Paul says, “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Eph 3:13). This morning, John Piper reminded us that God has appointed suffering and prayer to bring the nations to Christ. I am so moved by the countless testimonies of suffering for the sake of the gospel that I have heard, both from the main plenary speakers as well as the individual leaders that I have met. Let me share with you a few.
Libby Little’s husband Tom was among ten people martyred in Afghanistan two months ago. She shared her testimony and brought the whole gathering to tears, myself included. However the last message that Tom shared with the team before they were murdered came from Eph 5:2, “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Benjamin Kwashi, archbishop of Nigeria, was traveling in America in 2006 when forty people came to his house to kill him. Since he was not home, they dragged out his wife and beat until she was half dead and totally blind. They stayed in Nigeria to serve. A year later they came back to kill him. This time he was home. They dragged him out of his house and into the street to beat him to death. Then, his persecutors decided to take him back into the house to kill him in his bedroom. He asked them to allow him to pray before they took him back to the house. Archbishop Kwashi prostrated himself on that street and prayed to the Lord for mercy. Five minutes later, he felt his wife’s hand in his own, and his son next to him. God had miraculously saved him from death.
On the bus last night, I met Jonathan. He is the leader of the Indian Evangelists Association. As an evangelist, he frequently preaches the gospel in places of great opposition. Once he was taken with his two young daughters and beaten very badly in the streets, right in front of his daughters. However he continues to serve in ministry. Why? He told me about the gravestone of a Baptist missionary who had served India for a hundred years with little fruit. On it was inscribed, “I gave my life for you.” He said that just as Jesus gave his life, so this Baptist missionary had given his life, and so he would also give his life for the sake of the gospel.
Our sufferings are our joy. Our sufferings may not be the concrete and dramatic examples of persecution that we share. Nevertheless, any investment of love and care in another person inevitably leads to suffering. The pain of loving another person as yourself is never easy. As we step out in obedience, God will inevitably lead us as we take up our cross daily and follow Him. May we be faithful in His calling.