The trend is indeed baffling to many casual observers, yet it is crystal clear. Churches in what is known as the free world are fast emptying. As a matter of interest, some nations have lost their Christian majority in their demography, notably England being in such a state of late. No one is surprised where North America is concerned; the latest statistics indicate an overall drop in church attendance – not forgetting an inherent exodus from the truth in the Living Word!
There is a sharp contrast in places where personal freedoms are severely curtailed. Despite heavy-handed repression, churches in these places have not died out. In some noteworthy instances, there is an exponential growth in the numbers coming to Christ. The fastest-growing Christian community happens to be in Iran. There may not be a physical presence in the form of churches. Yet the underground element is growing by leaps and bounds. Torture, extended periods of incarceration, and even the prospect of death serve as no dampener on the soaring numbers that accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour. The totalitarian regime is at wits end when their attempts to systematically eradicate the underground churches fall flat.
Is there a supernatural element? Yes! The Lord has continued to sustain these believers who stick to the faith. But for the supernatural to work, there has to be a one hundred percent commitment from the body of believers.
There is no doubt that this unquenchable commitment is there for the unbelieving world to see. These believers in Christ are more than prepared to suffer the consequences when it comes to standing for the faith. With this, there is a hand-to-mouth existence on a daily, if not hourly, basis. A cat and mouse affair for a greater part of their lives. Close to dodging fusillades from the people out to close them down. Some make it, but there are others who cannot evade the repressive dragnet. Despite the oppressive situation, there is no wavering – it is as good as in the days of the early church. Martyrdom at the very end!
Christians in the cozy comfort of the so-called free world find this really hard to swallow. They would be asking themselves this question: is it worth it all?
There is certainly one thing that is holding back a lot of practicing Christians if they were faced with such a challenge. Worldliness! There is too much at stake on planet Earth. Years spent indulging in the material good life simply conditions these folks to shy away from the prospect of suffering for Christ. Half-baked teachings from godless pulpits only aggravate the matter.
“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another” (Mark 9:49-50).
Where is the fire for the faith when pastors give the congregation a feel-good message that massages their emotions? This is entirely opposite to the challenge that goes with living for the Lord. When specific truths for upright Christian living get almost zero focus, how prepared can the flock be when faced with the ultimate crunch?
Affluence is the venom that weakens many who profess to be followers of Jesus. It all ties in with worldly desires and passions. Too much of a good thing is not really a good thing where eternal destinies matter. For those who are pampered with what swathes of taken-for-granted liberties can offer, then the space and time for the matters of the Lord become more than patchy.
Having stacks of dollar bills and loads of time, idleness does set in. It is a spiritual idleness. Minutes and eventually hours slip away over one cup of tea after the other amidst unproductive debates inspired by destructive doctrines. At the end of the day, lukewarmness is the final outcome – more than enough to smother the fire which should be there!
One noteworthy characteristic that must be brought to mind is the fire for the Lord despite the circumstances. This applies to those underground churches in totalitarian countries. The luxury of time for worldly pursuits is a very scarce commodity. There is hardly any sliver of time that allows for mindless chit-chat over the likes of the la-di-da.
It is as good as an hourly struggle against the juggernaut of repression. On that note, these people are drawn even closer to the Lord. These individuals lean more on His infinite grace and mercy as they get by. Miracles and supernatural interventions become their daily staple.
These folks really have nothing to lose where their faith in the Lord goes. The place they are in has very little to offer other than heaps of broken promises. So they set their eyes on eternity – a truly glorious one with the Lord!
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).
I strongly believe that the Lord has made things clear to these people we will meet at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. They can see the proverbial forest from the trees. They are indeed imbued with Godly wisdom, being able to separate genuine hope from tainted promises. These individuals have truly counted the cost and considered the everlasting reward.
We can be partakers of this Godly wisdom. Question is – do we consider it worthwhile to take a stand when the crunch stares at us in the face?
For His Kingdom and Glory
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