Friday, July 25, 2014

Suffering For Jesus

In Acts 5, we read of the Sanhedrin punishing Peter and the other apostles for preaching Jesus. After whipping them, the Sanhedrin released them. After suffering about 40 lashes each, what was the apostles’ response? Acts 5:41 tells us, “the apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” Even after being beaten badly, they continued their task of proclaiming the Gospel as 5:42 tells us. To them the Gospel was worth suffering and dying for.
As I reflected on this, I realised that suffering for Christ is nothing new under the sun. As the early apostles were persecuted and their blood shed for Christ, we see the same thing happening today. Christians are being ostracised, thrown out of their homes, made to pay special taxes and even having to sacrifice their lives for Jesus. What was once done to the Jews during the Holocaust is now being done to Christians on a global scale.

On martyrs, my mind can help but be drawn to one extraordinary woman whose story I had read. Many would have read or heard of Wang Ming Dao, unofficial architect of the house church movement in China from the 1950s onwards. Despite government oppression and persecution, the house churches in China grew as they were led by men such as him and others. His wife was Deborah Wang or Auntie Wang as friends called her. When Wang Ming Dao was sentenced to prison for what the government called “anti-revolutionary activities”, his wife also had to follow him into prison. For twenty years, she lived in a Northern Chinese prison, where winters were very cold. She lived with insufficient food and winter clothes. She only saw her husband three times in those 20 years but she never complained and never lost her faith. When they were released, their home continued to be used by their Christian friends. Even after her husband died, her spiritual strength never diminished and she said, “I will not be lonely; I was not lonely before”, implying she found Jesus to be all-sufficient for her life. What a remarkable woman! She too rejoiced because she had been found worthy of disgrace for that name.
We may not have to suffer for our Christian faith like the apostles or Deborah Wang. Yet, we can be sure that the world will always examine Christians critically. We are labelled ‘lousy Christians’ or worse still ‘hypocrites’. We may not be jailed or beaten but we can be sure that we will also be ridiculed, disliked, become unpopular, etc. as we live out our Christian life. God has already forewarned us of this in 2 Tim 3:12 where Paul writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Sometimes you may have to live out your faith by refusing to lie for your boss, or pilfer the company goods like your colleagues do, or stand up for the weak ones who are bullied in your office. When you do all these things, you can be sure that people will not be happy and they will look out for ways to retaliate and make you suffer. Be encouraged! The resurrection reminds us we serve a risen Saviour and that this life is not all there is. We have a better one awaiting us in Heaven. After having lived our earthly life for our Lord, we can look forward to hear his commendation, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come now and share your master’s happiness.”
May the Lord bless us to witness and live for Him as so many others have gone before and done for us.

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