“So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” John 12:10,11
As I write right now, there are believers in Mosul, Iraq, that are paying this same price for believing in You, Lord. And what if persecution is actually a mark of a believer? I’m not sure why, but as I think of this today, and those Christians fleeing ISIS in Mosul, and Paul’s words to us in Scripture, I think of Les Miserables, and I think about the tatoo that prisoners received that marked them for life.
Well, what does that have to do with this verse and being a believer? What does that have to do with this verse and faith? In Ephesians 3:1 Paul calls himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Why? Because he was imprisoned. Why? Because of his faith. Because of the way that on account of him, many people were going away from their old ways and culture’s ways and believing in You, Jesus. In Ephesians 4:1 Paul stressed the point again that he is the prisoner of the Lord and urges us to conduct our lives in a way that is worthy of the One we have been called into, the One whose way we have been called to follow. What does a life look like that is worthy of our calling, of our position in You, Jesus?
In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul tells us that our life should demonstrate that we are not ashamed “of the testimony of our Lord,” and that we are not ashamed of those who are being treated as prisoners for their witness of the testimony of our Lord. But it doesn’t just stop there. We are called to be partakers of the “afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God.” I’m not called to just sit back and pray and say how sorry I feel. I ought to be living my life in such a way that I know, in some way, shape, or form, what it is to be persecuted along with them. I’m to “suffer hardship in company with them.” It’s a big Greek word that Paul uses, this “sugkakopatheo,” and it means “to undergo the same type of suffering as others do — ‘to join in suffering, to assume one’s share of suffering, to suffer together…To suffer hardship, evil or affliction along with someone.” Is that really a part of my life? Am I willing to accept that as part of my life? Am I willing to rejoice in this as part of my life?
This wasn’t a little, insignificant thing to Paul. He also opened his letter to Philemon emphasizing how he, Paul, was a prisoner of Jesus Christ. And he urged Philemon on even from prison. So I don’t want to let the persecution of my brothers and sisters in Christ in other lands be for nought in my life. I want to carry on the work that You are doing in their hearts and lives in my own. I don’t just want to read about You and write about You. I want to live You out in the reality of my life just as they are in theirs. And if it costs me, then let it be.
Frances R. Havergal penned these words after praying for a household where she was spending time and seeing the Lord turn their hearts within that household.
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
On account of the way Frances responded to You, Lord, and to the people around her, people within that household were drawn to You. On account of the way the believers in Mosul have responded to You, others have responded to You. On the account of the way Lazarus and Mary and Martha responded to You, others responded to You. And the world and Satan are angry. They know the threat. But what about me? Am I a threat? Or is the world and is Satan comfortable with me?
Can I really say and is it really true that I am ever, only, all for You? Do I really know what it is to take up my cross and follow You? In John 12:24-26 You say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me he must follow Me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” You know, falling usually hurts. Seldom have I fallen down and not hurt in some way. But You are telling me that this kind of falling is a part of my growing and that it is essential to my growing. I can’t grow unless I am willing to fall. But when I fall in this way, I don’t fall alone. Well, I may feel like I fall alone but You are always with me, and I rise together with my brothers and sisters in Christ in You.
I can love my life and protect it. That’s my choice. But then I really lose it because this life I live now isn’t the prize. What if I was willing to lose this life to gain real life? What if I loved life with You so much that I would risk this life now? What if it was more important for me to tend to You than to tend to my own needs and desires? What if Your reputation was more important than mine? What if Your life was more important than mine? What if my life was absolutely tied up in Yours? What if my life was absolutely tied up in Yours so that where You were, I was? So what would it matter if I were a prisoner if I was with You? And what would it matter if I was beheaded if I was with You? And what would it matter if I had no home and went hungry if I was with You? What if being with You meant everything to me? What would my life look like then?
So, what does my life look like now? Do I look like I even care? Do I look like You mean everything to me? Do I look like a threat to the world or Satan? Do I look like a believer? If the believers of Mosul were to see me, would they recognize me as a brother or sister? Would I be right there with them in their suffering? Would ISIS target me? Would I love something, anything, whether it be my life, my spouse, my children, more than You? Am I really only, ever, all for You?
Lord, You know exactly how I feel. You know my heart goes out for the believers all over the world who are living and dying in the midst of persecution because of their love and stand in You. And I don’t want to sit here being comfortable. I want to be labouring for Your. I mean, my persecution is nothing in comparison to theirs. What is any mental anguish I’ve gone through in comparison to theirs? Just let me be about Your work in the way that You have created for me to be. And let me be unashamed. And bold. And let me persevere no matter what the opposition. Whatever it costs, let me be able to pay the price because You are worth everything. Let my life be only, ever, all for You because You alone are worth living and dying for. And Lord, may others come to realize that You alone are what they need to the point that they would rejoice to become prisoners of Christ.
Today I leave on this note, Lord, “and to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, REJOICING that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Acts 5:40:-42 May I we never cease to teach and preach and live You, no matter the cost.