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A woman once heard a loud voice from within her little son’s room. She slided the door open and saw how the little boy was busy preaching to their cat. He told the cat about Jesus as personal saviour. The woman softly closed the door and walked away. The next day she heard a noise in their backyard. She saw him submerging the cat in a big bowl of water. She shouted: “What are you doing?!” He replied: “I’m baptising the cat.” “But the cat hates water,” she said; whereupon he replied: “He should have thought about that before he joined my church.”

Jesus tells us what we should consider before we “join” his church: “Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:27). Also: Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).

            Paul obeyed God: I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil. 3:8). He writes nevertheless: We have been beaten, jailed, and mobbed; we have been overworked and have gone without sleep or food (2 Cor. 6:5). All that because he testified about Jesus.

Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, a missionary in Romania, and his family were subjected to the cruellest, most humiliating and savage torture imaginable. He himself spent 14 years in jail. In his book, Tortured for Christ, he tells about Varia, a 19 year old girl who, as a communist, caused much harm to the Christians in Russia. After she had given herself to the Lord, she couldn’t remain silent about her new life in Christ, and was jailed. Her lady friend, Maria, visited her there and writes: “The poor girl is so hungry … she was thin, pale, beaten. Only her eyes shone with the peace of God and with an unearthly joy.” In Siberia they had to work 13 hours each day with almost nothing to eat. Varia writes to Maria from within the camp: “I feel the desire to tell and to witness to everybody about the great joy of salvation, which I have in my heart. … My heart is so full that the grace of God overflows. At work, they curse and punish me and give me extra work because I cannot be silent, and must share with everybody what the Lord has done for me. He has made of me a new being, a new creation … I will witness to everybody about his great love.”

A well-known Christian missionary organization, Open Doors, estimates that today more than 100 million Christians worldwide suffer for their faith in Christ. Jesus says: “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven” (Matt. 5:11 – 12). There are many stories about people who have been tortured severely for their faith, but who, after surviving it, still rejoiced in the Lord. Because to belong to God is the most wonderful thing that can happen to you. He transforms us into new human beings: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). We never need to be afraid to “join” the church of Christ.

 

We thank You, Lord Jesus, for people who are examples to us of dedication to You. Amen.

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