Chris Welch uses Designer Pro 365 to illustrate all 3rd level concepts

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Eve of Persecution II - Mother Basilea Schlink

Trust God for Today and Tomorrow
Let us be realistic about the future. When persecution of Christians breaks out in our lands, will any one us be able to remain faithful to the end? Judging by our own strength and resources; we are forced to conclude that we are incapable of bearing such suffering. However, by approaching the matter f'rom another angle, we are filled with triumphant assurance for the future. There is another factor to remember that will tip the scales in our favour: the omnipotence of our heavenly Father. We must include Him in of our calculations, for He possesses all the strength we need and will demonstrate His power when we undergo persecution.
This calls for a complete change in our way thinking. We must discard all idea of relying on ourselves, since from the very outset it is obvious our own  power of endurance will not suffice in suffering. But there is Someone who will stand by our side, denionstrate His might and lend us aid in future trials-  God our Father, and everything hinges on whether or not we reckon with Him. His power is so immense that our ability to suffer grows insignificant by comparison. It makes no difference whether we have great or little power of endurance or none at all for to God it is the same, whether He has to impart much or little of His strength to us. Indeed,He was referring to the weak when He promised, 'My power
39
is made perfect in weakness' (2 Cor. 12:9).
Today we must practise claiming His aid for our­selves. When we can no longer see a way out of our predicament, we must reckon alone with God and. His assistance, for He has given us a definite pledge of help. His name is Yea and Amen, and He will be faithful to His promises so that in the midst of perse­cution and suffering we shall experience the truth of His words, 'I will never fail you nor forsake you' (Heb. 13:5). 'Fear not, for I am with you ... I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand' (Isa. 41:10). We only have to do our part by claiming the promise. And this we do by translating faith into action and coming to God our Father in every sorrow and saying to Him,
`Abba, dearest Father, I trust You.
You will uphold me and carry me through.
You are with me; You bring me the help I need. I take refuge in Your heart.
When I am united with You, nothing can harm me. You are my Shield, and Your angels watch over me.'
Whenever fear grips our hearts as we think of the coming persecution, let us repeat this prayer:
`My Father,
From the foundations of the world You have ordained what will happen to me every day, every hour during persecution. You know me; You know my character, my capabilities. You know whether I am weak or strong, and before sending
40
anything into my life, You measure it first accord­ing to my strength.
Your loving heart sees to it that I am not tried beyond my strength in the trials and testings during persecution – of that I can rest assured. My Father, if anyone has evil intentions for me, You only have to speak a word and his attempts are foiled. My tormentors can never do more to me than You permit. And Jesus will give me the strength to endure.
Lord Jesus, take my life. I want to suffer and even die for You out of love and gratitude, for You have loved me and brought me salvation through Your agonizing death on the cross.'
If we draw near to God in deep trust, we shall experience His help. But there is a condition to fulfil. We must come to the Father as true children with humble and contrite hearts. In other words we must lie at His feet, humbled beneath our sin. Ever anew we must confess our sin to Him and before men, making a complete break with it. Grace is promised to such penitent sinners. God inclines Himself to the humble and helps them, but He opposes the proud and self-righteous. It is vastly important that we bring our sins into the light and receive forgiveness through Jesus' blood, before the time of suffering and persecution comes upon us! Then God will stand by us and let us experience His fatherly help.
In times of persecution the Father Himself will take charge of the situation – and not we – for He has pledged Himself to intervene on our behalf. Indeed miracles will happen and the Biblical events of long
41
ago will become present-day occurrences for us. When God intervenes, torture will have no effect. Night after night in an unheated cell a girl was made to sleep on the cold cement floor, according to a recent account from White Russia. It was winter time and she had no outer garment to keep her warm. Yet as she testified, 'Every night when I lay down in that icy grave, I committed myself into the hands of God and — it was a miracle! — a warm current of air surrounded me all night long and I could rest well .141 This was obviously God's doing!
When God intervenes, riotous gangs and terrorists advancing on us will not be able to cause us any harm. But when the time comes for some of us to lay down our lives for Jesus, after having experienced many instances of protection and deliverance, we shall encounter another miracle of God — as in the case of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. God let him see into the open heavens. The stoning could not drive Stephen to despair. On the contrary, he was filled with divine joy and 'his face was like the face of an angel' (Acts 6:15).
Some years ago there was a moving testimony from the persecuted Church in China. An elder of a small church was taken to court because of his faith in Christ. He was beaten brutally and thrown into prison, but after a few days he was released for no apparent reason. At the next worship service, he gave his testimony to the assembled church, which had been praying for him without ceasing during his imprisonment. 'When I received the 240 lashes, I thought of Stephen and how he was stoned. Then I had an experience similar to his. Above me I could
42
see the Lord Jesus for whom I was suffering, and I was comforted beyond words. It was as though a hand was laid upon my mangled back so that I no longer felt the pain. In addition the Lord told me that I would be set free in a few days, and that really did happen, as you can all see.' His eyes still shone will the Lord's comfort and on him rested the invisible aureole of honour and glory — won by those who him suffered disgrace for Jesus' sake.
Once long ago God uttered a command and out of nothing He formed heaven and earth, a marvelous creation. The same God who lives today needs say, but a word and that which would normally cause us agony or injury is rendered ineffective. Five hours long, night after night, a young soldier, thinly clad was made to stand outside in the freezing cold (— 20 F.). Humanly speaking, he should have contracted  serious illness or have died; yet nothing of the sort happened to this soldier, suffering for Jesus sake. Another time he was deprived of nourishment for five days, but the Lord sustained and strengthened him. God proved Himself to be a God of miracles.
