Monday, October 8, 2007

Would you walk through the Valley?

Anytime I get a little full of myself, I think about the martyrs. It's easy to stand for Christ in America - we have freedom of religious expression.

But would I be so bold in the parts of the world where Christians are persecuted? Could I be a bold Christian in Iran, where death or imprisonment is a real consequence? China? the Gaza Strip?

Compared to those Christians, I am nothing short of a coward. In America, we worry about what our neighbors will THINK of us if we express our faith - not if they will kill us or imprison us. I am in no danger of being stoned, decapitated, or thrown into prison. Yet everyday - in other parts of the world - Christians boldly stand for Christ in the face of these dangers. Wow.

So, would I walk through the valley - NO. At least not alone. Not without the Holy Spirit. But, that's okay. Even the disciples denied Jesus when He was crucified. They were afraid of the consequences - afraid of suffering His fate. But Jesus said this:

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot cannot accept him, becuase it neither sees him or knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14: 16-18.

Once they received the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the disciples then boldly preached the Gospel seemingly unafraid of the consequences and in some cases they even seemed to look forward to their eventual demise as an honor. One last tribute to the One they knew and loved - Jesus.

So why did Jesus fret so much about His fate. So much so that He asked God to spare Him if it were possible. He said that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. The Gospel of Luke describes Him as being in anguish. The reason - Jesus had to face the cross alone. As He bore the sins of the world even God had to look away from Him. Matthew explains that at about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

In that single greatest act of love, Jesus didn't deny us. And yet, everyday we deny Him with our silence, our lifestyles, our compromises, our stinginess, and so on and so on.

There is a beautiful song I used to feel apprehensive about singing along with because I wasn't sure if I could truly mean the words - so I'd sing it as a prayer. But I don't think about it that way anymore. If God wants me to walk through a valley, I'll never have to go alone.

If you want me to . . .

The pathway is broken, and the signs are unclear. And I don't know the reason why you brought me here. But just because you love me the way that you do, I'm gonna walk through the valley if you want me to.

'Cause I'm not who I was when I took my first step. And I'm clinging to the promise you're not through with me yet. So if all of these trials bring me closer to you, Then I will go through the fire if you want me to.

It may not be the way I would have chosen. When you lead me through a world that's not my home. But you never said it would be easy, You only said I'll never go alone.

So when the whole world turns against me and I'm all be myself, And I can't hear you answer my cries for help. I'll remember the suffering your love put you through. And I will go through the valley - If you want me to.

- Ginny Owens

From her album - Without Condition


Nicole said...

If you haven't read Randy Alcorn's Safely Home, you should. It is one of the most powerful novels ever written on this exact subject.

I'm glad you don't take the "idea" of martyrdom lightly. We have no idea what it's like to be tortured for our faith. To watch our loved ones maimed or raped in front of us to get us to deny the only One who can save them and us. It's a horror none of us can adequately anticipate or want to.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Nicole: Many have recommended that book and I'm not sure I can read it. My fear is that it will just be a laundry list of the horrors faced by Christians I feel powerless to help (physically that is).

Schlinder's List was tough enough to get through.

Janet Rubin said...

I read Voice of the Martyrs newsletter. It is excellent and get my perspective back in focus. And I love Ginny Owens and that song. Let's pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted!

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Amen, Janet.

Nicole said...

It's the perspective and the story in that novel, Dayle. One of the few poignant life-changing novels. There are few novels I suggest Christians "should" read. This happens to be one which "should" be required reading.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

I'll add it to my list.