Do you realize there are Christians around the world that fear to meet? That their lives, families and livelihoods are risked each time they worship Jesus? Yet, they are closer to Him than many of us. We pray for their persecution and safety; they pray for our persecution of prosperity. “…Western Christians often put so much faith in their prosperity and political freedoms that they don't know what it's like to have to depend completely on God. And because of that, they often do not get to know Him in all the ways He invites us to." We understandably feel they need prayer because they are hiding, socially and financially suffering, imprisoned, separated from families, tortured and murdered; and we often wonder if we could sustain our walk in similar times. Our answer to that question may be right here in front of us now; the North Koreans wisely called our current condition, "Persecution of prosperity"—and they are very accurate, because these, "persecutions" that we are facing, have more of us turning from God, or walking in uncommitted ways, than the persecutions they are facing in the most dangerous country in the world. How do we think we will suffer faithfully for Christ when the times comes to be persecuted like them when we cannot handle prosperity now?
Both require surrender and loss; both require selflessness and commitment. Our faith and happiness are centered around how blessed we are, and how free our laws keep us, therefore we never have to trust in God, because we always have what we need (when that fails, faith fails). We never hunger for God, because our self-worth and purpose are wrapped up in other things (when they fail, faith fails). We never humble ourselves before God, because we are proud and independent, as if we have been in control the whole time. The underground church says we are insulated from suffering, which keeps us from taking up our cross daily. There is surely nothing wrong with being free of persecution and suffering; but, they are dead on. We are so insulated from suffering; we have grown so use to the blessings and comfort, that we don't ever want to risk anything to truly live for Christ. We have so much to lose, that we are slow to give up anything in sacrifice, and we are so happy in our insulated lives, that we don't want anything rocking the boat. Where Communism has become their Country’s God, maintaining our comfort level, has become our god. We feel we are blessed as a nation, and we are—but we need to begin focusing beyond the "blessings" of this physical world, and realize what God calls, "Blessed". Almost every Old Testament character the Scriptures reveal, lived in times and situations that we would never call blessed by our standards. (Think of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David in hiding, Ezekiel, Daniel, Ester, Ruth, Job... they suffered under foreign powers, wicked governments, and fallen societies; they often lived poorly, in hiding, in persecution, in servitude, in disaster, or in extreme times, but they all experienced joy and worship beyond their present circumstances. They were never blessed because of their wonderful living conditions, but because of their spiritual conditions, and their hunger for God. The New Testament Scriptures tell the same story—never describing, "blessed" in terms of material possessions or living in good circumstances—describes those spiritually hungry, passionate and righteous before God. (Matthew 5:3-12) Jesus called those blessed, who were humble, broken, merciful and whole-heartedly after Him and His righteousness. The term "Woe", in Scriptures is used to express grief, regret, misfortune, doom, and condemnation (Luke 6:24-25). Jesus condemned those who lived self-seeking and loving the world. The rest of the NT could be quoted again and again with the exact same message, saying, ‘Blessed are those who are desperate and hungry for Christ and His righteousness, and cursed are those seeking what the world would call blessed’. Luke 9:23-25, Jeremiah 1:9-11, Matthew 6:19-21, Mark 10:23: Do the riches you have make you fearful to lose them? Do you have trouble tithing? (Have so much, some give nothing) Trouble giving of your free time? Trouble stepping out for God with thoughts of what you'll lose? The "Persecution of Prosperity", may have turned you into a camel. Romans 8:16-18: Do your hard times rate as incomparable to God's greatness, or are they "show stoppers" for your spiritual walk? Acts 5:41: Do you rejoice when you have to suffer, or do you have pity-parties? Philippians 2:5-9: Do you have this mind of Christ? Considering your job, your money, your status, to be nothing, following in sacrificial obedience at any cost?
We are not blessed because we are citizens of America, we are blessed because we are citizens of the Kingdom. We need to live our lives as though we believe that. Your job, your finances, your health, your education, are not indicators of blessings from God; they are gifts from God; they are tools of God; but they do not mean blessings from God. If these things were purely blessings from God for the righteous and deserving, things just wouldn't add up in the reality of our Christian and non-Christian lives, would they? And Scriptures about perseverance and trials would all be lies, wouldn't they? And we'd have a lot of spoiled, soft Christians out there, wouldn't we?
We think we are the most spiritual, righteous, God-honoring people on this planet today, largely because of our prosperity—we are blessed, right? In reality, these people—those in North Korea, China, the Middle East, even our own forefathers of the past—have overall, had a very different view of Christ; a deeper reverence and conviction, a different relationship, a humbler spirit, and a very different attitude towards Christ's church. According to everything we read Scripturally, they are truly the blessed ones of Christ— not because they are persecuted, and we are not, but, because of what they consider to be important; because of what they have a passion and hunger for in life. The fact is: we can have that kind of relationship with Christ. We can be that close, that real; we can be that blessed of God right now. What if it might cost your life to walk down here and proclaim Jesus as your Savior (spies), or be baptized in His Name? How many less would come? How much sweeter would it be when they did? What if we had too many struggles in just making it through the day as a servant of Christ, to even have time to indulge our sins? How would it change your mindset—if you still had the passion to come then? Would you share a greater bond and love with your brothers and sisters, knowing the risks you took together? Would you fight a little less about who should do what, or why didn't you get recognized? Would you be worried about how long the sermon was if you'd waited hours to sneak in; when you knew the risk it took to get here, and didn't know when you could come back again; when you might not even be a church next week, or tomorrow; when you had no restaurant to get to afterwards; when you had no Word of your own to read at home? Instead of focusing on how good the speaker was, how you were treated and what kind of music we had, what might you focus on then? Maybe we would focus on, how we were going to need Jesus to make it through the day—maybe even the service. On how nothing else really mattered when we left here, other than showing one more person the incredible Truth we hid in this room; on how I want to be used in every way I can for His Kingdom, because there is really nothing here for me that compares; on how even those who hunt for us and hurt us have such a sad life, that we wish they could have our new found joy; on how there is no real hope in changing the laws now, so we just need to love those around us, no matter who they are; on how awesome it is to find others who love our King enough to suffer and share with me. What would it be like, to be in a room full of people who, because of the risk, and the shame they could suffer were only here, really and truly because they had an uncontrollable passion, a want to be here in worship and fellowship with me, and praise for our Jesus? What kind of joy would we feel as we worshiped? Would we be worried if someone saw us get emotional or excited? Would we be distant and formal? What a sweet atmosphere of shared love, risk, faith and life!
To have this awesome passion for Christ, this broken spirit and hunger for righteousness that brings God's real blessings; that brings real church. We simply need to place the worth on Jesus now, that He deserves—the worth that quite frankly, most here do put on your good life, and your freedoms to enjoy. Matthew 15:8-9: We simply need to see now, that He is worth losing everything to us, just like He is worth losing everything to them. There is no difference, except we have more to give up sometimes, and that makes us covet. They can love Christ with all their heart, because they hate and renounce the Communist life from whence they come. We cannot do the same, unless we hate our lives just as much in comparison. So, do you? We need to realize that all of the insulated comforts we think we have are fake assurance, and we have no hope outside of Him. We need to stop worrying about Him taking it all away from us one day, and just give it all freely to Him now—when we have nothing left to lose; we can just come to Him, in real and sweet abandon.
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