This was the testimony of the Russian soldier Vanya Mojsejev, of our times .
43
God speaks a word and there is action. He intervenes and grants ushelp _-when we cry_ to Him in our need, as this young Baptist martyr did. God the Father, who does not forget the young ravens that cry, does not forget any of His children when they call upon Him. His attention is especially drawn to those who are suffering out of love for Himand are in fear and dire distress. He cannot forget them or 
leave them without comfort, without help,
43
that would contradict His very nature which is love — and God cannot deny Himself. Our heavenly Father is Love and at the same time He is the Almighty; He acts according to His nature, treating us with love and exercising His omnipotence on our behalf just as He has promised.
Thus one of the watchwords for this preparatory time when we are faced with problems and suffering is, 'Pray! Hasten to the Father!' God is waiting for His child to come so that He can help him. So let us implore the Father to help, and rush to His arms, for they are strong and will carry us through. Then we shall be practised by the time persecution comes, When we are in extreme anguish and misery, we may not be able to formulate long prayers, but then we only have to say, 'My Father, I trust You!' Let us say this prayer over and over again; it contains power and brings us help, for we receive according to our trust.. Either God will avert the plight or we shall experience His loving presence so wonderfully that we are oblivious to the horror about us.
We can really place our trust in the Father, for He is worthy of our implicit trust. God our Father in Jesus Christ has not only shown His love in words; He has proved it in action. Although we have bur­dened and wearied Him with our sins, grieved Him and caused Him suffering and so often rebelled against Him, He sacrificed His Son for our sakes — an act which caused Him immeasurable anguish. The Father's love and faithfulness have been tried and proven; they are absolutely reliable. And His love does not change; His heart is the same today.
Long ago He made the supreme sacrifice of His
44
only Son — as proof of His love — in order to save us and re-open heaven for us. And now He wishes to lavish His love upon those who are no longer His enemies but His adopted children who have come to love Him as their Father. His love will come down in cascades upon His children, particularly when they are undergoing suffering and persecution for Jesus' sake. He will pour out His heart of love upon them in their grief and pain, turning hell into heaven. Many of His own, suffering for His name's sake, have had this experience during the years spent in the diabolical conditions of concentration camps. Father Ken­tenich, who was imprisoned in the concentration camp of Dachau for four years during World War II, gave the following testimony there at a memorial service. 'Dachau was not hell for us, but rather hea­ven. How often we said that to each other then! For what is heaven but the deep fellowship of love with the Triune God and with those who love Him !114
45/46

Knit to His Will, We Are Strong
When the mob came to take Jesus prisoner, He met them with the words, 'I am he!', thus giving Himself into their hands. Jesus was prepared to suffer, to be imprisoned, to be tried and scourged, since His will was knit to the Father's. Being at one with the will of God makes us strong in the hour of deepest affliction even if commandos should come to arrest us too. Being at one with God means having a covcnant with the almighty, immortal God, who contends for us. Being united with Jesus Christ means having the victorious, risen Lord at our side, the Lord over things and all men, before whom all powers and dominions must yield. When we are united with the Almighty, we shall be able to master every situation. This union with God is essential for the time of persecution, but it has to be practised now, for unity with God, which means unity with His will, does not come to us naturally.
So often our will clashes with God's. His ways and leadings oppose our natural inclinations. We find it hard to accept His will. We find it hard to submit tp those who insult us or act against our personal wishes and opinions. We protest and rebel defying the will of God. And because our unity with God is broken, our strength to overcome in suffering it is also broken. When our will revolts against God's will, a barrier is erected between God and us, and we

47
have to undergo the painful experience of having God against us, for 'God opposes the proud', who set their wills against His.
We shall have to pay the consequences during the great persecution for each time we have defied God's will and leadings by asserting our own wishes and will instead. In the hour of testing we shall be weak. And the reverse is equally true. We shall be rewarded for every time we have consented to the will of God and said, 'Yes, Father!', when faced with the trials and vexations of  everyday life, or our personal sorrows and troubles. The dedication of the will binds us more and more tightly to God, cementing a union that will hold in persecution and torment. When we are united with God, nothing can harm us.
This prayer, 'Yes, Father!', must become like second nature to us by the time persecution breaks out. We must start training ourselves now, so that every time our heart produces a No to God's leadings, it will be turned into a Yes. It is vital that we declare war on the spirit of defiance that arises in our heart when our will is thwarted. We must learn to submit to others, since it is ultimately God who ordains the course of life. This must all take place now – on the eve of persecution. So let us pray, 'By the time perse­cution comes, let my will be completely knit to Your will through repeated commitments to suffering.'
But who can surrender his will unconditionally to the will of God? Who is able to say, 'Yes, Father!' ever anew, even when it demands his life, his all? Only he who bears the true image of God in his heart and declares who God is. God is Love; His will is goodness; His thoughts, purposes and decisions
48
come from a fatherly heart which is brimming over with love. He has only the best intentions for us, His children, even though we may not understand His actions. In beholding the Father's heart,we are moved to repeat the prayer, 'Yes, Father!', no matter how hard we find His leadings; and in time this prayer will knit us to the will of God completely, evoking in us the response of love so that we welcome suffering.
