Are You Prepared to Die?

dirt-path-stuck-in-customs

While we may not be called upon on this day in America to give up our physical lives (at least not yet, though the day is coming) for the sake of Jesus Christ, it nonetheless another important death to consider. Would I be willing to be tortured rather than compromise the truth of God? Would I offer my life in the place of another’s? “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.” (John 15:13) Would I gladly, with “incorrigible cheerfulness”, fearlessly stand up for the sake of the One who gave His life for mine, even if I knew it would mean certain persecution, and ultimately, death? This is not something to be taken lightly. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

For centuries, all throughout Christendom, thousands have given their lives and bodies for their faith in Jesus. They have been tortured relentlessly, burned at the stake, drowned, thrown to lions and wild beasts, hung, shot, and treated with the utmost contempt and unthinkable cruelty; yet they have been known to take it with joy as if it were the highest honor they could ever receive. Why? Because it is such.

Christians of today in general have lost sight of the fact that sacrificing for Christ is an honor. I am afraid to think of how many would bring shame to Christ’s name by rejecting a faith that they never even fully accepted if there were to be such an order for all believers to be hunted down and killed – as has happened frequently in past years and still happens in various places around the world.

What was one of the secrets to the Christians’ unwavering loyalty to Christ in the face of such horrific trials? In the first centuries of the Christian church, it’s leaders would test the potential convert’s sincerity before they made a decision for Christ by presenting him with all the facts that in today’s church are most of the time hidden or brushed over; the persecution and the price that must be paid for being a follower of Christ. “You know what this means, don’t you? Do you know what it will cost you? You will have to give up everything you have. You will be rejected. You will face torture and murder. Are you still willing?” And they, having counted the cost as Jesus said to do in Matthew 14:28-32, would have to either say, “I’m not ready for that” or say “I understand. I am willing.” They were then prepared for whatever they would face for the sake of Christ. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:9,13)

The American church has forgotten how essential it is to count the cost, and then pay the price when it does come up. Our churches, youth groups, and Bible studies are largely filled with “namby-pamby” (to put it in C.T. Studd’s words), lukewarm people who call themselves Christians that have lost the meaning of being a true believer – who would turn away from the faith at the drop of a hat if they found out it was going to cost them something that they valued.

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1 Peter 4:12-14a, 16)

When you choose to follow Christ not only in word but in wholehearted action as well, there is a very high likelihood that you will experience rejection by either or both family and friends – even “Christian” friends! It is at this point that the Lord calls us to die to relationships that tear us from our commitment to Him. This may be the true test of our devotion to Jesus because, as people designed by God for relationships and fellowship with other people, to have a relationship we value be broken or dissolved for the sake of following Jesus Christ can be extremely painful. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27) As a side note, we know from the rest of scripture that this does not mean to actually hate our family members or friends, but that our love for Christ is so great and prevailing that it pales in comparison to the love we hold for them, making it seem like hate in comparison.

But God, because He is merciful and full of compassion, has given special promises to those rejected by family for His sake. “Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecution — and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30) “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)

How willing are you to stay committed to Christ – even if it costs you something near and dear to your heart? How about your possessions? Your relationships…or how about your life? Think about it.

~Charity Morrison

Crushed

Here’s an excerpt from the book: So Send I You (p.21), in which Chambers  shares some challenging thoughts:

“God can never make me wine if I object to the fingers He uses to crush me. If God would only crush me with His own fingers, and say, “Now, My son, I am going to make you broken bread and poured out wine in a particular way and everyone will know what I am doing.” But when He uses someone who is not a Christian, or someone I particularly dislike, or some set of circumstances which I said I would never submit to, and begins to make these the crushers, I object.

I must never choose the scene of my own martyrdom, nor must I choose the things God will use in order to make me broken bread and poured out wine. His own Son did not choose. God chose for His Son that He should have a devil in His company for three years. We say, “I want angels; I want people better than myself; I want everything to be significantly from God, otherwise I cannot live the life, or do the thing properly; I always want to be gilt-edged.” Let God do as He likes. If you are ever going to be wine to drink, you must be crushed. Grapes cannot be drunk; grapes are only wine when they have been crushed. I wonder what kind of coarse finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine that came out would have been remarkably bitter. Let God go on with His crushing, because it will work His purpose in the end.”

After reading these words, I was struck by a silence of deep thought. Here are absolute profound truths that bring us to the reality of what God is getting at. Never should it be myself, but instead, Christ that liveth in me!

Be Challenged,

Tiffany

Choose an Attitude of Gratitude

Once upon a time I thought gratitude was just another character quality… I thought I could get by just fine with an occasional thank-you, followed by a big smile… I was wrong.

“Try to sustain persevering faith – without gratitude – and your faith will eventually forget the whole point of its faithfulness, hardening into a practice of religion that’s hollow and ineffective.

Try being a person who exudes and exhibits Christian love – without gratitude – and over time your love will crash hard on the sharp rocks of disappointment and disillusionment.

Try being a person who sacrificially gives of yourself – without the offering being accompanied by gratitude – and you’ll find every ounce of joy drained dry by martyr complex.

photo credit: bethany stelzl

As British pastor John Henry Jowett once said, ‘Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.’”

         Choosing Gratitude, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Ouch! Did you realize how big of a deal gratitude is? It’s not just a smile or a thank-you, or a feeling. Gratitude is a choice…often a very difficult, challenging, unwanted decision to say yes to what is right, against my natural inclinations. Like love, it starts like a law and ends in a relationship. The first 1000 times I choose to give thanks, I may be clenching my teeth because it is the last thing I want to do. But by and by as time goes on I begin to see what I was missing all along. It is rewarding. It is beautiful. It is meaningful. It is a reflection of Jesus Christ, and gratitude feels good!

Life is difficult. Naturally, we all face times when funds are lacking, when health is poor, when relationships are weak or broken, when the weather is undesirable… whether it is a disastrous problem or a simple frustration, we resort to one natural response – complaining! It’s easy to complain. It feels good to whine about how others have treated us, and how things are going just the opposite of what we imagined. I hate to admit this painful truth, because it is one of my favorite sins… (And by that I mean it is one of the hardest to give up.) But I think someone needs to say it, so I will be the first to confess it.

It’s far too easy to murmur and complain. Expectations are deadly. Gratitude is a necessity. I am convinced that there will always and forever be a reason to demonstrate a spirit of gratefulness, no matter what I am going through. Someone else has no hope. Someone else cannot choose to rejoice. Someone else is facing a more difficult situation. I am not a special case! If I belong to Christ Jesus, there is always hope, always a way to rejoice, always a place to give thanks!

Last year I began reading this book, Choosing Gratitude. I cannot even begin to describe the impact it has had on my life, and what it has done to deepen my relationship with God – gratitude is the place where I can move from friendship to intimate fellowship with my Father. He delights when His children come before Him with thanksgiving and praise. He brings joy to my soul and peace to my troubled heart, when I stop worrying about the things in life and consider all that I have to be thankful for! It doesn’t matter what I am facing or what I am going through…gratitude leads to rejoicing in this moment, in this hour, in this day. I can trust my Father, Who has been faithful to provide for my every need, each day!

photo credit: bethany stelzl

I posted a book review on our family blog a while back. I would encourage you to read the book Choosing Gratitude if you have not, already – yes I am talking to the guys too!

Have you thanked God for pencils, or paper clips, or pictures on your wall? Let me encourage you to write down 5 new things each day that you are grateful for… I have been doing this since 2010 and I will testify that the list is endless!

God bless you as you choose an attitude of gratitude!

~Sarah