Would you still do it?
Most Christ followers in the Western world work on this equation: lead many to Christ = Success. Pastors who lead churches to grow large get invited to speak at conferences and seminars. Believers who win a lot of people to Christ are held up as models for others. The idea, I think, is to encourage others to do share the gospel and promote the goal of winning the world to Christ. Makes sense.
But, what if being really effective at sharing the gospel wouldn’t get you on a magazine cover but a prison sentence? What if starting a movement of Jesus would get you killed instead of promoted? Would you still do it?
That was the reality for the apostles. They brought multitudes to Christ, wrote the New Testament, saw miracles and got statues made of themselves by later generations. But before you apply for the job, let’s not forget that one of the marks of an apostle was to suffer for the Gospel. Jesus told Paul from the beginning that he would suffer for Him. And Paul went without food, was chased from town to town, imprisoned, ridiculed and eventually killed for his faith. I don’t think he even had a 401k or dental plan.
In some parts of the word, suffering is a reality for many who are leading movements of Jesus. There are believers in China who lead networks over literally millions. That’s a big church! But they also spend much of their time in jail or under government surveillance. Some workers I have heard and read about cannot be identified by name or place because of security concerns. They may lead movements of millions, but very few know about them. I am not only humbled by their commitment and obedience, but personally challenged.
Threats do not deter a true Spirit-led follower. Not even death threats. Why? Because he/she has already died. Jesus said “Anyone who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” That is, we must die to ourselves – our plans, privileges, self-direction, etc. If someone is already dead, you can’t change their minds by threatening to take their life away – they already gave it away to Another!
Last year I had a cardiac arrest and was without a pulse on the floor of a gym. Only 7% of people who have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital live to tell about it. Not only did I live, but I have no heart damage and full energy once again (I ran 3 miles on Sunday). But I am aware that any life I have has been granted by God — so how can I do anything but say “yes” to whatever he wants of me?
The same is true for everyone, though. We were all dead in our trespasses and sins, but God made us alive again through Christ. So, let’s live today not for ourselves, but for Jesus. Let’s not evaluate His commands against our comfort and preferences, let’s remember we are already dead and thus have no preferences or claim to comfort. That is true living!
I am very aware that as an American pastor I don’t get penalized for sharing the faith or obeying Jesus (at least not much). BUt I don’t want to assume that will always be true.
What would you do for God if it really didn’t matter what your salary was, what people said, or where you lived?