The unknown author of the letter to the Hebrews, makes a challenging statement in Hebrews 11:1. He states: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (NKJV) This statement highlights the genuine struggle we Christians have; physical circumstances dictate one reality to the physical eye, while the Word of God another, the spiritual eye of faith.
In Matthew 5:3, Jesus makes a confusing statement which highlights this struggle: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Physical circumstances would write off such people as ‘sinners’ and ‘hopeless’ but Jesus labels them blessed – who knew that such sinners were actually on the precipice of salvation! While most of us Christians would give a resounding Amen to this, I am not sure we would we be so eager to agree with the following statement in Matthew 5:10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (NKJV)
India is ranked the 10th most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian. A primary reason for this is a philosophy held called Hindutva; that is, being a Hindu is seen as an essential quality of being Indian. Persecution and martyrdom have increased at an alarming rate. It is within this context that I want to share a story with you.
Due to the persecution, a pastor was unable to teach at a certain village because his life would be in danger for doing so. A 19-year-old man, barely three years in the faith decided that he would take the pastor’s place and lead the congregation by reading God’s word. He paid with his life for making that decision. Another woman, in the face of threats by elders in her home village, decided to start a church. For this she was stoned and is still recovering from her injuries.
Our subjective experiences would protest and say, “such things are an unnecessary waste”, but the objective reality of God’s Word triumphs and declares “blessed!” The physical eye despairs while the spiritual eye rejoices at such situations.
Conversely, in our prosperity, we can neglect the things of the kingdom by failing to preach the Gospel and highlight the plight of persecuted believers. We may even declare ourselves as “blessed” in this state. Jesus however explains the objective reality of such a state:
Revelation 3:17-18: “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (NKJV)
This month’s challenge: Perhaps you are afraid to share the Gospel or give generously to the persecuted. Perhaps your physical eye deems this as a waste. God’s word challenges this however and declares such things as blessed!