This month, our devotional has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Nicolae Gheorgita (Romanian Baptist pastor, characterized by simplicity and servitude), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say, or how to say it. (Matthew 10:19)
After various trials, I was once asked to go to the secretary of the county, an evil man, a committed Communist. My wife said 'It will be a miracle of God if you come back safe.' The 'comrade' party official made me wait for an hour in the hallway for him, after which I was told he wanted to see me now. I prayed (again); 'Lord please go in first. I am afraid to go without you.'
The official was sitting behind his desk. 'I could have sent you to prison for what you have done, but I wanted to see you first' he started. 'You were in Cluj and you preached without permission.' I realized immediately what he was referring to. I had indeed preached to the students of the university in Cluj. I had encouraged them to remain faithful in the week ahead. I had spoken about courage because they had been threatened with dismissal from the university if they continued to believe in God. I told the party official that it was my duty to preach the Word. He started to threaten me. Strange, the more he threatened me the more God's peace flowed into my heart. I was sitting there, full of peace, rejoicing in the opportunity to be threatened for my faith in Christ.
Suddenly, the official realized that he could not frighten me. 'Are you not afraid?' he asked. I just said: 'no'. Then he added: 'Do you have anything else to say?' I said 'yes' ... and I told him my testimony and that God loved him too. I saw him lowering himself behind the desk and he asked me to pray for his soul also. How great Thou art.
A moment of introspection: Not too long ago, a common adage posed a question: "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" Pastor Gheorgita found himself in just this predicament, as he was called in to face the secretary of the county. During the interrogation, Pastor Gheorgita was charged with preaching without permission. In today's world--in fact, in today's America, Christians are faced with similar charges/challenges. Consider the following (taken from the inside jacket cover of a new book, entitled You Will be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe, by Erick Erickson and Bill Blankshaen, copyright 2016 by Regnery Publishing).
In their book, you'll learn:
- How being good at your job is no excuse: how "America's firefighter" lost his job for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman
- How universities are driving Christian groups off campus
- How lawyers are raking in millions through politically correct lawsuits against religious groups that don't affirm homosexuality as "normal"
- How there is nowhere to hide: no matter how small your bed and breakfast, or your wedding chapel, or your flower shop, the leftist-homosexual mafia will shut you down if you don't share their beliefs
- How Christian clergy will be forced to perform gay weddings or see their churches forced into bankruptcy
We live in a world of lawlessness, of attempts at human and animal cloning and production of chimera (human-animal genetic cross), of growing socialism and a resurgence of Nazism (in new groups), of Christian persecution at an all-time high, of rioting (and attempts to rend the very fabric of democracy), of technological monitoring of our comings and goings, of technological weapons production and threats to use such weapons in international war, etc. Worldwide, Christians experience tribulation at the hands of governments, religious antagonists, warring political factions, terrorist armies, and other forms of worldly hatred of Jesus Christ and His Church. Mass displacement of Christians is happening around the world, as believers are thrown out of their homes, their villages and cities, and even their countries. Living as we do, in the last times, we expect these types of societal breakdown.
Yet the question continues to confront each of us: how would we react to a question as posed to Nicolae: "Do you have anything else to say?" God's Word gives us confidence that we don't need to know how to respond, at this time. But God's Word also exhorts us to be prepared. Consider these words of the apostle Peter: "Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil." (1 Peter 3:13-17) Pastor Gheorgita was put into a position to face suffering for being a Christian, but God gave him the words to say, when he was required to be prepared to make a defense. So, it would be good for each of us to consider the question posed to Nicolae: "Do you have anything else to say?"
For those who believe in the rapture of the Church, especially the pre-tribulation rapture, it is believed that God will rapture the Church prior to the Great Tribulation, keeping the church from having to undergo the dispensing of God's wrath upon an unbelieving world. Yet God's Word does not preclude Christians from suffering human wrath (e.g., from terrorists, religious enemies of Christianity, secular humanism and its intolerance of Christian belief. Christ said we would have tribulation in this world. (John 16:33) Christ even said that in these days, believers will be put to death and that Christians will be hated by all nations for His name's sake. (Matthew 24:3-14) But in these verses, we are encouraged to endure, to persevere unto the end. That will take courage, Rock-solid belief and trust in God, boldness for the gospel, tested faith (James 1:12), unwavering and regular communication in prayer (James 1:5), and experience donning and wearing the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). We may have grown up thinking that time would never change, that the calling heavenward of the Church was something merely talked about in the Bible. We may have thought we'd never have to take our belief in Christ seriously or become committed Christians, but that was then and this is now. It will become even costlier to believe, as time goes on. It will become necessary to persevere, to overcome, to endure and to find our victory in Christ.
So let's give it some thought: Do we have anything else to say? Do we have a defense readily prepared? Have we established and maintained a relationship with Jesus Christ, with our heavenly Father and His Holy Spirit? Let's ask God to help us prepare, to become the person(s) that He wants us to be, in His time, in our life--and that He will bring His will for us to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6) Maranatha, Lord Jesus. May we listen for the cry of command, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). "May we encourage one another with these words."