Monday, December 01, 2008

Hope

We light the candle, the first candle of advent. It's flame flickers representing 'Expectation and Hope'. It's light fills us with the anticipation of the coming Messiah.  As followers of Christ we hope for Christ's return.

"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming...For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." Matthew 24:42,44 NASV

All through time people have held hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance. God hears His people everywhere. His son will come again.

Hope. The candle flickers. Its message powerful.

I can't get her face out of my mind.  A young Indonesian face, perhaps beautiful at one time. Now violated. Scars etched with brutality. She paid a cost for her faith in a country where no freedom of religion exists.  As she travelled the dusty road, she saw the military police come with other Islamists. They were bearing down on the group she was with. She cried out in anguish and fright, "Oh my God, Help me!"

A man put a gun in her mouth and snarled, "Let's see how your God will help you now." He pulled the trigger.  Her face, though now healed, tells the story. 

She had been persecuted for her faith.

With the help of an interpreter, she told her story. There were other stories, in other countries-Algeria, Somalia, China, Turkey, Iraq. All of them equally brutal. 

And yet the Christian church grows in these dry and thirsty lands. Our God hears the cry of His people.   

If we are followers of Christ, these suffering believers are our brothers and sisters. The price of their faith is paid in blood spilt. 

 I hold in my hand a brochure from the mission, "International Christian Concern"  This organization is dedicated to serving and building the worldwide persecuted Christian Church.

In white letters, on a black background, the glossy leaflet invites us to "Pray for the persecuted..." There is a photo of a dandelion and  on the bottom, a caption reads, "...in the blood of the martyrs lies the seed of the church."

Inside I read, "Christ promised that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But these believers are choosing to pay the price and the church is multiplying. As persecution mounts against the church, Christians are growing deep roots, dying to themselves, and producing seeds as numerous and irrepressible as dandelions."

I sit in this corner, in this small space and tap away about my faith. What do I know of persecution? How has my faith been tested in comparison to these, my brothers and sisters?
Oh, He is worthy. That's not the question. 

How would I stand, if my faith were tested like my brothers and sisters? How would I fare in a land where no democracy exists and freedom is a hope for another day?

Their faith and endurance is a testimony and example for you and I in this part of the globe. 

We can pray for their strength, that He would grant them courage, that they would grow deeper roots, that His grace would sustain them, that they could forgive their persecuters, that stable governments would be wrought, that freedom of religion would come. We hope... 

We hope for peace on this earth. The world is not fully redeemed. So again, with expectation and hope, we await God's new work in history. God will respond to the cries of His children.


5 comments:

Angcat said...

A deep topic to start Advent with Joyful.
It makes all seem trivial in the light of the struggles of our sisters and brothers in Christ.

We do walk our own walk here and have little paradigm for the struggles faced in those lands, yet that blood rich soil seems to be so fertile. It seems to be in those places of persecution, that faith thrives.
I have a dear sister from Rwanda, who endured some of the terrible trials and fallout of the genocide there. Yet when I asked her where it was harder to be a Christian, here, or there, she answered that it's harder here because we are so caught up in the rush and materialism and immorality in a different sense.
Ultimately we must be willing to sacrifice our lives, whatever that means, wherever we are.
Thank you for provoking me to think and pray.

Night Owl said...

Thank you for that comment, Angcat. Whenever I read of the terrible suffering that happens elsewhere in the world, I feel so guilty about feeling sad about the comparatively trivial, little hardships I face in my life. I feel guilty for feeling lonely and unloved and imperfect. It just seems like none of that really matters when your very basic needs aren't being met (i.e. food, clean water, shelter, security, etc.).
But I think you're right (and thanks for reminding), that you can't really compare sufferings of people - every suffering is of equal "importance" to God, I think. He does not compare people the way we compare ourselves, because every one has a unique life story, which He Himself wrote.
Because every "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
And therefore there is a valid message to be strong in your sufferings (no matter how big or small they feel to you), so that you may find and hold fast to that brightly shining flame of HOPE. I adore HOPE with all of my heart. It is a wonderful, beautiful gift to receive.
(And, boy, do I ever love my favourite-est time of year, which is Advent, which is NOW! :))
Thanks Joyful for the shining first week of Advent post! (P.S. Will I ever get another email from you? :))
Love, Night Owl

Joyful Fox said...

Angcat,

Interesting comments from your Rwanda friend. Really makes you think.

It's all dying to self though, isn't it. Letting Him work in our hearts.

I worried about this blog post because it is so impersonal and it speaks of atrocity, not the 'goodness' of life.

It was disturbing to me and it needed to be written.

I couldn't let it go.

Thanks for your comments.

Joyful Fox said...

Night Owl,

Dear one, the email's coming. I've thought about different words to say even...just....haven't yet. Sorry for the shadows cast on advent.

Enjoy the season though, it is the time for that. God has placed us where we are for His reason and purpose to give Him glory.

I love you. Expect that email soon. I sure am looking forward to our music gathering on the 20th. I finally get to meet you and give you a hug!

Belinda said...

Dear Joyful,
The reminder of our easy life as Christians in North America is important. And the reminder to pray for others in harder places.

And yes, we need prayer here too,in a different way, as Ang pointed out, for the complacency, time pressures and materialism traps that we easily fall prey to.