The Persecuted Church
I couldn’t stop reading. At the age of 16, the truth of the gospel was beginning to take root and I couldn’t get enough of it. Granted, in those first few years there was so much that was beyond my understanding, but it didn’t stop me from reading. It was devotionals first and then the Bible. The Bible felt like a letter written to me personally. Each time I opened the pages it was like God was speaking to me in ways I’d never experienced before. It ignited a thirst for more. It was in the midst of this thirsting and this reading that I came across the book Jesus Freaks (DC Talk shout out!!!). If you grew up in the Christian pop culture of 90’s, the phrase Jesus Freaks made you think of a popular song. That’s what it was for me. Then the very artists that composed the song partnered with Voice of the Martyrs to release this book that painted a very different picture than my brain had even considered.
I remember reading that book every night and it felt like that with every turn of the page my world was being rocked. It was my first real introduction to the persecuted church and what people were enduring for the gospel. I knew the Bible stories and understood the persecution of the early church. I had no idea it had not only continued but intensified into my lifetime. Each testimony that was captured in that book inspired me and humbled me all at the same time. It was the first time I really gave thought to what I was truly willing to give for Jesus. Would I give my life? Would I have such a faith?
It was in this book that I first came across a quote that I have loved ever since I read it back in high school. I didn’t know the full story of Jim Elliott at the time. I didn’t realize what he had given for the sake of others and how powerful his testimony had become. Looking back, it’s no wonder that a man with such a commitment would offer us a quote so memorable. I laid there in bed and read his profound words, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” I love that quote. I love those words. I love that approach to life. It’s no secret that for many of us we spend our whole existence trying to hold onto a life that we really can’t keep. We try to hold on to youth, health, wealth, fame, security. We try to insulate ourselves from hardship, discomfort and persecution to protect a life that is ultimately going to slip between our grasp no matter how hard we try to hold on. And yet, here’s Jesus, reminding us that the key to life is not to try and hold on to it … but to let it go. It’s there, when we surrender to Jesus that we find the eternal gift that we cannot lose. This is what Jim Elliott and so many others knew so well. It is not foolish to give this life in exchange for the promise of eternity.
As we have considered the testimony of the persecuted church, I can’t help but think of Jim Elliott and the stories of so many others who have exemplified this way of living. Testimonies of so many who understood what it meant to give their life for Jesus. I’d encourage you to spend some time reading through their stories. You could order the book I referenced above or visit the Open Doors website to get glimpses of similar testimonies. As you encounter these testimonies I’d encourage you to pray for these individuals and others who find themselves in similar situations. But I’d also ask that our prayers would be accompanied by a similar boldness that so many of our persecuted brothers and sisters demonstrate. Let us embrace these present moments clinging more tightly to Jesus than we do to this world. No matter where it leads us … no matter what it may cost us … let us remember that he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. - Jerimiah Smith, Pastor