Something has been stirring in me these last 3 weeks. I don’t quite know where it’s come from but I feel like I’ve been in a spiritual slumber for the last 20 months or so and now I’m awakening again. Here are 3 things that encapsulate the cry that’s stirring in my heart. It’s a dissatisfaction with the status quo and a cry to start living in a more God centred way.
“Suffering. Persecution. Martyrdom.
These are not words we regularly hear coming from the Sunday pulpit in the Western Church. Yet despite the popular teachings which promise a life of health, wealth, and blessings – and one which is devoid of trials and tribulations – the Scriptures are abundantly clear that all believers should fully expect and embrace the prospect of experiencing persecution, suffering, and martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel. It can be biblically maintained, in fact, that these are some of the foremost characteristics of authentic Christian living. Did not Christ Himself assure us that, unless we suffer with Him, we cannot reign with Him? How rightly then C.S. Lewis argued that the question is not why some “believing people suffer, but why some do not.”
Nonetheless, for much of the Western Church caught in the self-promoting grip of materialism and comfort, a Christian experience which includes suffering and persecution is completely foreign and utterly resisted.
Yet there are some who have been burdened with a godly discontent – blood-bought saints who recognize that this sort of “cheap grace” was entirely alien to the first-century Church. Among these, there is a cry rising up in the Body of Christ to be delivered from such a polluted and plastic religion, and a longing for an apostolic faith akin to that of the early Church. There is, indeed, a sense that something has got to give in this generation to reverse the culture of easy believism, comfort, and convenience.
In the book of Revelation, we get a glimpse into the anticipation and hope of the saints who willingly follow the Lamb “withersoever he goeth” in the last days. Revelation 12:11 succinctly reveals that the disciples of Christ in the last days will experience great victory as they overcome the enemy by the “blood of the Lamb” and the “word of their testimony,” even as they lose their lives for the sake of love. These will be those who “do not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
We have to wonder-if the apostolic embrace of suffering and death seems so deeply strange and uncomfortable to us-do we actually possess the same faith as that of the early Church? Do we follow the same Lamb?
As the Church, we must recognize that the Great Commission of the Gospel is at stake. Gripped by fear and an overriding goal of self-preservation, few Christians today will pursue dangerous or even “risky” situations to advance the Kingdom of God. Even despite great world-wide spiritual need, when the ancient path of suffering and possibly even martyrdom is placed before us, most of us will either turn a blind eye or shrink back in fear. Missionary great, Hudson Taylor, once wrote that “unless there is the element of extreme risk in our exploits for God, there is no need for faith.” It is time for the Church, once more, to embrace the mindset that risk, for the Kingdom of God, is right.
Unfortunately, however, because many of us subtly but erroneously believe that God’s chief end is our satisfaction, we mistakenly assume that any difficult path, particularly something that may lead to suffering or our “untimely” deaths, is too foolish to be right. This theology stands in direct opposition to the Word of God and the testimonies of countless martyr-saints who understood firsthand that, “when Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” (Foreword to the Book: Unto Death by Dalton Thomas – written by Brian Kim, Executive Director, Antioch Centre for Training and Sending)