This post comes directly on the heels of a night at church for our Missions Conference. I sat and listened to a man who works for a mission agency that ministers to pastors in Eastern Europe (Slavic nations). He told us about the persecution that continues to go on today. Christians being put in jail, interrogated, beaten...some killed...because Christians are viewed as a threat to their government.
I know what you're thinking. We need to pray that their persecution will end. Do you know that the Christian leaders in such countries question why Americans would pray for persecution to stop? They actually find the idea absurd because persecution is the only thing that has strengthened the church and has caused it to flourish, just as it did in the 1st century of the Church. What they ask to be prayed for is that God's grace would help them to endure such trials, not that they would end.
Isn't that a "wow" moment, to know that's how the persecuted Church would want me to pray? I cannot fathom all that they experience. In fact, I fear that I could never remain steadfast if standing in their place.
It makes me feel shame for what I am. How could I even stand shoulder to shoulder with one of those precious Believers, seeing where there faith took them and knowing my greatest trials these days revolve around whether or not I will stick to my diet or feeling sorry for myself because so-and-so hurt my feelings and making a choice to forgive them. I have been very mindful of a verse that my father preached on recently.
You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. Hebrews 12:4 (NKJV)
As Jesus was praying in Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, He agonized so greatly over having to take the sin of the world upon Himself, that He sweat drops of blood. That is true agony. He hates sin that much. The eyes that cannot even look upon sin took all of its shame and wretchedness fully upon Himself. And Hebrews says we have not yet resisted sin to the point of sweating blood out of hatred for our sin. No, I'm very comfortable with my sin and find it's too hard to fight the battle and just give in. God's grace covers it anyway. Right? Wrong thinking. God calls us to holiness. He calls us to deny ourselves. He calls us to be living sacrifices. To strive against sin.
I fear I'll never grow too uncomfortable with my sin because of my culture. I'm surrounded by sensuality, and I'm sickened. As I came home, put on my comfy jammies and grabbed a snack, I decided to just flip on the TV for a few moments before I came to my computer. I only had to watch for 3 minutes, and my eyes and mind were assaulted by the wickedness and lies of our the American culture we are bombarded with constantly. First came a cell phone commercial with some hotshot lady in a (too)short skirt showing me how her life is so free and perfect because she's got just the right phone for all her needs. And I thought about the persecuted Christians on the other side of the globe, who are running for their lives, who have no home because their government would like to snuff them out. But the worst came with a commercial for one of the top-rated TV programs "Desperate
-ly Wicked Housewives", in which a woman seductively stood there in her lingerie, among other suggestive clips. This was only a COMMERCIAL. This is the world I live in. Evil. Lustful. Materialistic. Sort of like a dog returning to its vomit. America loves her sin, and Christians wallow in it with her because they love it, too. Why aren't we different?
I want to be different. I want to strive against sin. I may not be facing persecution for my faith tomorrow, but I can deny myself and strive against sin.