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A Faithful Cloud of Witnesses

June 25, 2007

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…Hebrews 12:1 ESV

We all think of past biblical heroes such as Moses, Daniel, Esther and David when the phrase “so great a cloud of witnesses” is mentioned.  Maybe we even think of more modern heroes of the faith, like Jim Elliot or Carl Stam who gave their lives to share the name of Christ where it had not been made known.  But do we ever stop to consider the living witnesses to our faith who are suffering tremendous persecution on a daily basis?

This weekend, my husband and I had the incredible blessing of attending a conference on the persecuted church.  We were able to hear the testimony of Lucy*.  A beautiful young lady, she shared of her multiple arrests (with some sentences being years in length) in an Asian country as she shared the gospel with others in her community.  During her last time of imprisonment, she was beaten so severely that the floor was covered in red.  It was the blood flowing from her bare feet which were in chains, weighted down, and brutally stepped on many times.  She was beaten and burned with an electric baton from her head to her feet over a period of days and weeks.  At one point she wanted to kill herself, but in that moment, she heard God say “No!”  She thought of what Jesus suffered for her, and she was able to withstand the brutal treatment.  She is currently receiving extended biblical training in a western country and has an amazing joy displayed in her countenance. 

Her testimony was such an encouragement to me.  The beauty and value of Christ were glorified in her faithfulness to her Savior and her unwillingness to betray her brothers and sisters by giving police the information they tried to beat out of her.  

Before her testimony, we watched a video of full time evangelists in this same country receiving Bibles.  In order to receive a Bible, they had to be full time Christian workers…there just weren’t enough to go around for everyone to have one.  These men and women were kissing the Bibles and weeping and shouting for joy, yet many people I know (myself included) have multiple Bibles collecting dust on the shelves.  It is not that we should feel guilty for being blessed, but it is that we should treasure God’s word so much more than we do.

Another testimony given was that of a former Muslim, Saeed*, who had converted to Christianity.  He then became a pastor.  He told God that he wanted a job with more money (Christians in this country are considered a lower class and are usually living in extreme poverty) and less danger, but God told him that pastoring was the job for which he had been created. 

Several years ago, the homes of the Christians in his village were burned down, as were the churches.  Women and little girls were raped and beaten.  Men were killed.  About 15,000 people were left homeless.  Yet the following Sunday, 20,000 Christians gathered where a church had once stood to worship Jehovah God! 

This pastor and his family eventually had a hit put out on their lives, so they moved to a western country where they continue to work to support the ministries in their former community.  Amazingly, even in their current country, they have been threatened by other Muslims. 

God is at work among this pastor’s former community, though, and the pastor has had the privilege of being used of God to support the ministry from afar as well as share the gospel with Muslims in his current community.

God commands us in Hebrews 13:3 to “remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”  How can we do this?  We can send Bibles through various organizations to those who need them.  We can send food, medical supplies and clothing to our brothers and sisters in extreme poverty.  We can write letters to those in prison.  We can, for a small amount of money, support an evangelist and his family who live in a persecuted country so that they will be able to travel to villages, discipling new believers and sharing the Gospel. 

Perhaps most importantly, we can pray.  We are told in the 5th chapter of James that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth,” but do we really believe it?  Do we?

During the conference, as another woman was sharing of her experiences, she reminded us that we are not to feel guilty for our blessings.  After all, God had chosen to put us where we are.  At the same time, He does not love me more than Lucy.  God does not love Saeed more than my husband.  So, while we are not to feel guilty, we should remember that we are blessed to be a blessing and to shine forth the glory of God.  Let us not forget our brothers and sisters in these situations, but let us use the blessings God has given us to support them.

*Names have been changed for protective purposes.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. toddlerheaven permalink
    June 27, 2007 8:34 am

    Beautifully written and a great reminder to us all. I too have Bibles everywhere and I forget that not everyone can take this for granted like me. Thanks for the life lesson and making me more aware.

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