“How enriched you are when you bear the wounds of being persecuted for doing what is right! For that is when you experience the realm of heaven’s kingdom. Matthew 5:10 TPT
I had the amazing privilege in 2012 of sitting in a small room and sharing dinner and conversation with Pastor Peter Xu and his wife, along with his mentor Brother Fan, and some dear friends of ours. Peter Xu is the founder of an Evangelical Christian movement in China known as the “Born Again Movement”, which became the largest house church in China estimated at three to four million in the 90’s. In 1997, he was sentenced to three years in prison for his leadership role. Peter was Brother Yun’s (The Heavenly Man) mentor and spent many years together. They were imprisoned together in 1997. They had been beaten, tortured, starved, shocked, and so many other things, yet the eyes of peace pierced my soul with every word, with every glimpse that night.
As I sat on the floor at their feet, words were not the main attraction. The beauty of Jesus in these people was so overwhelming to me. I recognized the validity of the moment. I was immediately reminded of that glorious night back in Budapest. They had the same look, the same resolve.
I remember sitting on the floor totally moved by the glory of Jesus in their lives. I was intently listening, receiving all of Jesus that I could as every word was spoken. I was undone. Again, I could see as they shared from their hearts, they had found that same treasure as the others 25 years ago in my life. It was a look that was so unforgettable. It has taken me years and hours of conversation with the Lord to understand what it was I saw in their eyes. I have spent over 30 years now asking the Lord, “What was it that they knew? What was the profound revelation they received through persecution? What part of Jesus had they discovered? What was the treasure they had gained that was never mentioned? Lord, what is it, and can I dare ask for it?”
One day in the fall of 2017 the Lord surprisingly answered a few of my 30-year questions! I have already written about it in a previous chapter nestled in between the pages. Brother Yun said it this way, “I did not really suffer for Jesus while in prison—I was with Jesus”. Ok, so in my life I tend to taunt the obvious. Remember in chapter three when I wrote about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? The answer was hidden in the fire. Jesus, He was in the fire! They did not burn for Jesus; he was with them in their persecution. They walked and talked with Jesus in that furnace on that day! They saw God! Paraphrasing brother Yun,
In our culture of many signs and wonders and longing to see Heaven on earth, we must not forget the way to fullness is death: not for death’s sake but for life, eternal life. Every daily death we die is another invitation from the Lord to our world around us. This is how the Father invites our world into a free choice to choose Jesus. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego died to their own fear and lovingly honored God unto certain death. WOW BUT GOD! Jesus jumped in! That was the treasure. They found Jesus. Jesus was with them. Jesus was looking back at me through their Hungarian eyes in 1989 and again in 2012. After you come face to face with Jesus, after He talks to you there, how do you go back? You want to see him again and again. Your hunger becomes zealous love that burns like fire. The treasure, the secret was not a theology, a revelation, or a principle. It was not an aspect of Jesus. It WAS Jesus. It was The Revelator. It is what Paul was writing about when he said, “And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me. I will be one with him in his sufferings, and I will be one with him in his death. Only then will I be able to experience complete oneness with him in his resurrection from the realm of death.” Philippians 3:10-11 TPT
In our church society today, we spend much time asking for the spirit to manifest himself in our services or programs. And that is not bad in itself. God wants us to ask, and He loves to blow our hearts away and answer us with opened eyes, healed bodies, and delivered souls. But we must not leave out the whole word of God. This is New Testament scriptures from Jesus’ mouth. We must remember scripture says in our life there must be suffering, hardship, sacrifice, slander, and death to experience life and the fullness of what Jesus has for us. Biblically, the manifestations of God always come in the fire, in the testing. From Abraham, Noah, Jesus, John, and Paul, like Brother Yun, Brother Peter, or Brother Fan, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel, or my friends back in Budapest, they all had come to discover…
“I will be one with him in his sufferings, I will be one with him in his death. Only then will I be able to experience complete oneness with him in his resurrection from the realm of death.” Philippians 3:11 As Jesus said, “If you truly want to follow me, you should at once completely reject and disown your own life. And you must be willing to share my cross and experience it as your own, as you continually surrender to my ways. For if you choose self-sacrifice and lose your lives for my glory, you will continually discover true life” Matthew 16:24-25 TPT. We have to trust the Lord and his leadership. He knows our future and destiny. God is a good Father. “He is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us. And just as we experience the abundance of Christ’s own sufferings, even more of God’s comfort will cascade upon us through our union with Christ” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. TPT
Jesus will be with you, revealed in your trials, affliction, slander, loss, and persecution. Just as Jesus suffered for the world to see his humility and gentleness, he is asking us, as ambassadors of reconciliation to display our lives so the world can see the light shining bright. We cannot hoard the comforts of our lives as our greed consumes our love, choking out our first love. Many of our brethren have settled into the belief that a successful walk with the Lord or maturity is obtained when life is without conflict, my bank account is full, my family is healthy, and I can do whatever I please in Jesus’ name. I beseech you, I plead with you, implore you that is the path to compromise, torment, back to bondage, and even hell. Out of love for the lover of our soul, Jesus, we must give ourselves to the purifying fire of our God that comes through suffering.
What is your affliction? Who is your accuser? Where is your persecution surrounding you? We all will suffer! Whether tortured for Christ going to church in China, or for smuggling bibles in Europe, or for being lied about as a public educator, or for being slandered at the marketplace, Jesus sees it all. I understand that most who will read this book have not suffered physical torture, abuse, or brutal persecution as a direct result of following Jesus. I want to speak directly to that, directly into those who have belittled your suffering and loss. God is preparing His Bride for a great time of darkness and a great time of light. God has placed you where you are for this time in history. Where God has placed you and the suffering you do experience is your training, specifically for God’s divine purposes. Do not take your afflictions lightly whatever they may be. It is YOUR CROSS. Only you and Jesus know the depth of pain, the valley of darkness, and the mountains of great victory that you have experienced. As I champion for your destiny, I also write to beseech you to take this opportunity to look within yourself.
Take time right now and ask the Lord, “Lord, am I living unashamedly for you, boldly proclaiming the righteousness of the Lord? Will you search my heart and guard me from the deception of apathy and comfort? I want to give myself to you wholeheartedly, willing to deny myself, take up my cross and follow you. Lord, wherever you go, together we go.” Spend a few minutes or hours before with the Lord talking with each other.
Jesus, I set my heart before You with gratitude and trembling. I pray for grace and strength to those being persecuted all over the world. I lay my life on the potter’s wheel in surrender. Refine me, mold me, create in me a pure heart. Jesus I continually long to know your wonders more fully and to experience the overflowing power of your resurrection working in me. I will be one with you in your sufferings, and I will be one with you in your death. Only then will I be able to experience complete oneness with you in your resurrection from the realm of death.” (Philippians 3:10-11 paraphrased) Give me grace to see your blessings when my commitment to you provokes persecution: the persecution that allows me ownership to the Your kingdom. I will not fear or be ashamed. I await your glory and joy as I walk through many trials, hardships, and suffering. Let my life be your invitation to the world around me.
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