Francis Chan, in his book, Letters to the Church, talks about the Church in Iraq. In order to join the church there, one must sign an agreement that they are willing to lose property, family, freedom, and even their own life… and the church in Iraq is growing! Losing everything for Jesus is a very real possibility in Iraq and many other countries.
Would we, in America, be willing to make such a commitment? I want to say, “Yes! I’m willing to risk it all for Jesus!” And in reality, I’m struggling with giving up sweets for Lent. Really? I’m willing to give it all up and yet the temptation to sneak a cookie or a piece of chocolate is almost too much for me.
We have so much available to us in America. I can open my Amazon app on my phone and have just about anything I want delivered right to my door with just a couple of taps. I can get anything from a jar of all-natural peanut butter to a pre-fabricated home in a shipping container at Amazon!
Because we have just about any item, experience, or comfort right at our fingertips, we feel entitled. This is normal for us. Risking life and limb are hardly in our vocabulary. In America, we come to Jesus because we want Him to make our lives better. In other countries, following Jesus is more dangerous than robbing banks or running drugs in America!
The availability of goods and services in our culture could be a hindrance to following Jesus whole-heartedly. We live in a modern day Babylon—a wealthy society where we think a roof over our heads and food on the table are rights. In other countries, those things belong only to an extremely wealthy few. The poorest among us are rich compared to most of the world.
We have become emotionally attached to our rights and freedoms. We can’t imagine that Jesus would ever ask us to give them up. He wants us to be happy and blessed, right? He does want us to be happy and blessed, but how we define those words may differ from how He defines them. Our interpretation is much more shallow than the Lord’s. He wants to bless us with His presence—His grace—His strength—His boldness. Would that be enough for us? What if all we had was Jesus? Would He be enough?
Would Jesus be enough if they took away my land, my home, my car? I’ve worked so hard for those things. I’ve earned them, right?
Would Jesus be enough if my whole family turned against me and refused to allow me into their lives? What if they even became my enemies and tried to kill me? What if they were stripped from my home, never to be seen again? Would Jesus be enough?
Would Jesus be enough if I found myself in a third-world prison—a dungeon where regular beatings and torture were the norm?
Would Jesus be enough if I had to stand in front of a firing squad? Or if, because of my faith, my husband did?
Suddenly those sweets I’m giving up for Lent seem trivial, minuscule compared to what our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer throughout the world. (Check out Voice of the Martyrs website, www.persecution.com to learn more.)
We are blessed in America and I am extremely grateful for the life I have here. But let’s hold these blessings with open hands. May they never keep us from following Jesus whole-heartedly!
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose your self? What could you ever trade your soul for?"
Matthew 16:24-28 (MSG)