This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to be Free, compiled by staff of Open Doors. In the following quotation from Mehdi Dibaj, (martyred Iranian pastor), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion for you. (Isaiah 54:10)
The Almighty God not only gives us strength to walk with Him, to go forward with Him or to go up with Him but also to come down with Him to the valley of the battle.
Or should I say: I may go up to Him -- He will come down to me.
I may sit, in the heavenly places, on His 'broad shoulders', He will kneel down with me in the valley of battle and hold my hand. The more I visit Him up there -- the more I experience His help down here.
The mountains of life may be shaken, the pains of being separated from my beloved family may hurt, the prison cell may be dark -- His unfailing love for me is not shaken and my love for Him is growing stronger every day.
A moment of introspection: When I was a teenager, there was a common question circulating among fellow Christians--a question that no one would easily be able to answer: "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be sufficient evidence to support a conviction?" Then, and now, it behooves us to ponder this query. Yet the significance of the question becomes ever more cogent and plausible in today's world.
Whether we read the accounts of our fellow Christians around the world who today have been in prison for their faith in Christ (as chronicled on the "Latest News" section of the Christians in Crisis website), or we read books such as Arrested in the Kingdom (The story of Filipino pastor, Oswaldo Magdangal, founder and current head of the Christians In Crisis ministry--who was saved from hanging in Saudi Arabia), Tortured for Christ (the account of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs, available as a free copy on numerous web sites), Foxe's Book of Martyrs--Updated (an account of persecution of Christians throughout recorded history, available through Voice of the Martyrs, www.vombooks.com), or Paul's letters to the churches in the New Testament, and any of many other books, we are reminded that to be arrested as a follower of Jesus Christ often does not stop there. Though some are arrested and released shortly after their apprehension for the crime of being a Christian, many others are incarcerated for months and years, in horrible, unsanitary conditions.
Within the walls of such prisons, unspeakable tortures are imposed on prisoners. Attacks from other non-Christian prisoners against believers in prison, being sodomized or raped by fellow inmates and guards--all these often follow the fateful words "Come with us!"
Indeed, the mountains of life may be shaken, and the battle may grow fiercer. (Revelation 2:10a) Yet accounts of God's presence can be found while in the heat of this battle. Pastor Dibaj tells of going "up to" God from within the cell--even as God came "down to" him. Psalm 23:4 says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Why did the psalmist express such bravery? Because "you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." As Pastor Dibaj expresses it, "He will kneel down with me in the valley of battle and hold my hand."
Ever doubted God's Word in that psalm? If we develop a lifelong relationship with God and with Christ, the truth of this psalm can be experienced personally. If we are arrested, convicted and imprisoned for our faith, remember that Christ, too, was thusly accosted and imprisoned, tortured, and debased; the world will only imprison us because of Christ within us, if we are apprehended because of our belief. Christ within us, God coming down to comfort and guide. As Pastor Dibaj asserted, "The more I visit Him up there--the more I experience His help down here." Pray often (listen and pray); study the Bible for application; find an avenue in which to serve God and our fellow humans; use time judiciously for the benefit of God's kingdom. "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." 2 Chronicles 16:9a If in these times, we would be arrested and imprisoned, remember Pastor Dibaj's words: visit God in heaven via prayer; come down with Him to the battle. With God's upholding hand, we may thus--in tumult or travail--emanate the peace that passes all understanding. God's Word says it, and we can count on it: "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on You." (Isaiah 26:3)