[forthright] The Testimony of Faith

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2006 17:19:08 -0600
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: Field Notes

The Testimony of Faith
by Michael E. Brooks

"And what more shall I say? For the time would
fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and
Jepthah, also of David and Samuel and the
prophets; who through faith subdued kingdoms,
worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped
the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of
fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of
weakness were made strong, became valiant in
battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Women received their dead raised to life again.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance,
that they might obtain a better resurrection.
Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings,
yes and of chains and imprisonment. They were
stoned; they were sawn in two, were tempted, were
slain with the sword. They wandered about in
sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute,
afflicted, tormented -- of whom the world was not
worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in
dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:32-38).

When I read the stories of great characters of the
Bible and of the hardships they faced, it is
difficult to accept the impatience and
unwillingness to suffer the least inconvenience so
often experienced among contemporary Christians.
Let the preacher go more than five minutes past
the hour, or the temperature be more than a few
degrees different than one's comfort zone, and the
complaints are loudly heard. Many seem to expect
padded pews, well decorated auditoriums, air
conditioning, and "interesting" assemblies as the
minimum requirement of acceptable religion. And
don't even think about serious sacrifice of time,
effort, or money, much less the very suggestion of
persecution.

While the above describes some western (i.e.,
American) "Christians," I have learned by
experience that it certainly does not describe
all. Even less does it describe many very
dedicated disciples in other parts of the world.
On my last visit to Shyafru Bensi in the Himalaya
mountains of Nepal, I was joined by a preacher
from a village two mountain ranges away. He walked
two days, ascending to 14,000 feet, and struggled
through about 3 feet of snow in the passes. Yet he
came gladly to study the Bible for four days with
other Christians. Typically in such seminars two
or more men will share small cots, others will
sleep on a thin woven bamboo mat on the floor, and
they will sit all day with crossed legs on the
floor during classes. In some cases men have lost
their jobs from attending these classes. Crops and
chores have gone unattended, with subsequent
hardship and loss of income. Others have endured
persecution from other religions because of their
insistence upon faithfully practicing
Christianity.

One does not have to travel around the world to
find dedicated believers who have suffered
persecution and undergone hardship for their
faith. Paul assures us, "Yes, and all who desire
to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer
persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). American Christians
have also lost jobs, been ostracized by families,
and given great sacrifice in the name of Jesus. We
rejoice when we see or hear of such, "glory[ing]
in [their] tribulations" (Romans 5:3). Their
examples remind us of a number of important facts.

First, God has never promised his people ease and
comfort. In the calls of the prophets, there are
many warnings of hardship and rejection to come
(e.g., Jeremiah 1:17-19). He does promise to be
with us and help us, and to provide a "way of
escape" from any temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This is extended to mean that God will help us to
endure any hardship we face (Romans 8:31-39).
Christianity has never been intended to be easy or
convenient. It always tests us, proving our love
and devotion to God.

Secondly, our hardships are not new nor unique to
us. Others have faced the same or worse. We are
not being asked to do the impossible, or charged
more than our faith is worth. Just the opposite.
Thousands, even millions, have walked where we
walk, have endured the same or similar trials, and
have proved the worth of faith over and over
again. We have a "great cloud of witnesses"
(Hebrews 12:1) who have "been there and done that"
and who are even now cheering us on in our
attempts.

Finally, our reward is far greater than the price
we may pay for our faith (Luke 6:38). Whatever
suffering or hardship we endure, it is as nothing
compared to the glory we will receive. God's mercy
and grace will abundantly reward all those who
seek him (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Nothing we lose in
this life will be valued once the inheritance of
God has been received by his children (Matthew
16:26,27).

The apostles learned to "rejoice that they were
counted worthy to suffer shame for his name" (Acts
5:41). May we learn the same lesson, and may our
trials help us to grow closer to God and more
steadfast in our faith.

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