This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Mehdi Dibaj (from Iran, imprisoned, released and murdered for his faith in Jesus Christ), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
Jesus said: 'For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it' (Matthew 16:25)
Every Christian should be willing to be such a sacrifice for God that he gets cleansed by the fire of hardships and sufferings. 'To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps' (1 Peter 2:21).
My heart rejoices, as I walk with Jesus
the world behind me, the cross before me
I will follow Him forever ... everyday.
He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. It is the wish of every father and child to walk together. God too wishes that we walk with Him--that is to obey Him.
'I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.' (Genesis, 17:1b) Two people can only walk together if they agree together.
In the triumphal procession of Christ, we will go forward by the power of God.
A moment of introspection: Have you ever gotten so close to something that you exclaim, "I can almost feel it!"? Or perhaps, "I can almost see it."? This month, we are brought close enough to a vibrant life for Chirst, that we are called to live in such a manner. Mehdi Dibaj calls each of us to a life of sacrifice for God's sake, to the extent that we get "cleansed by the fire of hardships and sufferings." But he's not the only one calling for such commitment; Voice of the Martyrs has written a book entitled Extreme Devotion; in its jacket flyleaf, a reader finds the following description: "A book that will change your very definition of sacrifice..." and seeks to "...challenge you to live out your own heroic faith." Josef Ton, in his book, Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven, says "I knew that God wanted me back in my own country [Romania], and I was determined to obey Him, whatever the cost. Yet I wanted to understand exactly what my Heavenly Father's purpose could be in sending me to a place where I would most likely be killed.... I saw how God always conquers by a love that is self-giving and self-sacrificing." Daniel Haseltine, in the Book entitled The Narrow Road, describes an encounter with a Christian from Rwanda; this Christian brother asserted that our American culture "has been blinded from a true vision of the way God works in suffering. There is a world beyond the safety of our insular church culture. There are miracles and tragedies, passion and suffering, great joy and indescribable injustice, none of which fit into our narrow worldview." Self-sacrificing, self-giving, heroic faith, miracles and tragedies, passion and suffering, great joy and indescribable injustice... these might well describe the normal life of a Christian today--a life that Christ understood and that the Apostle Peter related to the call of God on our lives as well. (1 Peter 2:21) A noted Scottish minister observed that "The greatest criticism of the church today is that no one wants to persecute it: because there is nothing very much to persecute it about." (George F. MacLeod) Rev. MacLeod, too, understood the role that persecution of the Church plays in being a light in a dark world, leaving safe lives and making a difference for Christ in this world--that hurdles largely unaware, toward tribulation and judgement.
So we are called off the couch, away from entertainments and purposelessness (Matthew 4:5-6, 16-17) to a life of commitment in service to God. Time is now short, awaiting Christ's upward call. It is time to live for Him and His perfect will. Jesus Christ lived as an example, a template, a pattern, an ambassador from God. Like no other, He is the One role model to whom we should look in fashioning our lives, our decisions, our reactions and more. (Consider the words of Hebrews 12:1-3 as we look to the founder and perfecter of our faith.) Serving others in the name of Christ (John 13:13-17, Romans 15:1-4), we may well encounter opposition because of His name. Yet from God's Word, we expect such opposition; we are blessed by it, if we suffer for doing right (1 Peter 2:20). The Bible encourages each of us to endure through to the end. What might we endure, if not the hatred of the world toward Christ? The Apostle Paul described such endurance in his first letter to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:11-13). But he didn't just describe and communicate the endurance that his experience developed, he wrote to the church in Corinth, these words: "For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer [my emphasis]. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:5-7) More contemporaneously, Philip Bourdon adds a dimension to our trials as followers of Christ:
Portable camcorders have a battery pack for power. Instructions typically recommend that users allow the battery pack to completely discharge before recharging, especially the first few times. This actually increases the endurance of the battery.
In like manner, our trials "discharge" us, emptying us of our dependence on human strength and increasing our capacity to receive God's limitless power.
Medhi Dibaj personally lived and experienced a life garnering hatred from the world because of his devout faith in Christ. Recall his words:
Every Christian should be willing to be such a sacrifice for God that he gets cleansed by the fire of hardships and sufferings. 'To this you were called,
because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps' (1 Peter 2:21).
My heart rejoices, as I walk with Jesus
the world behind me, the cross before me
I will follow Him for ever ... everyday.
This is the testimony of one who turned his back on the world of comfort and ease, who endured in faith to the very end, having securely received and applied God's Word as "good soil" does. Have we, too, decided to "follow Jesus--the world behind us, the cross before us"? What have we sacrificed for the sake of Christ? Do we fellowship with God each day, with Christ, in prayer, in praise, in practicing the presence of God, prevailing, purposefully reaching others for Christ? The time is short and, apart from Christ, the world is hurting and dying. Shall we "rescue the perishing", as Fannie Crosby famously wrote:
1. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
2. Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.
3. Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
4. Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.
How I love this song; how its words raise my spirit and clarify my vision. Let’s recharge our "batteries" and be prepared--knowing that our trials "discharge" us. May this discharging empty "us of our dependence on human strength and increase our capacity to receive God's limitless power." Christ has bought us. We are His. God wishes us to walk with Him (to obey Him) and be blameless--moving forward in the triumphal procession of Christ. May we be empowered by God to do so. And, may we walk with, and serve the Lord with gladness!