A few weeks ago we took a sweet little boat ride up river to visit dear friends. No big deal. Just two hours of zigzagging through mazes of dead trees in a tiny leaking boat, to reach a remote village in the mountains with no electricity, phones or latrines, where there was a real possibility of getting arrested for being a Jesus follower…like I said, no big deal.
Our friends were discouraged. They had been questioned intensely by the police for several days. They were told to stop believing in the “foreign” religion and return to the traditional worship of spirits and ancestors. They were threatened with arrest. They were being persecuted for following Jesus.
Our friends were led to testify, “We cannot stop believing in Jesus. We were once sick and tormented by the spirits. Neither the shamans nor doctors could help us. We sacrificed many pigs and chickens but nothing helped. Jesus was the one who healed us and we cannot deny Him, not even for a minute.”
We spent a considerable amount of time with our friends encouraging them from Scripture. We told stories, ate and prayed together. They came to understand that true joy and growth comes through hardship and persecution. We left them with a renewed hope and confidence in Jesus.
The boat ride back got me thinking all philosophical. You see, we get all pumped and excited about mission and living for Jesus but we never get excited about suffering for Him. We think that joy can be found in our artificial experiences of worship and fellowship. Truth is…joy comes in hardship. In the circumstances that are out of our control. That’s when we believe and see the power and faithfulness of God. It is in those times that we experience a heavenly stillness leading to an explosion of heavenly joy.
Suffering is the way of Jesus and the ultimate display of His glory. If you have any desire to make Jesus more famous, then it is the way for you.