It is absolutely essential that our wills be at one with the will of God, for otherwise we shall not be steadfast in the coming time of persecution. If we are only sometimes committed to God's will in situations and relationships when our will is frustrated, we shall have only a loose connection with God – and that will not suffice. A wall made of loose bricks will collapse when a storm breaks out. In order to with­stand the storm, the bricks must be cemented to­gether and the same principle applies to our lives. By taking advantage of the countless opportunities to­day for making great or small commitments of our will, our union with God will become sturdy and
unshakeable. Then during affliction we shall be united
with our loving Father in His omnipotence and with our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the mightiest of all. As Lord and God, Jesus has only to speak a word and a prison door will swing open, a trial will take a direction  in our favour, and medications and drugs in­tended to weaken our resistance and make us
pliable cannot harm us. And at cross-examinations the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom, will help us, inspiring us with the right words. Indeed, when we are knit to the will of God, we are invincible, for His will is stronger than any other will; all must submit to Him.
49
In the midst of persecution we shall rest in the Father's arms like a child. The wickedness of others, the torture and suffering they plan to inflict upon us cannot harm us. When we are knit to God, we are strong and shall be able to endure persecution just as the martyrs did in past centuries. Current reports from Communist countries testify that Christians suffering torture receive supernatural strength. 'I feel better than ever! The joy of the Lord is our strength,' wrote Aida Skripnikova, a young woman, after her second term in a Russian prison camp. She derives her strength from committing herself to the will of God.
`Abide in me, and I in you' (John 15:4). If we are united with Christ, it does not matter what trouble or danger befalls us. For, 'who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword None of these, for we can answer trium­phantly, 'I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rom. 8:35, 38f.).
50
Immersed in Jesus, We Are Invincible
What does the future hold? Before us we can see people tormented in body, soul and spirit. We can see the revolutionary mobs breaking into houses, dragging away the Christians and torturing them. The mere thought of the Satanic darkness that is about to engulf us is petrifying. This is precisely what Satan hopes to achieve, for he is the instigator of this persecution of Christians. A person crippled with fear is incapable of engaging in spiritual warfare and so will never win the victory. Moreover when he undergoes suffering and torture for Jesus' sake, he will be unable to overcome.
We must be strong for the time of persecution and, indeed, we shall  be invincible, if we have the right perspective. We are always influenced by what we look at. Thus it is important that we tear our eyes away from scenes of horror, hatred and evil that are inspired by the powers of darkness. If we dwell only upon the coming horrors, picturing them in detail, we are lost. The horror will overcome us and drag us down into the quicksands of despair. We must turn our eyes away altogether and set our gaze on Jesus Christ, the Prince of Victory, who has destroyed the works of the devil and hell, and continues to do so. Victorious might emanates from Jesus, imparting strength to us and making us steadfast. Our only means of deliverance now, and later when our lives
51
are jeopardized, is to gaze at Him.
The most amazing things take place when we turn our eyes upon Jesus; comfort is poured into our fearful hearts now and later during persecution. One glance at our Saviour and Helper transforms us and our situation. In particular the sight of our Lord suffering and in disgrace, crowned with thorns, implants in our souls the desire to suffer. His infinite love is revealed to us as we gaze at Him in His suffering. But if our hearts and minds are not filled with Jesus' sufferings, we cannot suffer for Him. Today more than ever we must meditate on His sufferings; then we shall come very close to Him and our own suffering will seem small.
Jesus implores us, 'Look at Me when the horror is about to swallow you. Then the darkness which has entered your soul and is gathering round you will be turned into light.' His countenance is like the radiant sun, sending forth rays of light that fall upon our hearts, transforming darkness into light.
We have to confront the future. Indeed, Jesus warns us by saying, 'Watch! Be alert!' In other words He tells us to realize the significance of the present age, and to recognize the signs of the time. The sole purpose of recognizing that darkness has fallen is to take advantage of the time left before persecution breaks out. Now on the eve of persecution we must practise seeking Jesus ever anew with the inner eye of faith.
His is the loveliest countenance of all, illuming the whole universe. When our eyes rest upon His coun­tenance, we are charged with power. When we are in deepest distress and suffering, Jesus turns His
52
I
radiant gaze upon us and our hearts are comforted. If we look to Jesus, allowing Him to enthral us, our hearts will be immersed in divine peace and joy.
The right perspective will save us during persecu­tion and suffering. But we have only a short time to practise. The way we approach our everyday trials and problems casts the die for later. Today it is vital that we see beyond these problems, not worrying about them, not getting too involved in them, or letting them cripple us and weigh us down. We must turn our eyes away from these problems and look to Jesus, the Ruler of heaven and earth. Then He will grant us help. He gazes at us lovingly, promising us, `I will help you.' When the hour of darkness has struck, He reveals His countenance even more, letting His infinite love, glory and power shine upon us in our night – this we can count on.
As we fasten our eyes on His countenance, we drink in the love emanating from His features and experi­ence His help. Rapt in His gaze, we are no longer haunted by the faces of our tormentors; we are obli­vious to the horror, the terrible conditions. Jesus alone, our Lord and King, fills our hearts, and we experience the power that comes from beholding Him, our suffering and victorious Lord.
In His love Jesus looks at us, waiting for us to return His gaze and to fix our eyes upon Him in the midst of anguish and distress. His name is a great source of power and He waits for us to pronounce it as we behold Him: 'Jesus, my Helper. Jesus, my Saviour. Jesus, my Bridegroom.' In the minor sorrows and troubles of our present-day life we must learn to look to Him and call upon His name. We must
53
escape from the vicious circle where we revolve round ourselves and our problems, and meditate on His sufferings instead. Then our suffering will grow insig­nificant. We must trust His promises of love, help and power, and as we look to Him, calling upon His victorious name, we shall be delivered from the quicksands of despair. Our souls are restored as we behold Him and we have the comforting assurance of His presence.
