Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faithful to the End

It happened at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999.

"Do you believe in God?"

"Yes, I believe in God."

"Why?"

But before Cassie could answer, he shot her. Dead.

Faithful to the end.

They shot Rachel Scott, too. Twice in the legs and once in the torso.

The shooters left but soon returned.

One yanked Rachel's head up by her hair.

"Do you believe in God?"

"You know I do."

"Then go be with Him." And he shot her in the head. Dead.

Faithful to the end.

The book Jesus Freaks shares story after story after story of Christians threatened, imprisoned, tortured, and killed over the years for the sake of Jesus. Very tough reading.

Faithful to the end. 

For the One who is faithful to the end.

I don't know if I could do it. I don't know if I could be faithful to the end with a nozzle at my nose.

I don't  know if I could take a bullet for my child or spouse.

I don't know if I could stand for Jesus if not doing it meant no suffering for me or my family.

I'd like to think I could. But honestly, I don't know if I could.

I don't know if I could be faithful to the end.

And it saddens me. And scares me.

I'm even a little afraid to write this post.

I've been consumed with these thoughts because this morning I taught on the last Beatitude.

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil toward you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." 
Matthew 5:10-12

I'm okay with the happy dances in the preceding verses. Here, though, not so much.

But the reality is that if I accept my spiritual poverty and mourn and hunger and thirst and all that other stuff, "they" will come after me. Because the more I pant for Him, the more I become like Him.

And I can't expect different results. If I bring comfort, I'll make others uncomfortable. If I make peace, I'll stir up trouble.

And I'll suffer in some form.

Fact.

He said so.

"If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:20)

And that's not all.

"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12)

"For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake." (Philippians 1:29)

Yikes.

Truth is--suffering proves I belong to the kingdom. That should make me happy. Enough to rejoice. Enough to be exceedingly glad.

I might escape death, but I can't escape abuse. If I'm not suffering in some form, even subtly, I need to reassess my life.

None of the disciples escaped persecution or death. All except John were killed in the end--beheaded, crucified, stoned, clubbed, or stabbed. John may have miraculously survived a pot of boiling oil.

All stood faithful to the end--though in the beginning they possessed little faith and a lot of fear.

Like me.

God knew what they needed when they needed it.

He knows what I need when I need it.

And because He is faithful, He provides--will provide.

Early Christians paid a price for faith. From lion food to torches. From racking to roasting

Christians today endure hacking and burning. They endure torture and rape. They watch homes burn, families torn apart, jobs lost.

God saves some. But not others. I don't know why. He's different.

And He calls me to be different. Different enough to risk some harassment. Different enough to risk possible death.

Faithful to the end.

When John the Baptist sat in prison (what Max Lucado calls his "dungeon of doubt" in The Applause of Heaven), he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He really was the Expected One. And Jesus sent word back of those who now saw and heard. Of those cleansed and those who lived. Of good news preached to the poor (in spirit.)

Of the unacceptable now accepted. Of the rejected now received. Of the devalued now valued.

Our kingdom. His kingdom. Come.

Jesus had His eyes on the eternal.

My eyes linger on the temporary.

"Lord stamp eternity on my eyes!" (Jonathan Edwards)

In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, " . . . you shall be My witnesses . . . to the remotest part of the earth."

The Greek word for "witness" is "martys." A spectator of something in a historical or a legal sense. But it also means "those who after his example have proved the strength and genuineness of their faith in Christ by undergoing a violent death."

Martyrs.

Faithful to the end.

Jesus Freaks gives these definitions of a martyr:

1. One who chooses to suffer death rather than to deny Jesus Christ or His work.
2. One who bears testimony to the truth of what he has seen or heard or knows, as in a witness in a court of justice.
3. One who sacrifices something very important to further the kingdom of God.
4. One who endures severe or constant suffering for their Christian witness.
5. A Jesus Freak.

There's a cost to following Jesus. There's a cost to living for Him. There's a cost to living like Him.

While I might not be called to martyr my life, I must martyr my comfortable way of life. I have to count the cost. To be His disciple. To be His witness--His martys.

And like Cassie, I need to say, "Yes," every day.

Faithful to the end.

For the One who is faithful to the end.

Have you suffered persecution in any form? What in your life will you martyr today?

Links to check out:
Jesus Freaks
Open Doors
Voice of the Martyrs

NOTE: This post is part of the Blog Carnival on FAITHFULNESS. For more thoughts, visit One Word at a Time.

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

19 comments:

Bridget Chumbley said...

You had me hanging on each and every word, Sandra.

I read the book "She Said Yes" about Cassie, and it was quite the story. I don't know what I'd do in a situation like that... but I'd like to believe the last words I said before meeting my maker would be spoken in faith.

Thanks for this!

Raye Ann said...

I almost didn't read this because I have such a bad headache that not much is making through the fog in my head. However I felt an strong urge to read. I saw how long the post was and almost didn't read it again. I thought with my headache I'll never get through it. That urge was still there to read. All I can say it was a God thing. He was there with you as you typed these words, and he was there with me as I read them. They reached through the fog in my head down into my very soul. I wept as I finished the post. I waited until I quite crying to leave a comment and now I am crying again. Thank you for allowing God to use you to speak such truth and be such a blessing.

