(redux*) Slowly the pastor made his way to the pulpit to conclude a service where I had shared concerning the reality of Christian persecution today, testimonies of the faithfulness of the Suffering Church, and the responsibility that Canadian Christians have to stand together with them in their affliction. But as he opened his mouth, I was saddened to realize that, despite all my efforts, this dear man of God had completely missed the point of the message. Thanking me for coming, he then suggested that the congregation spend a few minutes thanking God for the freedoms that we enjoy in Canada since it was obvious that so many around the world cannot worship freely as we do.This incident was not unique. Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. In a few weeks, our friends in the United States will celebrate similarly. Regardless of the date or the country, I am sure that many of us pray such a prayer as we gather together as friends and families or during Thanksgiving services and/or family celebrations.Indeed, this type of prayer of gratitude tends to be the standard ending to many of meetings where our staff are asked to speak. And how many of us haven't personally prayed a similar prayer at one time or another? It seems to be a particularly suitable prayer when we consider what we were thankful to God for. The issue of religious freedom almost inevitably comes up, and the prayer is spoken, "Thank you, Lord, for our freedoms, for we know that there are many around the world who don't have them. Thank you that we don't have to meet in secret like so many do." And with that we barely give a second thought about the very people to whom we were comparing ourselves.I have no great desire to be contrary and controversy for its own sake no longer has much appeal to me the older I get. But this particular response no longer seems appropriate to me as I learn more and more about Gods Word and His persecuted children worldwide.Let me state it plainly. If your first and primary response to the Persecuted Church is to feel grateful for the freedoms we enjoy in this country then you have probably missed the whole point of what God wants to say to you through their testimony of suffering, faithfulness and grace. Simply put, the Persecuted Church does not exist so that we can feel grateful, and they deserve to be more than a prayer item or sermon illustration designed primarily to elicit thanksgiving.I recall the first time I began to have misgivings about the appropriateness of responding to reports of persecution by giving thanks for our freedoms. It was after I returned from a week of ministry in Colombia in 1999, when I was privileged to meet a number of courageous believers who are putting their lives on the line for Jesus Christ. In the six months previous to my visit, more than 25 evangelical pastors had been killed and up to 300 churches destroyed by leftist guerrilla groups in Colombia. Satanists had killed other pastors. While there, I met with the families of 180 Christians who had been kidnapped on May 30, 1999, by ELN, one of the country's main Marxist guerrilla groups. The ELN had attacked the church where they were praying and took the entire congregation hostage. With tears in their eyes, the families of those held hostage begged for our help in alerting the world to the plight of their loved ones and were grateful when we prayed for them before we left.Hearing of the suffering of these people, I thought to myself, what should we do? Offer a prayer of thanksgiving that we don't live there? Do I really believe that this is what God calls for? Is this really the best we can do?Isn't it ironic that whereas the early church thanked God for the privilege of suffering for Him, we thank God for the privilege of not suffering for Him? And whereas Jesus called those who are persecuted "blessed", we say that the blessed are those who are protected from persecution? Something is amiss here.Glenn Penner
Hi Christian and others,After reading through this for a bit I thought of a message from Pastor Wurmbrand that is on the site, it is titled "The Church Triumphant".I think you will appreciate it if you haven't already heard it:[url=http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/singlefile.php?lid=4522&commentView=itemComments]Church Triumphant[/url]If I could digress somewhat from the main point of the article, one of the things that I have appreciated so much in listening to the messages from Pastor Wurmbrand is the gentleness that he was able to speak with in talking about such difficult things, and the ability he seemed to have to speak about things that would challenge his listeners, without giving the impression that he was somehow belittling them or their faith in God. Instead he always seemed to be able to challenge you to come up higher, without suggesting that you hadn't even begun because you hadn't suffered the same things he had, or others.I think too, that it is possible that Paul the Apostle would or did, give thanks for both kinds of people, those who were being persecuted and standing strong, and those who were not being persecuted, but who still had faith in God.To those in Thessalonica, who were being [i]troubled[/i] he said he gave thanks, [b]because their faith and love for each other was growing[/b](2Th 1:3-7).But to those in Corinth, who, so far as I know, and others may correct me on this, were not being persecuted or who may even have lived with relative ease or abundance? to them he says, calling attention to his sufferings and those of others,"So then death worketh in us, but life in you." And saying also, that God would raise them all up together, not just those who were suffering, or those who were not, but both. See 2Co 4:8-14.And then he says,"For all things [i]are[/i] for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God."I think that Paul may have looked upon his own sufferings as being for the benefit of others(Col 1:24), but never ever to draw attention to himself as being somehow superior in faith or standing before God. And I think that he may have also beleived that to some it was [b]given[/b] to suffer for Christ(Philippians 1:29), but for others, perhaps not, at least not then, or at the moment(Mat 20:20-23). Love to you and all,Chris
_________________Christopher Joel Dandrow
We are so privileged to live in a country wherewe may worship freely and without constraits.Yet we do not allow GOD HIS rightful place inour homes and schools and place of business.Our worship must be so integral and necessarythan it cannot be separated from our hearts andlives. Worship is so much more than a Sundayservice!!
_________________Martin G. Smith