Someone stands beside me, I am not alone; Someone shares my suffering and sorrow unknown–Jesus, my Helper and Victor.
54
Trained in Spiritual Warfare
During this short time on earth everything depends on our overcoming in the persecution of Christians, the hour of great trial, which is about to come upon us. We must stand the test of suffering, and our faith must prove itself in the furnace of affliction, since the outcome will decide our eternal destiny. During persecution Satan will make his assault on us with the torment that fiendish men inflict upon us. He intends to defeat us and rob us of our heavenly crown. In order to carry out this plan he will attack us at our weak points and work on our sinful inclin­ations, such as fear of suffering, cowardice, rebellion, disloyalty to our convictions out of fear of causing offence or incurring disapproval, dependence upon the praise and love of others or false emotional attachments to people. When persecution breaks out, it will become obvious how much we fought against our sins – how seriously we took them and to what extent we overcame them. We shall not be spared the consequences if we were so taken up with the trivial mundane affairs, the sorrows and joys of 'today', that we forgot the 'morrow'. The 'morrow' will bring persecution, and no one can stand this test unless he has prepared himself in advance, by fighting an earnest battle against sin, in faith in Jesus' redemption.
God has commanded us to lay aside every sin that
55

clings to us and weighs us down (Heb. 12:1). Why? Sin weakens us. Normally if we are bound to others, dependent on their praise and love, over-anxious to please, or afraid of causing offence or incurring dis­approval, we shall not be able to remain steadfast during cross-examinations. Bondage to people and to things of this world actually binds us to Satan, bringing us into his clutches. And as a result we weaken and succumb. Then we are even capable of denying Jesus, thus forfeiting our eternal heritage in glory.
The Book of Revelation refers to the persecuted Christians in the last times, saying, 'They have con­quered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb . . .' (Rev. 12:11). But when do we use the word 'conquer'? Only when a battle is involved, for there is no victory without a battle. And when are we willing to fight the battle of faith so as to be freed from our slavery to sin? Only when we refuse to tolerate our sins, such as quarrelsomeness, thirst for power, the gratifica­tion of our desires, envy, self-will, untruthfulness –and really hate them. Only when we realize that such sinning is a grievous offence against God and man, do we seek release at any price. Then we are willing to fight against our sins to the point of shedding blood; then we are willing to fight this battle now in preparation for the future.
The crucial question for the time of suffering and persecution is 'Will sin still be able to weaken me then to the extent it does now? Or shall I be able to overcome in persecution, having fought against my sins beforehand?' We shall be prepared to suffer, if we have fought this battle now in the time of preparation.
56
Only if we have let the blood of Jesus release us now from our bondage to food and sleep, and ease and will comfort, we be strong enough to bear hunger, thirst and physical suffering. We shall be able to bear our tormentors and betrayers in patience and love, and to forgive them, if we have overcome all bitter­ness, irreconciliation and rebellion now in our every­day lives. Then we shall be experienced soldiers and Satan will not be able to defeat us in the hour of testing.
Now is the time for practice. Jesus' admonition to build our house upon rock and not upon sand, so that it will stand in the impending storm, is highly relevant for us (Matt. 7:21-27). When the flood comes, only that which has a firm foundation will not he swept away. Thus it is not our knowledge about Christianity that counts, but the way we live. We must live according to Jesus' words, doing the will of God and not just saying, 'Lord! Lord!' His will is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3); and sanctification does not imply holiness – that is, flawlessness in the perfectionist sense of the word. Sanctification is a process that includes fighting the battle of faith against sin with our last ounce of strength so that, we may be remoulded into Jesus' image.
In this battle of faith we must take the right measures. 'If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away' (Matt. 5:29). In other wor(ls we have to take action, confessing our sins to ( wd, and also to our fellow men whom we repeatedly wrong. We need to humble ourselves before them, to admit our guilt and say those vital words ever anew, 'Please forgive me; I am very sorry.'
57
Do we yield to our sinful inclinations? Have we formed false attachments to others ? Are we bound to our hobbies or money? Are we addicted to tran­quillizers, sedatives or other drugs? Are we on bad terms with anyone? Are we envious? Or are we so egoistic that we cannot bear to be disturbed ? If so, we must take the appropriate measures. There must be an 'about face' in our lives and we must give God a token of our willingness, an indication that our desire to become free is in earnest, though, of course, only, Jesus can bring us release from our sinful bondages. And we shall discover, 'If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed' (John 8:36).
Every time we look to Jesus in faith, every time we pray to Him in faith, our fetters are loosened some more; but we must also humble ourselves beneath His hand, submitting patiently to His chastening, and persevering in faith in Hid victory until we experience release. This persevering faith turns us into overcomers, so that we shall be able to stand firm even during persecution.
