Is there someone in your life who you long to see experiencing the more that a relationship with Christ brings? Do you find you lack the right words to articulate just how much your faith means to you, and wish that you could communicate it in a way that really has impact?
One of our main focuses this year at Walking with Purpose has been encouraging everyone to take seriously the call from Christ to “see to it that no one misses the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15). We've encouraged you all to prayerfully consider who you can invite to WWP in the fall. We've worked hard to bring you a top notch new Bible study, Opening Your Heart, which will both challenge the veteran and lay a solid spiritual foundation for the beginner, allowing you to grow right alongside the woman you invited.
When we step out of our comfort zone and invite someone to join us on our spiritual journey, lives are changed. We are able to experience the rush of being used by God and there is, quite simply, nothing like it. That being said, I think there's a real opportunity for us to do some wordless preaching this summer, and it might have the greatest impact of all.
I recently came across the writings of a Romanian pastor named Josef Tson. He considers suffering well to be the greatest way of preaching. Suffering well shows others that God is real.
When I read something like that, I have to pause. I can think of a lot of ways that I would prefer to preach than to suffer, and suddenly the thought of explaining why my faith matters to me sounds like the more appealing option. But at the same time, I know that suffering inevitably crosses my path no matter how often I try to avoid it. The thought that it can have an impact on the people I love-the ones who are watching to see if my faith makes a difference, the ones who aren't asking me to give them a theological explanation of anything, but who are looking for hope and peace- that makes me want to hear more of what he had to say.
Pastor Tson was arrested and imprisoned several times for his faith. While being interrogated by six officials, he said the following:
What is taking place here is not an encounter between you and me. This is an encounter between my God and me . . . My God is teaching me a lesson [through you]. I do not know what it is. Maybe He wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do and you will not go one inch further-because you are only an instrument of my Lord.
During an earlier interrogation, an official threatened to kill him. Pastor Tson replied with these words:
You should know your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Now here is how it works, sirs: You know that my sermons are on tape all over the country. When you shoot me or crush me, whichever way you choose, [you] only sprinkle my sermons with my blood. Everybody who has a tape of one of my sermons will pick it up and say, “I had better listen again. This man died for what he preached.” Sir, my sermons will speak 10 times louder after you kill me and because you kill me. In fact, I will conquer this country for God because you killed me. Go on and do it.
After he said this, Pastor Tson was sent home. He later heard that a different official was interrogating another pastor and told him, “We know that Mr. Tson would love to be a martyr, but we are not that foolish to fulfill his wish.”
There is something incredibly powerful about a person who loves Jesus enough to suffer with grace and without fear. A life lived on a platform of suffering is challenging, and there are certainly days when it feels unbearable. But one thing it most definitely is not, is meaningless.
Even the smallest bit of suffering can be replete with meaning when it causes us to preach without words. A woman who suffers graciously leaves people utterly dumbfounded. Everyone expects her to fall apart, to be bitter, to give up. But when she stares down fear, people begin to wonder if her God is real. They wonder if she's drawing from a difference source of strength than what they are accessing. They sense that there's something more in her life, something more than what they are experiencing.
I don't know what's going to cross each of our paths this summer. I'm guessing it won't all be rainbows and sunshine. Let's make a choice to receive all that comes our way-both the pleasant and the painful-with a determination to not waste an ounce of it. May we take every beautiful moment and make it an opportunity to thank God who sent it. And may we take every challenging one, and thank Him for the opportunity to shine in the darkness. People we love are watching to see what makes us different. May our words, actions, and attitudes quietly reveal that God is real, and that His grace is enough.