Blessings
Raye Ann

Sandra Heska King said...

@Bridget: Me, too. I pray He'd give me the faith to stand.

@Raye Ann: Wow! This post is a lot longer than I usually write. Thanks for hanging with it. Your comment has made me cry now. Hugs!

Lynda Young said...

In regards to whether you'd do the same in a situation like Cassie's, I've often wondered that myself. What if I couldn't? This upset me for some time. I felt like a failed Christian because I couldn't honestly say I would do the same. I talked to a fellow Christian about it and they reminded me that when Jesus was betrayed, the disciples ran away because they were afraid. Peter went as far as to deny Jesus. These disciples had seen Jesus' miracles firsthand. They loved him and they had faith in him. But they 'failed' him. Regardless of this, Jesus forgave them.

Wonderful, heart-felt post, Sandra.

Glynn said...

Something died for our country at Columbine -- but something was born, too. You brought it all back and now I have to go compsoe myself. Beautiful post, Sandra.

katdish said...

Thank you for your honesty. I've often asked myself, do I dare pray that God would make me completely dependent on Him?

Great post.

Sandra Heska King said...

@Lynda: What a comfort to realize that Jesus knows our flaws and our future--just like He knew the disciples would run away and Peter would deny Him--and that they would one day die for Him--before He ever chose them.

@Glynn: Tertullian said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

@Kathy: It's what he wants. But it's scary cuz sometimes I think if I *really* do that, He might just rip my life apart--forgetting that He gives the strength, the grace, and the JOY.

lynnmosher said...

Wow, Sandy! What a powerful post! I'm so glad I got to read it. It is definitely a test that we all pray we pass, isn't it? Blessings to you!

Lorna G. Poston said...

Wow, Sandra. I'd like to think I'd "be faithful to the end." I hope if it comes to that, I will. The choice between dying for Jesus and spending eternity in heaven or denying Him and living a little longer on earth, then missing out on that reward...well, there is no choice, is there. :)

Janet Lyn said...

Thank you for being so brave and so honest, Sandra. You said what most people don't even like to think about. And you said it so well. Good, thought-provoking piece.

S. Etole said...

These thoughts have crossed my mind more than once ... I know He supplies strength and grace as we need it ... these words were powerful and honest

M.L. Gallagher said...

This post is really powerful -- and this comment really resonated:
"And I can't expect different results. If I bring comfort, I'll make others uncomfortable. If I make peace, I'll stir up trouble."

What I found so moving was the honesty and beauty of your words. Thank you!

Louise

Deb Holmes said...

Wow, what a powerful post. Thanks for your thought provoking and challenging words. We do need to say yes every moment of every day.

Sandra Heska King said...

@Lynne @Lorna @Janet Lyn @Susan @Louise @Deb: You all have blessed me with your comments!

I hope none of us has to face the ultimate test, and yet what a privilege that would be. In the meantime, I need to clean out all the rocky soil in my life and let the roots grow deep and firm.

Thank you all for visiting.

Billy Coffey said...

"If I'm not suffering in some form, even subtly, I need to reassess my life."

There's a lot of truth in that statement. And we all should do everything we need in order to say Yes every day.

That was wonderful, Sandra.

Sandra Heska King said...

Thanks, Billy. I was just thinking about how I've gotten pretty good at saying "No" to stuff cuz "Yes" was so much easier. I don't want to not say "Yes" when it really counts!

Lea Sims said...

Wow, SO powerful, Snady! I love the Jesus Freaks martyrs book - it sits on my nightstand as we speak.

Your last statement in your comment above - "I don't want to not say 'Yes' when it really counts" brought to mind something my pastor's wife has been telling our women for some time...

Every time we say "yes" to something, it inherently means we are saying "no" to an infinite number of other things. When we say "yes" to church on Sunday, we are saying "no" to the comfort of sleeping in, "no" to a leisurely me-focused morning, "no" to whatever else might replace that time.

The opposite is, unfortunately, also true. When we say "yes" to everything that pulls at us, we often say "no" to God without even realizing it. When I say "yes" to the TV, I am saying "no" to more time in God's Word and in prayer. How often do we examine every "no" inherent in every "yes"?

I may have to blog on that topic myself...LOL

Love your blog, girl. Keep 'em coming...

JoAnne Bennett said...

Sandra, I think good writing is one that keeps stirring around in your mind long after you read the article. For several days now, I've been thinking about your thought-provoking words :). I believe as Christians, perhaps not with the same intensity as having a gun pointed towards our head, but we are still being asked to take a stand in our faithfulness when there is so much craziness going on around us. Thanks for sharing!

Sandra Heska King said...

@Lea: I can't read too many of those stories at once! I love your pastor's perspective on yes and no. Do blog on that. I'll be watching. And, BTW, those cakes are beautiful!

@JoAnne: Thanks so much for your comment. We have guns of many types pointed at us these days. Standing for faith in spite of the craziness is a challenge.

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