We must fight against our sins to the point of shed­ding blood, taking practical steps to overcome them. In particular we must gain the victory over the sins of cowardice and the fear of men – conformity, the desire to please others, and disloyalty to our convic­tions out of fear of incurring disapproval or causing offence. During persecution it is vital that we are able to bear witness to Jesus. And only if we practise making an uncompromising stand for Jesus now, will we be able to do so in perilous times. Today, when God Himself is being attacked and blasphemy has reached unheard-of proportions, the challenge to
58 
make a stand for the Lord is all the more urgent. Jesus is being subjected to the most outrageous indignities, mockery and degradation, while all sorts of obscenities are attributed to Him as an excuse for man's wickedness. He is presented as a clown, a simpleton, and portrayed as seen through the eyes of Judas. The prospect of a 'blasphemous, sadistic and pornographic' film about Jesus shows to what lengths man dares to go in blaspheming, the Holy One of God.
Are we making a stand for Jesus ? Do we voice our opposition when Jesus is treated this way? Today this is the question we are being asked. Witnessing means having the courage to be called 'old fashioned' or 'Pharisaical' and thus humiliated. A true witness never remains silent or conforms to the crowd for the sake of being thought tolerant, sophisticated, under­standing, broad-minded or modern.
This battle against our false sense of brotherly love, false emotional ties and dependence upon the opinions and approval of others becomes increasingly essential the closer persecution draws towards us. Then we shall need to take a stand against a universal church that does not recognize Jesus' act of redemp­tion but embraces all religions and ideologies. The same applies, should we be confronted with a one and only permitted Bible, which gives a distorted version of the crucifixion, omitting all reference to the sacri­ficial atonement for sin, and presenting social reform as the only true gospel. Then we will be faced with this question: 'Do we love our Lord more than our own lives ? Are we willing to lay them down for Him
We cannot be alert enough to withstand the Satanic attempts to lull us to sleep and to lure us into a haze
59
of confusion. Vigilance is essential. Now is the time to resist these attacks and to fight against sin, espe­cially cowardice, conformity and the false concept of brotherly love. Then God will do everything to help us be victorious during persecution. And later we shall join the overcomers in heaven who 'have conquered him [Satan] . . . by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death' (Rev. 12:11).
60 
The Privilege of Suffering for Christ

Christian persecution looms before us. It will probably exceed all previous ones in proportion and brutality –a fact which is enough to terrify us. Brainwashing, torture, concentration camps come to mind – the most terrible suffering, torment and even martyrdom. Yet there is a wonderful secret about this suffering, for it is quite different from the other afflictions that may come upon us. It is suffering 'for Christ'.
We are not suffering for some cause, nor for a mor­tal man with his shortcomings and delusive ideals, which he sets before us. We are not suffering for the sake of a ruler who deludes his subjects, perhaps even torturing them, as is frequently the case. History repeats itself, and to this very day thousands commit themselves to such leaders, not stopping at any sacri­fice and even prepared to die for them, only to discover later that they had been deceived. As Christians, however, we have the wonderful privilege of suffering and giving our lives for the one Lord Jesus Christ during persecution. He is the Lord Most High, majestic and triumphant. As the Son of God robed in splendour, emanating love, righteousness and truth, He is unique. The greatest man on earth cannot com­pare with Him. He is altogether different, without sin. He is the Almighty, the Ruler of heaven and earth. In His amazing love for us He took the lowest place of all, letting Himself be despised by all mankind.
61
For our sakes He became the Man of Sorrows, voluntarily undergoing the most agonizing death. And once more today as the humble, meek Lamb of God he patiently endures the blasphemy, allowing Himself to be abused, mocked and utterly degraded in countless sacrilegious musicals, plays and other pro­ductions. Today Jesus calls us to His side more than ever before to suffer disgrace, contempt and persecu­tion with Him. Let us give Him the response of our love, for He is worthy of it.
It is truly remarkable that sinful men are privileged to suffer for the Lord Jesus. After His sacrifice on the cross where He vanquished Satan, Jesus majestically led away the principalities and powers of the under­world as captives in a triumphal march. And soon He will openly display and manifest His victory over Satan before all the world! What a privilege it is to be able to suffer for this Lord of lords ! With the breath of His mouth He will destroy the Antichrist and then establish His everlasting kingdom, where every knee will bow to Him and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. In this kingdom the martyrs and over-comers will have the honour of reigning with Him for ever and ever. It is inconceivable that as sinful, mortal beings we are permitted to be 'God's fellow-workers' in serving Him and in paving the way for the eternal Kingdom of God, which is about to come. Yet it is utterly amazing that by our suffering we are also to be 'fellow-workers with God' and thus partners with Christ our Lord, who built His kingdom upon suffering. To suffer for Jesus and to help establish the Kingdom of God as 'a chosen instrument' – this was Paul's election. This calling was confirmed by the
62 
Lord when He said, 'I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name' (Acts 9 :16). Early Christian martyrs, as well as twentieth-cen­tury martyrs, were conscious of the tremendous hon­our of not only believing in Jesus but of suffering for Him. Paul considered it an act of grace, a privilege (Phil. 1:29 The Living Bible). In times of persecution those who suffered martyrdom were usually filled with a joy that was not of this world. Because their hearts were set on fire for Jesus, they were overwhelmed at the honour of bearing shame and disgrace and many hardships for His name's sake. To them the name of Jesus represented all glory and might, wisdom and beauty, and immeasurable love. His name always sounded in their hearts as the sweetest name.
