This past week I have been praying for the country of Oman. This is a country where it is illegal to evangelize others for Christ, and it is illegal for Christians to hold meetings. Followers of Jesus are not allowed to come together to encourage each other, nor are they allowed to tell anyone else about Him. It breaks my heart as I ponder how these people will ever hear the message of the Gospel. How will they ever know how much God loves them, and where will they find their hope? This isn’t a country where we can just write a check to a ministry serving there; to my knowledge there are no ministries serving there other than small covert networks. Having read Shane Claiborne’s excellent book, “Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers” earlier this year, I began asking how I might be able to facilitate getting the Gospel into the hands of the Omani people. It was during this time of prayer that I again came face to face with the realization that following Jesus is a dangerous proposition.
As I have read through the book of Acts recently, I was reminded how much persecution the early church faced on a constant basis. This same persecution continues today outside the confines of our comfortable Western society. If you have not done so in a while, take a moment to praise and thank God that you live in a place that allows you the freedom to worship Him and to gather with other Christians whenever you wish. Then remember to pray for our brothers and sisters who live each day in fear of imprisonment and torture. Most of us cannot fathom living life as they do. Pray that they would be encouraged and that their love for Jesus would grow daily and shine brightly in this dark world.
Another book I read recently was “Radical”, by David Platt. In the book, the author talks about his visit to a Bible seminary in Indonesia where, in order to graduate, each student must plant a church with 30 new converts in a Muslim community. When Mr. Platt spoke at their commencement ceremony, all twenty five of the students had successfully planted these churches. Two had died in the process. I am inspired and awed by the faith and courage of these people.
If you’ve ever read the biography of Jim Elliot (“Shadow of the Almighty”), you know the story of a young man wholly committed to bringing the Gospel to some of the most hostile places on earth. Jim was determined to reach those who had never heard the Gospel. He felt compelled to be a missionary to a tribe that was notorious for killing any outsiders who came into their region. I encourage you to read the story for yourself, but Jim was killed very soon after arriving to share the love of Jesus to this people group. Despite the tragedy, because of Jim’s effort, most of the Waodani tribe came to know Christ.
The call to follow Jesus is not one to be accepted lightly. Jesus told the people of His day that if they would follow Him, they must be willing to die. This wasn’t simply a metaphor for dying to self; it was the reality of dying a physical death. The martyrs through the ages prove that Christians often die horrific deaths. Yet they faced their death with joy, knowing that they had obeyed what Christ told them to do and they would soon see Him face to face. The faith of those who have gone before us should serve as both an inspiration and an encouragement as we live out our faith each day.
Most of us will never have to die for our faith as long as we maintain the status quo. America and most Western countries provide safety for the body of Christ. Yet for those living in other countries, death is an everyday reality. Some of us will venture into those places to help bring the light of Christ to others. All of us must pray for our brothers and sisters and for one another. All of us must realize that the call to die is not for a select few, but for every follower of Jesus. Do not pray for your safety, but rather pray for the effectiveness of your witness. Do not pray for comfort, but beg for boldness to speak the name of Jesus. As long as we have breath, we must be willing to lose it for the name of Jesus Christ. All we do should be done in honor of, and to glorify, God. If we love Him, we must do so with such intensity that we are indeed willing to die for Him. There may come a time when you must choose between your life and your love for Jesus. If that day should come, would you be willing to lose it all for the sake of Christ? Would you be willing to die for Him as He was for you? Live a life that reflects Jesus in every way; diligently follow Him wherever He might lead. We cannot know what situations may face us down the road. Stand fast in Jesus, take up your cross each day, and be ready to die.