almost beyond recognition and then was never seen again. Though his battered and bloody face was hard to recognize for the other prisoners, in heaven he was immediately known and welcomed.
FURTHER: "Tell the truth." Children learn this command at an early age, yet its wisdom is timeless. If we will return to simply acknowledging what we know to be true, we will always have the words to say when we are called upon to testify for Christ. Many people often feel unqualified to witness for Christ, saying they lack "training." We fear being asked a theological question we don't know how to answer. However, professing Christ doesn't require course credit in apologetics. Simply tell the truth about what you know--just as those who have experienced religious oppression. Testifying about Christ is easier than it seems. We must go back to the principle we learned in childhood. We are commanded to acknowledge Jesus Christ--to tell the truth.
A moment of consideration: "We have truth", our brother in Christ averred. And that Truth has been our redemption and salvation. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." And this indeed we seek and strive to attest. The way we seek is The Way, The Truth and The Life. It was this Truth to which our brother, Kochanga, anchored his spirit and was freed to join with the Truth and escape to Jesus' side. I see him in the first two lines of a poem, by John Gillespie Magie, Jr, entitled "High Flight":
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
We are grateful for young pastor Kochanga's life and example. Any fear that may have troubled his brow was vanquished through his testimony. Henry Ward Beecher expressed his insight, saying that "Fear is a kind of bell...it is the soul's signal for rallying." And our brother in the faith rallied, in the face of a Communist Colonel's futile threat: "Are you not afraid of what we will do to you?" Brother Kochange was not. He let the Holy Spirit give him the words to say, and so he spoke of his Savior, saying, "...Truth is never afraid." Our King said during His earthly ministry, "...do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:28-33) Emily Bronte wrote,
"No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear."
Emily Bronte spoke of her own confidence in the Lord. Pastor Kochanga's confidence conquered his fear through the Holy Spirit's empowerment--and he endured the colonel's mockery. Bertrand Russell understood that "fear is the main source of superstition...and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." The apostle James told us that "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:5-8) Did Brother Kochanga waver or doubt, during this interrogation? We're not told, per se. But his words reflect divine wisdom. And as the Holy Spirit spoke words of wisdom to him, he confidently shared the wisdom and the truth with his interrogator.
The inspirational piece at the head of this devotional states, "Simply tell the truth about what you know--just as those who have experienced religious oppression." Our task in witnessing for the Lord in church or at home or in the office or in the store is not to play games with people in an effort to manipulate them to our way of thinking. Rather, we are to simply share Christ--and ourselves--with others. A straightforward witness to the Truth of the gospel doesn’t require gimmicks of any kind. It behooves each of us to know the truth, believe in that truth, and remember the truth when we are called upon for our own testimony. Most importantly, it would be worth our while to know the Truth, to remain in "constant" fellowship with the Truth, and to love the Truth more than anything we love in this world--certainly as God's Word tells us, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17) Our confidence is in the Lord, our times are in His hand (Psalm 31:15a), and our future is with Him! With the Apostle Paul, may we agree: "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you." (Philippians 3:13-15)
Abide in Him (John 15:4-8); abide in His love (John 15:9-10). May we be conscious of His presence throughout each day--aware of His touch upon us, and His nearness as Lord Immanuel. (Matthew 1:23) He is faithful to His precepts; He is trustworthy to do what He has said. He has promised to walk with us throughout times of trouble:
The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble.
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalms 9:9-10)
Alas, Young Pastor Kochanga is no longer with us. Yet his example lives on to encourage and to steady us amid the tumult of our days. Our Lord brought him through his trial in victory, for his soul. May our Lord Immanuel be with us today, and in each day of our lives on this earth, and let us eagerly look forward to His coming for His Church--for it draws nigh. Until then, occupy this domain; and know the Truth that lives within and on high!