6:38 AM The other day I heard someone describe Becky as “suffering for Christ.” I respectfully disagree. Cancer attacks all, Christian and non-Christian alike. Our enemy the devil is always busily at work trying to distort our understanding of Christian suffering. Our God is wanting us to understand that suffering for Christ is something we can opt out of. It is something we choose because we are following in the path of Jesus. Yes, Becky is suffering. And yes, she is using her suffering to advance the cause of Christ. We cannot deny that reality. But let me show you what real suffering for Christ looks like:
Just what is this “Red Letter” Bible? According to the Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter (Nov. 2012):
“The blood-spattered Bible on the cover of this newsletter is a graphic symbol of what it means to be a Christian in northern Nigeria. The Bible was retrieved from the Deeper Life Church in Gombe state after a Jan. 5, 2012, attack by Boko Haram militants. Church leader Chenma Ngwaba was speaking during a Thursday evening prayer meeting when three young extremists suddenly began firing weapons through the church window. ‘They were shooting everybody there,’ said Chenma, who last his wife and 10-year-old son that night. Chenma’s six-month-old daughter survived, but eight other believers were killed, and more than 20 were injured.”
Now that’s suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
Friend, the Christian life can be boiled to two things: faith in Christ and obedience to His Word. Need a visual aid of what this looks like? Look at the church in Nigeria, or Ethiopia, or China. Look at the life of an Amy Carmichael or a Jim Elliott or my translator James who was murdered after he served with me among the Gujis. These are people who laid down their lives for others. In a letter written in the Old Forest House in 1922, Amy Carmichael summed it up well:
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” How often I think of that ought. No sugary sentiment there. Just the stern, glorious trumpet call, OUGHT. But can words tell the joy buried deep within? Mine cannot. It laughs at words.
Imagine someone speaking of suffering as happiness! Is this masochism? No. Our God asks us to suffer with His Son. He could not have more fully or plainly shown what suffering looks like than in Jesus’ own life and death. I too am called to suffer for Christ, given an assignment that carries on His work in His power. Take up His cross, and you WILL know what suffering is.
This coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I will have the honor of speaking at my home church, Bethel Hill Baptist (pending Becky’s situation of course), on the subject of why suffering for Christ OUGHT to be a part of every Christian’s experience. Here are some links that will help you become and stay informed about the persecuted church worldwide:
Christian Freedom International
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Christians in Crisis
Gospel for Asia
International Christian Concern
Iranian Christians International
Persecution Project Foundation
The Voice of the Martyrs
God can indeed show us what it means to take up the cross. My hope and prayer is that He will. The choice to be a Christian is a choice to be a burden-bearer. Becoming more aware of how the universal Body of Christ is suffering has made me more committed to standing with our brethren and even going to minister to them annually as the Lord opens the door. Someone has said that the only crown Jesus ever wore on this earth was a crown of thorns. To be a Christian is to make the kind of choices that allow us to willingly follow Him in the path of suffering. Do not look for an easy way. Seek to follow the downward path of Jesus. It will cost you a great deal, in fact, it will cost you everything you have. Yet is He not worth it? Yes, a thousand times yes.