Thursday, July 19, 2007

We Would Rather Die Than Leave the Church

One of the bestselling books that The Voice of the Martyrs has published in recent years is the devotional book Extreme Devotion. In it are 365 stories and testimonies of men and women who are totally sold out for Christ. For many, this devotion to Christ cost them their freedom and even their lives.

A few days ago, the devotional was one that is especially meaningful to me because it recounts the testimony of Juan and Maria, a couple that I met in Colombia. The following came out of my meeting with them in Cali.

Juan and his wife, Maria, are missionaries among the indigenous people north of Cali, Colombia. Cali is controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist guerilla group. Many Columbian pastors and missionaries have faced opposition from FARC and have fled the area. When Juan met with a group of fifty FARC guerrillas three years ago, however, twenty of them received Christ. As he says, "We exchange pistols for epistles."

Now, the National Liberation Army has been attacking Christian churches in the region. Recently, more than twenty churches were shut down, and many pastors fled for their lives. Guerrillas often come and demand all the tithes and offerings or take the pastor's life. Now Juan is the only pastor left in the area, and he receives no outside aid.

Still, Juan and his wife made a decision to stay and continue ministering to the people. They say, "If we are to die because we preach the Word of God, we would rather die than leave the church." Juan does not condemn those who have left, nor does he talk about the difficulties they have faced. He prefers to share what God is doing and his burden for ministry. His mind is preoccupied, not with danger, but with reaching Columbia's people for Christ.

Jesus describes an image of a pack animal burdened with a load. The animal does not struggle against the weight of the burden, however, for it is hardly heavy at all. Being burdened with the gospel is not the same as being weighed down with earthly concerns. The burden of the gospel simply means an awareness of others' spiritual needs. Juan has a "burden," but his burden is light. Following Christ's example, we must be burdened for lost people. This load is light because we are always giving it away. We are not supposed to keep the good news to ourselves. Have you been rejected when you share Christ? Perhaps you have considered giving in to the opposition. Let Jesus' burden for the lost motivate you to hang in there one more day.

To order your copy of Extreme Devotion, visit our online bookstore.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I have this devotional and I love it.