February 26, 2014
RUSSIA: REVEREND MIKHAIL
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
"If you will renounce your faith and trample the cross, you will go free,” the Bolshevik gang said. “If you do not, we will kill you.”
Reverend Mikhail had seen eighty thousand of his fellow Russian Orthodox leaders and lay people murdered by the Communists. Amidst all of that pain and suffering, he decided that God, if he did exist, would not have allowed such misery.
“I don’t believe,” he thought as he faced the gang. “What does a cross mean to me? Let me save my life.”
But when he opened his mouth to go along with the gang’s orders, the words that came out shocked him. “I only believe in one God. I will not trample on the cross!”
The gang put a sack around his shoulders as a royal garment and used his fur hat for Jesus’ crown of thorns. One of them, a former member of Mikhail’s church, knelt before him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” They took turns beating him and mocking his God.
Silently, the reverend prayed. “If you exist, please save my life.” As he was beaten, he cried out again, “I believe in one God.”
His show of faith made such an impression on the drunken gang that they released him. When he arrived in his house, he fell face down on the floor, weeping and repeating, “I believe.”
The Christian faith is full of paradoxes. Die to live. Lose to win. Be weak in order to be strong. In fact, unless we are willing to embrace our own failures, we cannot experience God’s strength. When we undergo hardship and trial or even witness the unjust suffering of others from afar, we may begin to doubt God’s goodness. That is a human, natural response. However, God does not reject our human weakness. He restores our weakness with his strength. Therefore, we can rejoice in our failures because they remind us that human strength is no substitute for godly power. We may fail, but our God remains strong. What are you learning about your own weakness? What does that teach you about God’s strength?