The Apostle Paul made a statement many of us struggle with, “…indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8 (NKJV).
In the book Triumphant Church, Dr Piper gives the following story he heard relayed by Richard Wurmbrand:
“One of the stories he tells is about a Cistercian abbot who was interviewed on Italian television. The interviewer was especially interested in the Cistercian tradition of living in silence and solitude. So he asked the abbot “And what if you were to realise at the end of your life that atheism is true, that there is no God?….The abbot replied, “Holiness, silence and sacrifice are beautiful in themselves, even without the promise of reward.”
Is that true? No, as romantic and beautiful as this sounds, it is not true according to Philippians 3:8-10. Paul suffered the loss of all things, not for its own sake, but as a means of experiencing something more beautiful, “that I may gain Christ.” Those who are persecuted for Christ have experienced more suffering but also more joy than most of us could ever imagine; when they are emptied out, they can be further filled.
Recently in Vietnam, a 49-year-old woman named Dinh was assaulted for sharing her faith. When she refused to sign a document that would indicate the renunciation of her faith, an official poured boiling water on her legs. As tragic as this story is, her decision proves something: Dinh loves Jesus more than she does her own legs. Can you and I say the same thing?
In the book Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand states the following:
“I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonful’s of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold—and praying with fervour for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.”
This month’s challenge: In his sermon titled, The Beauty of Nothing Richard Wurmbrand recounts how he and his wife would browse shopping centres, to look at all the items for sale and give thanks to God for the various luxuries that they have learned to live without because of their contentment in Christ. As you substitute luxuries for Christ, consider giving what is saved to persecuted brothers and sisters.