Staying the course

Staying true to the Lord in uncertain times, by David Williams

I recently received a shocking email from a Sudanese pastor who was a student at the Bible College where I worked in Nairobi. He sent me graphic photos of the 172 people who had been murdered in his village. Other pictures showed the scars on his own body following three days of vicious torture. He has been separated from his wife and children for two years.

But despite all this, he continues to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

The letter to the Hebrews is written to suffering Christians. Surprisingly, it teaches us that the greatest risks for us when we face persecution are not physical pain or premature death. Violence cannot end my relationship with Jesus, although it might mean I meet him face to face sooner than I’d expected. The Christians in Hebrews have experienced physical violence, imprisonment and the confiscation of their property. They are warned about the risks of drifting, disconnecting and disobeying.

First, they are warned about the risk of drifting from God’s gospel (Heb 2:1). Drifting is easy – it takes no effort: we just lie back and let the current take us. Drifting from the gospel is easy – we just allow the current of secular opinion to sweep us away. The antidote to drifting is to pay careful attention to the gospel, to keep coming back to God’s Word and marvelling at the glory of the Lord Jesus.

Second, they are warned about the risk of disconnecting from God’s people (Heb 10:25). When your fellow believers are jailed because they confessed Jesus as Lord, will you go and visit them in prison? Or will you stay away? Would you keep meeting with God’s people if that increased your risk of persecution? Hebrews teaches us to stay connected, even if that connection is costly.

Third, they are warned about the risk of disobeying God’s Word (Heb 12:1-2). We are running a race and we dare not get tripped up. It is not a loose shoelace that might lead to a tumble, but the sin that so easily entangles us. Hebrews exhorts us to throw off sin and fix our eyes on Jesus.

These are important lessons for us in Australia. The signs are unmistakable – attitudes to Christian faith are hardening, society is becoming increasingly secular and alienated from its Christian heritage. Hostility and opposition are the new normal. Perhaps real persecution lies in our future. So we would do well to prepare ourselves so that we don’t drift, disconnect and disobey. Hebrews is clear that we do this by immersing ourselves in God’s Word. We need to be reminded of the truth of the gospel in all its depth and glory. This may not be a comfortable experience.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

But it is much better to be pierced by the sword of God’s Word and stand firm, than to be pierced by the sword of persecution and give up.

David Williams is CMS Victoria’s Development and Training Secretary. David trains our new missionaries at St Andrew’s Hall, CMS Australia’s national training college.

David and his wife Rachel served as missionaries in Nairobi, Kenya for nine years.

Training tomorrow’s missionaries

St Andrew’s Hall, is currently undergoing a redevelopment. This will help increase the amount of rooms available for potential missionary families, as well as increase our number of training rooms. Our hope is to secure our future training facilities for the next generation, so that a family who is following His call to ‘go’, will never be turned away.

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