Does your heart ache for persecuted Christians around the world? I keep thinking of the college students shot dead in Kenya last week. It’s reported that the attackers “sorted people out,” and then shot the Christians “on the spot.”
“In the attack…masked militants…separated Christian students from Muslims, and then gunned them down without mercy…One of the survivors…told the Associated Press…when he heard the gunshots, he locked himself and three roommates in their room…’All I could hear were footsteps and gunshots’…He heard the attackers arrive at his dormitory, open the doors and ask if the people who had hidden inside were Muslims or Christians. ‘If you were a Christian, you were shot on the spot,’ he said.” (Associated Press, April 2, 3, 2015)
On my side of the Atlantic
On my side of the Atlantic, my oldest is preparing for her first year of college. She’ll probably experience some form of persecution for her faith — but I don’t expect that she’ll face death because she follows Jesus. For collegiate Christians in my part of the world, persecution consists of the sting of derogatory remarks, ostracism and ridicule, both in and out of the classroom — but at this point, she won’t have to wonder if she’ll be “shot on the spot.”
I pray that she’ll be faithful. I pray that if attackers were to open her dormitory door and ask if she were a Christian, she’d answer “yes!” no matter the cost. I want the same for each of us who love Jesus.
But I have a problem. As I imagine the fear the Kenyan Christians faced, I worry for me. For in my own strength, I’m a coward. The thought of being wakened like they were — in pre-dawn darkness to the unexpected terror of approaching footsteps and gunfire — makes me tremble. And these words about the resoluteness followers of Christ must possess come to mind:
Now, when I hold up my Master’s colours and invite recruits, I am by no means eager to enlist cowards.
No cowards allowed? Those words worry me. For I can’t beat cowardice in my own strength. I need a supernatural work of God’s Spirit to keep and carry and transform me, even in more “minor” trials. But I also know that the Father promises to carry those who are His. And so I read Spurgeon’s sentence again — this time in context:
Do not think that Christ has come to send peace into your soul of the sort you look for; He makes no peace with evil, but draws the sword. There will be fightings and wars within your spirit until you die. Now, you must have deep work, or else these inward trials will offend you…If it is not a work of grace when you get a little soul trouble you will say, “Ah! I will have none of this. I thought it was going to be all ‘hallelujahs’ and ‘bless the Lord!’ I did not look for depressions and bewilderments.” Now, when I hold up my Master’s colours and invite recruits, I am by no means eager to enlist cowards. I want those who for God’s sake and by his Spirit will go through the Slough of Despond, resolved to escape from the City of Destruction. You must ‘dwell deep,’ then, or inward trials will send you back to the world again. (Charles Spurgeon)
Because we can’t beat cowardice in our own strength, we ‘dwell deep,’ walking each day in the Spirit. As we dwell deeply, we take up our cross — dying to inward sin and trusting the Lord in any circumstance — not turning back to the world, but standing strong. On whichever side of the globe we find ourselves, we count the cost. And we see that it’s a work of grace, not our own strength, that carries us through.
Even in the most intense of tribulation, Jesus promised we have no need to fear those who can only kill the body. If we’re delivered over to persecutors, we need not worry what we’ll say, for the Holy Spirit will tell us at that time. (Luke 12:4-12)
And as we think of those whose lives ended because they followed Christ, others of our Master’s words settle heartache and fear into their eternal context:
I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne…they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete… (Revelation 6: 9, 11)
No storming of any dormitory happens beyond the purview of God’s eternal good. The souls of the students slain are now in the presence of the Lord, awaiting the day their earthly bodies will be reunited with their souls (I Thess. 4:13-18).
And as we walk out our own door on this day, we can determine to dwell deeply, asking the Lord who transforms cowards to always keep and carry us.
Related: What do I want for my child?