I often wonder about our persecuted brothers and sisters: do they struggle with things westerners usually struggle with? Do they struggle with drugs or lust or depression or alcoholism or laziness like we might? They’re humans too, the temptations are evident everywhere in the world, why wouldn’t they struggle with it too? Working at VOM, I’ve heard powerful stories of people in cultures that are also saturated in drugs, alcohol and promiscuity who turn their lives to Christ and are then persecuted. But their eyes are focused completely on Christ, it’s as if their past struggles with these addictive things are completely gone. How is that?
Now I’m not saying that persecuted Christians are “super-Christians” and don’t internally struggle with these things. And I’m not saying that they are so super that they might not succumb to the temptations of this world. But, I’ve noticed a pattern of Christians that are so focused on Christ and have a real eternal perspective, that they don’t follow the world. And these people are facing losing their homes, losing their jobs, losing their lives or the lives of their families.
How do I get that? How do I get that eternal perspective every single day and that focus on Christ so front and center in my brain, that anytime I’m tempted to follow the world instead of Christ, I remember what He did for me on the cross?
Persecution. Having everything taken from you except your faith in Christ and then someone even attempting to have you recant that. All you have left is Jesus. Richard Wurmbrand says in his book, Tortured for Christ,
“One great lesson arose from all the beatings, tortures, and butchery of the Communists: that the spirit is master of the body. We felt the torture, but it often seemed as something distant and far removed from the spirit which was lost in the glory of Christ and His presence with us.”
Lost in the glory of Christ. That’s where I want to be.
But I’m in America, where religious freedom abounds. It’s unlikely that I would be persecuted or tortured for my faith (not that I really have a desire to be tortured). How do I get lost in the glory of Christ when my flesh wants to focus on something un-Christlike?
I wasn’t quite able to grasp it until I went to a VOM conference in South Dakota. I realized it in the middle of listening to Todd Nettleton telling about a Brother in Laos who heard one sermon when he was looking for food in a city one day, accepted Christ, went home to his faraway village and led 16 families to Christ. I thought: what an amazing story, what a courageous brother in Christ, what a God-led occurrence.
A familiar feeling began sweeping over me. Almost euphoric, I’ve gotten this feeling before: when I hear crazy stories of what God is doing in the world, or when I feel God is leading me in writing something, or when I hear stories of the persecuted church. It’s what I’ve come to realize is the feeling of the power of the Holy Spirit inside me. Except this time, I felt it around me too. I could feel the Holy Spirit moving in the room, stirring the hearts of the people at the conference, pushing their hearts into a more committed relationship with Christ, including mine. No worldly thought could penetrate my mind at this moment, because I was simply lost in the glory of Christ.
That’s it. That’s what I need to remember. That feeling of the Holy Spirit moving in and around me. That feeling that is better than anything this world has to offer. The Holy Spirit is in me, ready to fight temptation, ready to lead me in my daily actions, ready to guide me in what to say in difficult situations. I forget that too often.
Christ is better than anything this world has to offer. Our persecuted brothers and sisters know that, that’s why they’re willing to lose everything, even their lives, to follow after Christ. Am I not willing to lose the desires of my flesh to follow after Christ?
Valerie O. recently finished her summer internship at The Voice of the Martyrs. This fall she will be a junior at California State University, Long Beach studying journalism. She first heard of VOM through a Bible study when someone handed her a VOM newsletter. Since then, she has felt drawn to VOM and its primary goal and has desired for God to use her skillset to help in reaching that goal.