Only because Jesus was their first and foremost Love, could the martyrs of recent years, like those of the past, endure persecution and suffering for Jesus joyfully and wholly surrendered to God. Even before persecution had broken out, love constrained them to share their Lord's pathway ; they could not do other­wise. And Jesus' earthly life, even before His Passion began, was characterized by lowliness, humiliation, disappointments, poverty, loneliness, insults, rejec­tion, many acts of self-denial, and sacrificial deeds. Those who had previously chosen Jesus' pathway for their own out of love for Him walked in His foot­steps as true disciples so that by the time persecution came, they were practised in suffering and aflame with love for Him. The more they practised bearing their cross with Jesus, the closer they were knit to Him and. the more fiercely blazed the fire of their love.
Jesus loves us tenderly and desires our love in
63
return. He entreats us, 'Give Me your love! Choose My way! Come, join Me! Take up your cross and follow Me
Today there is still time to practise true discipleship of the cross in order to be trained in suffering for the time of persecution. Jesus appeals to us with greater urgency than ever before, since our future depends on whether or not we follow Him now on the way of the cross. Today He is challenging us to set foot on His pathway and to deny ourselves and endure lowliness, humiliation, rejection, insults, injustice, disappoint­ments, and bodily suffering out of love and dedication to Him. If we are willing to continue this path out of love for Him in spite of the cuts and bruises we receive on the way, if we say, 'For You, with You, Lord Jesus', our love will grow strong and we shall gain practice in suffering.
This is a gradual process. When we commit our­selves to the future suffering, the first stage of self-surrender is to say, 'Lord Jesus, as Your disciple I must suffer for You!' By the second stage we are able to say, 'I want to suffer for You!' But by the third stage we can say, 'It is a privilege to suffer for You; it is an honour to be counted worthy of this.' Let us constantly make new acts of dedication in order to reach this third stage, which is our goal of faith. During persecution we shall reap the fruits of this time of practice, and the bitterness of suffering will be turned into triumphant joy. 'The Lord Jesus has suffered so much on my behalf. Now I can show Him my love by suffering for Him.'
This triumphant joy and thanksgiving for the privilege of suffering for Jesus can be found in the
64 
letter from the Evangelical Christian Baptists of Russia, which they sent to all the churches in the world. At the second congress of their church council in 1970, these Baptists, the relatives of persecuted Christians, came together. Did they want to make an accusation? To complain of their suffering? To join in sorrowing for their fellow Christians who had been taken prison­er ? Or to ask for release? On the contrary, the letter reads, 'We have come together – fathers, mothers, sons and daughters of prisoners – to thank the Lord for our suffering for Christ.'4,1
Suffering for Christ? Frequently – perhaps at night – we picture the horror, the bloodshed of the impend­ing revolution, the persecution of Christians and the torture and anguish it will bring. But when this fright­ening darkness seeks to oppress us, our hearts can suddenly be filled with light. Two little words can effect total transformation, 'For Christ!' Fear of the future and of the torment in persecution is turned into comfort, peace and even triumphant joy when we look at Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, the Bridegroom of our souls. It is our privilege and desire to suffer for Jesus, who is eternal Joy, the Glory of heaven and earth, the sole Love of those who belong to Him.
In view of the coming suffering let us embrace the Lord Jesus with all our hearts and then we shall be­come joyful in our present fears and later in torment, for our hearts will be ringing with those blessed words, `For You, Jesus, for You!' There is an account of the Baltic Professor of Theology, Traugott Hahn, when he was in captivity. Before his execution in 1919 the guards forced him to carry a pail of human excrement down the corridor. Seeing him so degraded,
65
Bishop Platon of the Orthodox Church, who was a fellow-prisoner, whispered to him, 'Radi Christa' (Tor the sake of Christ') .46 These words contain a wonder­ful hidden power. When the Presbyter Peter Wiens in Russia was about to be deported to a prison camp, he said good-bye to his wife with the words, 'Rad! Christa', not knowing whether he would ever see her again. These words set his wife at peace and strength­ened his son – as the latter testified – when later he too was deported.

The true image of Jesus never shines so brightly as in times of persecution when He manifests the great­ness and power of His fervent love as He visits those suffering imprisonment for His sake. Cold cells, impregnated with horror, are transformed by Jesus' presence into a heavenly palace as the Dutch priest, Dr Titus Brandsma, testified in a poem which he wrote in a Gestapo prison where he was held captive in World War II:
To suffer takes no special fortitude
But only love. All suffering seems good; For through it I become, 0 Lord, like You And suffering brings me to Your kingdom too.
Indeed, all suffering is joy and gain,
For out of love I sense no more the pain. It truly seems a high and glorious call, For it unites me with the Lord of all.
Yes, let me be imprisoned and forlorn In icy-cold and dismal cell, alone,
With no one else to help or comfort me; I'll never tire of this serenity.
66
If only You will stay with me, 0 Lord; You've never been so close to me before. 0 stay, my Jesus! Stay, Beloved, here, For all is well, if only You are near.
Even children who suffer persecution come into a deeper relationship with Jesus, who stays at their side. They discover the reality of Jesus and the hidden glory, the privilege, the honour of being considered worthy to suffer for His name's sake. 'What is your suffering for Jesus?' a ten-year-old boy asked a Christian visiting a church in the Soviet Union while on vacation. This boy had stayed in a camp with his brothers and sisters during the years that his parents were imprisoned because of their faith. However, children and parents both left the camps with their faith deepened as a result of the suffering. And now the all-important question for this boy was whether a believer had suffered for Jesus already. In his youthfuI heart he no doubt sensed that suffering for Jesus was an honour – a privilege .49
But not until we reach heaven and see the shining crowns on the heads of those who patiently bore their suffering, shall we fully realize what a privilege it is to suffer for Jesus.
