This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Extreme Devotion, from the co-authors of Jesus Freaks. In the following passage, they share some thoughts from an unnamed Chinese Christian:
Where there is no cross, there is no crown. This lesson cannot be learned from books, and men do not usually taste this sweetness. This rich life does not exist in a comfortable environment. If the spices are not refined to become oil, the fragrance of the perfume cannot flow forth; and if the grapes are not crushed in the vat, they will not become wine.
A moment of introspection: Do we ever feel bruised underfoot? This month, the journey inside is to find oil and perfume, as well as fresh wine. This humble Chinese Christian sensed the essence of Richard Wurmbrand's own faith-a faith built up through being bruised underfoot. John Loeffler, in his lecture on the coming persecution of Christians in the west, remarked: If you would follow anyone, follow only the one with the limp, for he has encountered and survived persecution in the name of Christ. Such a man was Pastor Wurmbrand. My life, perchance that of yours, may be crownless as I or we shrink back from the cross that God would have us bear. Have we learned the lesson of the cross and the crown? Have we followed the man with a limp? Have we learned from him?
"Where there is no cross, there is no crown." This is a painful reality for many Christians today. The adage, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" takes on additional depth as we hear the voices of "those with a limp":
Saleema (Pakistani Christian teenager) - "If you promise to carry your cross, it will be a life full of thorns, mountains, and difficulties." But, she avers, "No matter how big the mountain, Jesus will help you overcome!"
Pastor Wang Min-Tao (Chinese pastor) - "I will not allow it," he told the Japanese soldiers. "I will not hang that picture of the emperor in my church." Later, in a letter from the prison, he wrote, "Do not be anxious about me; I am of more value than many sparrows."
Tahir Iqbal (Martyred Pakistani Christian) - "I will kiss the rope, but never deny my faith!"
Iranian Christian Pastor - "Sometimes I miss those days of persecution--because I was so alive. I felt every day that Jesus was with me."
Richard Wurmbrand (Romanian Christian Pastor) - Imprisoned himself for 14 years, he said to twelve Romanian students: "Your forefathers were thrown before such wild beasts as the lion you now see in the cave before us--for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to suffer at the hands of men who would be much worse than these animals. Decide here and now, whether you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ."
And the list of witnesses goes on and on--encompassing us (Hebrews 12:1-2) and bidding us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles... and then calls us, in the knowledge of our audience, to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. The list of "those with a limp", the list of those who understood that where there is no cross, there is no crown... These surround us, watching our lives lived in service to Christ, watching us count the cost of bearing Christ's Name, watching us running our race--and they invite us to richness of life. We may experience life filled with spice, with fragrance, with the sweetness of the grapes. Would we know the rich life available to all who call God our Father? Then step forth into the uncomfortable; spend time beyond the comfort zone-with the Lord. Our experience of him is more profound, deeper, closer, more vibrant, and more real when we meet Him there. I so often ask that God meet me where I am; I am praying now that I would meet Him where He is at work in this world. Let's join the adventure--beyond the comfort zone, taking up our cross and living enfolded in the arms of our Heavenly Father.