By Dr. James C. Denison
President, The Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, Texas
March 26, 2010
Topic: climbing down to God
“You can kill us but you cannot hurt us”
I pity Sandra Bullock. The actress’s performance in The Blind Side (my favorite movie of the year) deserved the Academy Award she won; she has been in the news ever since because of her husband’s now-public affairs. This morning’s USA Today tells us a fourth woman is now claiming she had “an intimate three-year relationship” with him. No one is immune from the sins of others.
During this Lenten season we’ve learned to climb down to God by living a life he can bless. Jesus has taught us to be “poor in spirit,” admitting our need of God’s help; to “mourn” for our sins so we might be comforted; to be “meek,” submitted to God, so we might “inherit the earth”; to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” so we might be “filled”; to be “merciful” so that we “will be shown mercy”; to be “pure in heart” so we can “see God”; and to be “peacemakers” so we can be called “the sons of God.”
Yesterday we began to explore Jesus’ last beatitude: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Seventy million believers across Christian history have died for their faith. Even in our culture, where nominal Christianity is the norm for many, there is a price to pay if we stand publicly and boldly for Christ. Why pay it?
First, suffering believers experience great joy. Our Lord told us to “be glad” (v. 12a), translating a Greek word which means to leap with inexpressible joy. There is an unexplainable joy in suffering for our faith. The apostles felt it: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).
Early martyrs felt it. There is an ancient tradition which states that Nero would walk at night on the Coliseum floor, examining the bodies of slain Christians left there. Wherever a body had a face, the face was smiling. Justin, one of the earliest martyrs, wrote to his accusers: “You can kill us but you cannot hurt us.”
Second, suffering believers receive great reward: “great is your reward in heaven” (v. 12b). Paul assured us, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Martyr Jim Elliott wrote in his journal: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Third, suffering believers join a great fraternity: “in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (v. 12c). Every disciple but John was martyred, and he was exiled and imprisoned. When we suffer for Christ, we join a great fraternity in the faith.
Last, suffering believers inherit a great kingdom: “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The first beatitude made this promise; the last repeats it. 2 Timothy 2:12 promises: “If we endure, we will also reign with him.” Revelation 20 describes the persecuted faithful: “They came to life and reigned with Christ” (v. 4). We will suffer for a short while, and then reign with Jesus in his kingdom forever.
When last did it cost you something significant to follow Jesus? Is your Lord asking you to take a risk for him today?
Sundar Singh lived from 1889 to 1929, enduring extreme persecution for his courageous faith. His own family tried to poison him when he became a Christian. He was stoned and arrested numerous times; roped to a tree as bait for wild animals; sewed into a wet animal skin and left to be crushed to death as it shrank in the hot sun. He disappeared while on a missionary journey. Indian Christians consider him their Francis of Assisi.
Consider his statement of faith: “From my many years experience I can unhesitatingly say that the cross bears those who bear the cross.” Will you bear yours?
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