Thursday, April 3, 2008

Our suffering friend

I often hear pastors and other really spiritual people say we shouldn't pray for physical protection, because suffering is a part of being a Christian, and especially part of being a missionary.

The Apostle Paul must not have been quite as spiritual as these modern preachers (mostly radical missionary types), who propagate this. Consider, for example, Romans 15:30-ff, "...join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea..."

Here's how it intersects my little world. For safety reasons, this will be frustratingly vague...

My relative just saw an international woman come to Jesus through the miraculous work of God (dreams, revelation from the Scriptures, etc). Since that time, her family has hunted her down, her brother back home was stabbed, and just last week two of her younger siblings were kidnapped and are being held ransom. All of this (and much more I cannot speak of here), because she is an "infidel."

Imagine your brothers and sisters suffering for your faith.

I asked her once what would happen if she went home. She said, "They kill me in the airport." Nonetheless, she desires to go home someday to share the love of Jesus with her family. She is ready to die, no doubt.

And as I pray with my kids about this situation, I want them to pray radically Jesus centered prayers for her. I don't want my kids to be cultural American Christians, who regard suffering as a strange anomaly to the ordinary life of following Jesus.

My kids often pray that God will keep her safe. Before today, as one of those really spiritual, radical missionary pastors, I would encourage them rather to pray for her faith and family, not safety.

I can hear our pastor Tom Nesbitt's booming voice, "Safety is not a place, it's a person." True enough.

But I'm encouraged today to pray for God to protect her from suffering at the hand of barbaric, evil men and women. I still pray that God would not allow her to be burned by flames (i.e. Shadrach, Meshak, Abednego), or injured by stones if it comes to that. I join her "struggle" by praying to God that she will be "rescued from unbelievers."

I've always tried (and often fail) to obey the imperative of Hebrews 13:3 as much as possible, "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering," by letting myself and family get to know someone who is experiencing the reality of suffering.

Will you join us?

P.S.- I still aspire to be a "radical missionary-pastor type"

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