As part of our daily lessons, I teach my children church history. We often read about martyrs and theologians of the early church, but this past term, I decided a more modern perspective would be important as well.
So, as part of my daughter’s sixth grade study in church history, I have been reading the book: Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. It is the story of the persecution that took place in Romania during the communist regime. Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor during the 1950’s-1960’s when Romanian Christians were being persecuted by the Communist party. He writes not only bits of his years of being tortured in prison, but also of those believers he heard about or knew personally.
As the book reaches the second half, Pastor Wurmbrand discusses the lies of atheists and communists and points to various testimonies of those who have taken a public stand against those lies. Pastor Wurmbrand also speaks passionately about the need for Christian brothers and sisters in free countries to support their fellow believers who are being persecuted.
I have told several people, that even though I have read multitude of books throughout my lifetime, there are a few that change a person forever. The books, Tortured for Christ has done just that for me.
One of my favorite parts of the book is on pages 44-49 when Pastor Wurmbrand states that:
“It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners, as it is in captive nations today. It was understood that whoever was caught doing received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their terms. It was a deal: we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us–so everyone was happy” (Wurmbrand, 2013 p.44).
As I read on, Pastor Wurbrand tells that often a Christian man would be interrrupetd as he was telling the prisoners about Christ, He would be severely beaten and brought back. When the damaged preacher was returned to the cell, he would adjust himself and ask his listeners, “‘Now, brethern, where did I leave off when I was interrupted?’ He continued his gospel messgae!” (Wurmbrand, 2013, p.45).
I find that ongoing event most convicting as I ask myself… how am I being persecuted for my Savior? How am I being beaten and bruised for Him? What sacrifices must I make on His behalf? The answer is a line with an empty space above it.
Yet, as I look at my comfortable recliner, with my Bible and prayer journal beside it, I am reminded that the disciplines of every-day must be my sacrifice. To be diligent to pray…pray…pray, to be faithful to God’s Word, to raise my children to also love their Savior, to sacrificially love my husband, to live at every cost to myself, to silence my prideful tongue, to discern truth and lies, to walk in grace and tenderness to others…this is my sacrifice. And though I may not be tormented by other people for my faith, I can strive to hold fast to my faith in a world where everything is created to pull me from it.
My cross, is to live out faith in a world of comfort, which is no less a challenging place to live out my faith in Christ than rotting in the basement of dirty prison cell. I may venture to add, that perhaps, crucifying myself is a far more difficult task in a free, wealthy, comfortable world than it might be if I bore the literal stripes upon my back from another’s whip.
I will muse again at another lesson I have learned from the book about how petty believers in the free-world can be. Richard Wurmbrand explains that the persecuted church makes churches in the free world seem void and meaningless. In his discussion of that topic, Wurmbrand states that:
“The Bible verses are not well known in many countries, because Bibles are not permitted. Besides, the preacher had most likely been in prison for years without a Bible…They are like Job who said that he would believe in God even if He would slay him. They are like Jesus who called God “Father,’ even when He was seemingly forsaken on the cross” (Yurmbrand, 2013, p. 89).
As an American Christian, with stacks of Bible’s on my shelves, apps on my phone bursting with biblical podcasts, and stacks of books written by believers from today back to hundreds of years ago, one would think, I have been blessed with much more opportunity to follow Christ. Yet, I find myself feeling like a very small believer in the light of a man with no Bible, no church, no Christian books or podcasts, laying on the floor of his prison cell for His beloved Savior.
I have been given so much perspective about what is and isn’t important. Believers in persecuted countries do not have the luxury to disagree with fellow Christians about worship styles, Bible versions, or whether or not a woman should hold the office of a deacon. Every cause we consider important in our Christian churches today, is something that is more of a distraction to the cause of Christ than a help to the precious gospel. I see so many believers self-promoting.
Believers agree on Christ and His grace poured out on their souls to save them. They hunger for fellowship with other believers and will meet together faithfully at the cost of imprisonment or death. Believers in the persecuted church make every American Christian look like a fake.
And truth be told, if I did not rest completely in Christ’s atonement on my behalf, despite the world of ease and sin where I live, I would seriously question the status of my own soul’s security in Christ. It is not by my work…but His, or I would be tempted to run to a country where I could suffer the most on His behalf and honor Him by my suffering.
It is here that my heart is pointed to the center of the matter. It is all about Him. And with every sweet testimony I read from Pastor Wurmbrand’s book, I can see the worthiness of Christ. Yes, He is worthy of every sufferer’s pain and every martyr’s death. Jesus is so insurmountably precious, and dear to us who love Him, that we cannot help, but pick up our cross daily and follow Him. Whether that cross be a chain in prison, or the chain of comfort. Both seek to drive our hearts further from Him, but may they only serve as something we bear to honor Him better.
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all. -Isaac Watts