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 Hmong believers in Southeast Asia provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

"They stabbed one believer through the mouth with a long knife and poured boiling water down the throat of another who was caught with a Bible.  An entire family had been drowned."

Believers in the Hmong tribe of Southeast Asia agreed to give their testimony on videotape.  They wanted to encourage Christians in the West.

One Hmong Christian shared:  "The Communist authorities feel threatened because so many Hmong people have become Christians.  They beat the Christians to try to force them to return to their worship of evil spirits."

"The local police forbade us to become Christians.  They threatened to put us in jail and even kill us," a woman added.  "But if we have to die for Christ's sake, we are willing."

These believers are willing to put themselves in even greater danger to let the world know they are standing strong in the face of persecution.  The Hmong tribe is the largest of Southeast Asia and is experiencing the greatest growth of Christianity. It is also one of the most persecuted people groups.

Another woman said, "I thank God that we have remained strong.  I do believe that the persecution is just a test of our faith in Christ.  It brings out the true riches.  It brings out the silver and the gold.  Just pray that we will be faithful to the end."

FURTHER:  Steel is strengthened through a tempering process--heated to extreme temperatures, pounded into form, and cooled. Then the process is repeated again and again, heating and pounding the impurities away and then cooling so that the metal can bond.  A similar tempering process strengthens our faith.  When we are heated by hatred from others, pounded upon by persecution, and then cooled by the gentle reassurance of God's presence, our impurities are driven out and our faith strengthened.  Have you recognized the tempering process in your life?  Don't resist any part of it.  Learn from your brothers and sisters in the Hmong tribe.  Your enemies don't realize you will be stronger as a result of their hatred.

A moment of consideration:  In God's Word, we find hope; we find encouragement; we find love; and we find Truth. Let’s consider each of these four gifts that we’ve been given.  In the Bible, Christ was telling about doing what God wants us to do; then He will give us the things that we need.  Because of this, we don't need to worry about tomorrow--as each day has enough trouble of its own and tomorrow will have its own worries. (Matthew 6:33-34)  With persecution's tempering characteristics, we don't need to worry about its arrival or presence in our country or city.  Persecution brings out the True riches within us--the silver and gold, as it were; we may just pray that we too will be faithful to the end, as our family in Southeast Asia does.

Tempering is a crucial component of making products such as glass and metals strong and pure.  It can happen in our lives as well, and is just as important in helping us "weather" additional "storms".  We are blessed if we recognize the tempering happening or having happened and can learn from the experience.  Some mistakenly consider any discomfort a dire problem.  Have you recognized the tempering process in your life?  Don't resist any part of it.  Persecution strengthens us in ways that may be uncomfortable, trying, and hurtful perhaps.  But Immanuel, walking with us, has truthfully overcome the hurt of the world, and gives us play-by-play encouragement as we keep our eyes on Him. (John 16:33)  Even as we come to recognize the tempering of our lives through oppression, let us come to recognize more vividly the Lord who walks through it, with us. (Hebrews 12:3)

As persecution rears its head, we can be patient encouragers of others--warning the idle in the faith to be active and ardent in their relationship with the Lord, and giving hope to the fainthearted so they may become stalwart and bold for Him. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)  In encouraging others, we ourselves are sensitized to the hope we communicate. Let us then be encouragers with patience, as people have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be, but not what you nag them to be.  One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement.  It is easy to pour cold water on folks' enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers.  We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many times a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept fellow Christians on their feet.  If life and death are in the power of the tongue, so are victory and defeat!  Whom have you encouraged lately?

The Boston Marathon is among the world’s best-known races.  One of the most infamous portions of the 26-mile, 385-yard course is "Heartbreak Hill."  It's there, along that hill, that thousands of spectators gather.  They stand and cheer as they see weary runners about to collapse.  During one race a young man was near total exhaustion as he approached the foot of Heartbreak Hill.  It was doubtful he could go a step farther.  About halfway up the hill an older man, who was obviously in better shape, came alongside the younger man, put his arm around him, and spoke quietly to him.  Together, step by step, they painstakingly made their way up Heartbreak Hill.

Think of the Savior, putting His arm around us, speaking quietly to us--and together, step by step, even though painstakingly, He helps us make our way up Heartbreak Hill.  In this and upon the cross, Christ shows His love for us.  Though He was in great distress as He faced the looming persecutory cross (Luke 12:50), He did not turn aside from the road to Calvary; despite His staying the course, Christ did pray that He would be spared the cross.  We are urged to be ready all the time to pray that we will be able to get through all these things that will happen and stand safe before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36 (ERV))  But the Lord will not abandon us as we perhaps with some trepidation walk with Him on our road to difficult times. (Matthew 1:23; Hebrews 13:5)  It is a measure of His love.  In all this we trust Him because He is the Truth, because He is the Way, and because of the Life He offers us.

In the day of trouble, remember the Lord; and in the day of trials, trust Him and tell Him of your weakness and problems.  We "must tell Jesus; He all our cares and sorrows will share".  Jesus cares!  Let Him strengthen you.  In the day of hardship, if and when the world seems arrayed against you, keep your spiritual eyes and your mind focused on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3).  We trust Him, even as Job averred and King Solomon urged. (Job 13:15, KJV; Proverbs 3:5)  Lord Immanuel is with you.  He is our hope for eternal life with the Father.  In Him, our hopes are secured and affirmed.  Be encouraged, and hope in the Lord; for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)