Monday, October 15, 2007

Vista from the Voice:

One of the most addicting things for me has been reading the monthly issues of The Voice of the Martyrs, mainly because after bemoaning something as little as a new zit popping up on my face, I am humbled to silence after learning the persecution that many of our brothers and sisters are enduring for the name of Christ all over the world.

November 11, 2007 will be the "International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church." So each week leading up to that time, I would like to use this blog to call attention to something we can learn from the moving stories of these suffering saints.

God will use your tribulations to awaken the hearts of the lost:
Tom White tells us that 80% of India’s population is Hindu. The remaining 20% is largely Muslim. But squeezed into this polyglot population we find many of our brothers and sisters in Christ still breathing; making up 2.3% of the Indian pie. Most of this 2.3% block consists of Dalits. These are the “untouchables;” the lowest in the Hindu caste system. Converting to Christ exacts a high cost to anyone living in India because seven states now have anti-conversion laws. These laws are not binding on anyone who converts to Hinduism; only to those who convert to Christianity. Of course, according to the Indian government this is no double standard!

One man recently counted the cost and has an amazing story to tell. His name is Narayan Gowda. Gowda’s conversion to Christ is a great witness to how God uses tribulations and suffering, not only to purify His people, but to save his people. You might ask, what do you mean? Well, Gowda is not only suffering for Christ now as a new believer, but it was through his persecution of believers that he himself became a believer.

As a young man, Gowda was taken to what is known as “Hindutva training camps,” where he was taught to use violence against anyone who did not subscribe to the Hindu religion. He says, “Every time we did some ‘brave’ exploits like intimidating or beating up some unarmed Christian preacher . . . we were treated like heroes, garlanded, given respect and provided with plenty of liquor . . .”

One day, Gowda was sent to tear down a Christian church in the city of Yeshwantpur, near Bangalore. This was a small brick building roofed with asbestos sheets, and paid for by many year’s worth of faithful contributions by church members, most of whom were poor, migrant farmers. Gowda and his gang used hammers, pickaxes, and any other tools they could find to tear this church building down. Then they went to lynch and kill the pastor and his family, but to his surprise, the pastor had providentially sent his family away, and was himself in a prayer meeting away from his home. When the police arrived with the pastor to the pile of rubble that was once a church only a day prior, the police were shocked when the pastor refused to name Gowda and his gang as suspects, knowing that they had done it. You can still go to the police station and find in their files the police report naming the pastor, and the fact that he prayed on site for the forgiveness of his would-be assassins.

If this wasn’t over the top, what shocks me even more is that instead of crusading for the conviction of these would-be assassins, the entire church came together and began fasting and praying for the salvation of each gang member by name. Gowda continued to persecute Christians, but knowing the inexplicable love of these Christians began to impale him in his spirit.

It was not long before Gowda found a Bible in his mother's home, and although he was enraged at her outwardly, he began reading it privately. He was so moved by reading this book that he gave his heart to the Lord. Today, Gowda serves the Lord alongside the same pastor who’s life he once threatened.

But turning to the Lord has exacted a high cost, because he who was once the persecutor has now become the persecuted. Since his conversion, Gowda has been kicked out of his family’s house, surrounded by a mob of 150 Hindu radicals and beaten, doused with gasoline in an attempt to set him aflame. His house, furniture, and Bible have all been burned; yet miraculously, he himself was not burned. Yet, all of these flames were not effective enough to ignite as a single candle in destroying Gowda's faith, especially when compared to the flame for Christ that now burns in his heart.

How do we respond to such unbelievable news? What we can learn from this news is that our sovereign God has ordained, not only the suffering of His Son on the Cross; But He has ordained our sufferings as well to awaken the hearts of the lost. I Peter 3:12 commands us, "Having your conversation (way of life) honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." This verse is telling us that just as Gowda can now glorify God on the day of judgment because of the love of suffering saints, God will bring lost people into your path who may also be saved as a result of your faithfulness in the midst of tribulation.

Now you might be saying to yourself, "After hearing this heartwrenching story, we in America don't even know what suffering is." There is some truth to that statement. But know that whatever arises in your life that tempts you to question the goodness and mercy of God is tribulation, and God will use your rejoicing in spite of these tribulations (Matthew 5:11-12, Romans 5:3) to pierce the hearts of the lost. Rejoicing in spite of tribulations is humanly impossible, and can only be possessed by possessing the mind of Christ. Trust me; the lost will be shocked by your revolutionary way of thinking and will privately investigate the truth, with the end result very likely being their salvation (II Timothy 3:15).

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