Who can measure the great treasure Suffering and grief have brought? Who has sight and understanding For the good that pain has wrought?
Who may live there close to Jesus
In unending glory bright?
Those who shared the cross beside Him. With the Lamb endured dark night.10
67
'Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven' (Luke 6:22f.). A wonderful reward lies in store – and soon, very soon, suffering will be turned into eternal glory and immeasurable joy.
What greater privilege could there be than to suffer for Jesus, who wants to recompense our sufferings with a divine reward and eternal glory! Let us lift up our eyes to heaven – for one thought of heaven drives all earthly suffering away.
68
The Marvellous Purposes of God
`I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,' the Apostle Paul declares in one of his letters (Col. 1:24). He realizes the privilege of making up in his own person whatever is still lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His Body, which is the Church. Paul rejoices, since he knows that his suffering will have far-reaching effects for the Church. Through his suffering Paul is privileged to help carry out God's plan of salvation – an amazing thought! He is drawn into God's marvellous purposes for the Body of Christ.
What a tremendous commission has been entrusted to sinful man! Our suffering for Jesus' sake will yield wonderful fruit. This knowledge, this thought will help us to remain steadfast in the sufferings of per­secution. We are not merely enduring the suffering that has been laid upon us, submitting to it with a 'Yes, Father!' Far more is involved. We are suffering for a definite purpose, for Christ and His Body, the Church. Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life as a sacrifice so that God's wonderful plan of salvation for the Church, and later for the whole of creation and for all nations, could be fulfilled. By contributing our suffering we help to complete these eternal purposes of God. This is our amazing privilege, for with our suffering we help to prepare the Church, the bride of the Lamb, and so hasten the day of Jesus' return.
69
We are living in the last times and this great day will come soon when God's plan for the Church, the bride of the Lamb, will be fulfilled. Thus the persecution of Christians in the end times is highly significant, for the last measure of suffering must be added before the bride of the Lamb can be completed in number and reach perfection. The overcomers in heaven will be longing for this day of fulfilment and thus waiting for us to take our part in suffering. Probably the marriage feast of the Lamb is already in preparation and all heaven is waiting for the bride. On that day of immeasurable joy and glory one of the goals in God's plan of salvation will be attained, and we may help to bring about this momentous event by contri­buting our share in suffering. This prospect makes suffering worthwhile for the present-day martyrs and gives them the strength to be steadfast. And when
the marriage feast of the Lamb will fall begins, all the king-
doms of this world wi finally into the Lord's
possession.
What a privilege and a high calling to suffer with Jesus! What an act of grace, what a special honour! Jesus, who on Calvary completed His sacrifice, who redeemed the whole world, waits in humility for the members of His Body to suffer with Him and for Him. They have the privilege of contributing their share of suffering so that His plan of salvation for mankind and the whole universe can be carried out. Suffering contains tremendous power, yielding abun­dant fruit, and it ends in victory, glory and resurrec­tion.
This knowledge gives us the courage to lay down our lives for Jesus in the time of persecution. Suffering
70
brings great blessing to others, for as the Apostle Paul said, 'I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory' (2 Tim. 2:10). When persecution does break out, we have the privi­lege of suffering for our church or fellowship or for certain people, so that they may be saved, learn to overcome and reach full maturity in Christ. Suffering during persecution has far-reaching effects on the souls of others.
`We believe that the Lord gathers our tears and will pour them out upon the thirsty, seeking hearts of the Russian people,' said the Evangelical Christian Baptists of Russia in the above-cited letter of the second congress of their church council. Suffering and tears have power. During persecution many tears will be shed, not only because of the torment we must undergo ourselves. If we profess Jesus in such times, others are usually involved or – what is often harder to bear than our own suffering – we see our nearest and dearest made to suffer as well. All this means deep grief and heartache. But on the other hand, we may find our suffering in persecution increased by those who are closest to us, because they are members of a Communist or an atheist organization – and that indeed causes us bitter anguish.
But how encouraging it is to know that 'the Lord gathers our tears and will pour them out'. Our tears will bring blessing to thirsty, seeking hearts. The grain of wheat falls into the ground during persecu­tion, giving rise to new life at other places. Individuals and even whole groups of people receive new spiritual life, as is the case in Russia where revival has broken
71
out in various districts. The martyrs are, and always will be, the seeds of the Church.
It is truly amazing that we are to be taken into the `fellowship of his sufferings' (Phil. 3:10 AV), which means suffering with Jesus for the sake of His Church, for His elect, for those who seek God and for those who have fallen away from Him or live in direct rebellion against Him. The tears we shed during perse­cution, the agonizing suffering we undergo will help bring many to Jesus so that they can reach eternal glory. Suffering for Jesus, the King of kings, has far-reaching results.
The deeper and greater the suffering is, the more wonderful the fruit and glory will be. Accordingly, the agony endured during persecution in the cross-examinations and torture, which can often be so gruesome, will bear immeasurable fruit. If Jesus rewards us for giving a cup of cold water, then how much more will He reward those who undergo torture for His sake? Because He loves us so much, He shares our suffering, looking upon us in deep gratitude for all that we endure for His sake. Uplifted by this hope, the apostles, who encountered great hardships and had to go through the depths of suffer­ing, were always joyful, but especially when they spoke of suffering. 'Rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed' (1 Pet. 4:13). It is eternity that counts. No words can express what awaits us in heaven, if we have suffered for Jesus in this life. There we shall behold His countenance and over­whelming joy will fill our hearts. Supreme delight awaits us for all eternity – jubilation, exultation and
72
joyful laughter as compensation for all the tears we have shed here.
