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Just as Pastor Li Dexian began his sermon, the doors of the house church burst open. Armed officers of the Chinese Public Security Bureau poured into the room, threatening everyone present and grabbing Li to arrest him.

“Wait, please allow me to grab my bag.” As always, the pastor’s tone with the officers was polite yet firm.

The officers were surprised at the request. “What’s in there?” they demanded, grabbing the black zippered bag Li held and ripping it open. The bag contained a blanket and a spare change of clothes, Li told them, because he had been expecting to be arrested that day.

Pastor Li had been arrested many times. Twice, police had beaten him to the point that he vomited blood, and one time Li’s face was beaten with his own Bible. Li was warned that police were watching the village where he held his Tuesday meetings. He knew if he showed up to preach, he would be imprisoned. Today, Chinese citizens can be sent to labor camps for up to three years without a formal trial.

The risks were great, but Li’s bag was packed. More than having a bag packed, though, he had his mind and heart prepared. He was willing to pay any cost to preach the gospel. He was convinced God would care for him—even in prison.

Readiness is a sign of commitment. Commitment that is unprepared to sacrifice is merely compromise in disguise. For example, consider the marriage commitment. It costs one’s selfishness and deals a heavy blow to one’s sense of independence. However, the result is a stronger marriage. Relationships that are not ready to sacrifice for the sake of commitment do not last. Compromise takes a steady toll and weakens our desire and ability to be committed. In the same way, the believer’s commitment to Christ must exact a price in order to maintain its value. We must prepare for the test of our commitment by daily affirming that Christianity is worth it. It’s worth spending our time in daily prayer. It’s worth gathering for worship at church. It’s worth enduring hardship and trial, abuse, and even arrest for the privilege of maintaining our commitment without compromise.

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