Heaven is a reality and it awaits our homecoming. The suffering of this lifetime will come to an end, but there is no end to the glory that is prepared for us above. If we live with our heart and soul in heaven where Christ is, we shall be able to bear the suffering during persecution. Hope and expectation of the future joy give us the strength to endure, and the crown of glory that is laid up for us makes all suffering worthwhile.
In Revelation 20, verse 4, the martyrs are promised that they will reign with Jesus, enthroned beside Him. What an amazing prospect! For all eternity to abide with Jesus, our first and foremost Love, our Bride­groom and King! In the face of such glory, suffering must fade away. 'I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us' (Rom. 8:18). These words of Scripture hold true for all suffering, but especially for the suffering in persecution.
The glory of heaven will bring us incomprehensible joy and bliss for all eternity, whereas the suffering of this life only lasts a limited amount of time. It passes by. It has an end. And later it will be banished from us for ever. If we are patient and steadfast in faith, suffering will bring us endless rejoicing, as Jesus promised, 'Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh' (Luke 6:21). In heaven we shall rejoice at His side for ever and ever.
Heaven brings light in darkness. Heaven is stronger than hell, overcoming torture and transforming the diabolical conditions of prison camps. Let us live now
73
Prayer
Lord Jesus,
You are with me, helping me, strengthening me.
In the midst of my suffering I immerse myself in Your suffering, submerging my will in Yours, which is pure goodness. And in all fear and agony I take refuge in Your wounds.
As I turn my eyes upon You, Lord Jesus, I am com­forted.
0 Man of Sorrows, my heart clings to You.
All horror is banished, for You are with me, bringing healing to my soul and making me strong.
You are my Shield, and Your angels watch over me. And I know the Father will carry me through all suffering.
I will remain steadfast, for Your blood is my strength; it makes the weak strong.
Heaven is beckoning and the crown shines brightly. Soon my suffering will be over, and transformed into glory. So let me suffer with You and for You in the fellowship of love.
Amen
in the reality of the world above and all that awaits us there, and even when we are in the depths of suffering, persecution and torment, we shall not lose this source of everlasting j oy.
Watchwords
Preparation starts today!
1. Every time difficulties and impossible situations arise now, I will believe in the omnipotence of God and His fatherly aid. I will not give place to worry, but completely trust in the Father's tender, loving care, for He never gives me more than I can bear and always has ways and means to help. Then by the time persecution breaks out, I shall be 'practised in faith' so that I can experience His aid.
2. Now I will bear my small bodily ailments – pain, weakness and fatigue – in faith in the power of Jesus' blood that sustains me and renews my strength. Then I shall have practice for the future when the physical suffering will be far greater.
3. Every time I am faced with hardship and meaning. - lessness, I will surrender my will, and when I am chas­tened, I will humble myself even more beneath the mighty hand of God. I will say, 'Yes, Father, Your judgments are just – and so are the ones to come.'
4. I will look to Jesus ever anew, turning to Him with all my heart. And as I behold the Man of Sorrows, who is full of grief and affliction, the desire to suffer is implanted in my soul. I will look to Him, the mighty Victor, who has vanquished Satan and sin.
5. In faith I will claim Jesus' redemption in my daily battle against my spirit of criticism, pride, stinginess,
77
envy, self-will, egoism, anger, the desires of the flesh, and bondage to people and things. Then sin will not be able to weaken me in the future, and if I should be taken to a concentration camp, I can be a witness for Jesus when living together with others, by radiating His love and peace.
6. I will bear every hardship, great or small, out of love for Jesus, so that when I have to undergo pain and torment in persecution, my natural reaction will be, 'I will bear it for Your sake, Jesus.'
7. I will live in close fellowship with Jesus now, conversing with Him at all times and doing everything for Him in love, so that love, which is the strongest power of all, will give me the strength to bear the suffering in the time of persecution.
8. I will lead a life of prayer now, so that I shall be able to pray later. Prayer will be my deliverance in times of loneliness, temptation, suffering and torment, and when I am forsaken. Prayer will bring me Jesus and heaven on earth.
9. Now I will fight resolutely against my fear of others and my desire to win their favour, love, respect and approval, so that I can overcome coward­ice. I commit myself to making an uncompromising stand for the Lord. I want to seek only God's approval in all matters now so that later during persecution,
I shall be willing to pay the price.
10. I will do good now to those who hurt me and treat me unjustly by blessing them and showing them love in thought, word and deed. Then later I shall be able to meet my persecutors the right way, not judging them, but humbled because of my own sin and meek like a lamb, full of mercy towards them.
11. Every time I am at a loss as to what to say in some situation or conversation, I will trust the Holy Spirits implicitly to guide me and give me His words, now and also at future trials and cross-examinations.
12. Today I will count on the reality of heaven, which Jesus brings into our lives, and abide in this hope, so that during persecution I can rejoice, saying, 'Suffering will come to an end, and everlasting glory will follow.'

1 comment:

Blogger said...

YoBit lets you to claim FREE COINS from over 100 unique crypto-currencies, you complete a captcha once and claim as much as coins you want from the available offers.

After you make about 20-30 claims, you complete the captcha and proceed to claiming.

You can click CLAIM as many times as 30 times per one captcha.

The coins will held in your account, and you can convert them to Bitcoins or any other currency you want.