Every once in a while, I notice a lesson that God teaches the national churches of the world that believers in the West need to pay heed to. We live in the midst of an increasingly fractured society that is desperately searching for direction, stability, and love. At the same time, many believers are increasingly discouraged by current events and their subsequent consequences. In this present environment, a believers' testimony in Christ should be thriving and shining, as we exhibit a different Spirit within us compared to the world. But many times, we lose sight of this reality and inadvertently fall back into "pre-born again" thinking and acting. And this leads me to share with you a story from Laos that crossed my desk recently. It is meant to inspire and encourage believers here in the West who are disheartened by the events of 2020.
Pastor Samuel lives in a rugged area in southern Laos—one with a history of intense persecution against Christians. Though he endures hardships and harassment because of his commitment to Christ, he radiates a beautiful life filled with hope and peace, letting others see Jesus. Years ago, when the police discovered that Samuel was a pastor, they made his life very difficult. Cassava, a potato-like root vegetable, is grown by villagers for food, and some are sold to buy other necessities of life. But the police have forbidden Samuel from selling anything due to his religious beliefs. Despite this, he continually praises God for the chance to share his faith openly and demonstrate true contentment.
Christians in his village are also prohibited from gathering water from nearby wells because of their faith in God. This form of persecution has made life very difficult for the believers, who must walk far from home to collect water. So, a year ago, the Lord gave Pastor Samuel an alternative solution to solve this problem. He purchased plastic piping to carry water from the mountain streams to a tank in his village. The access to fresh water was not only a gift to the Christians, but one Samuel made available to everyone—regardless of their personal religious beliefs. The water is superior to that in the well, and this act of kindness has made a lasting impact on the community. As a result, many more villagers have turned to Jesus despite the active persecution.
Samuel was not offended, discouraged, outraged, embittered, or vengeful. It was not his wish to retaliate against the perceived roadblocks set up by Satan and enforced by the government authorities. Persecution based upon his faith in God and taking various forms will never deter him from his mission in life to share the Gospel. Basically, his "life-outlook" was and is, "Oh Well," and then he moves on, putting his trust in God to supply a solution. This is not fatalism on his part, but FAITH and TRUST in a Loving God and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit! Being mature enough spiritually to realize that God is in control of all situations and developments, he perseveres and lives by this verse:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12 NASB).
Rather than being dependent upon a fleshly, human approach to life's challenges, he relies upon the Holy Spirit to provide a way through the hardships and inconveniences placed before him. He refuses to take "NO" for an answer and undauntingly continues to share his faith and display true contentment while "radiating a beautiful life filled with hope and peace." He understands that to be a living example for those searching for truth, he must walk as a triumphant follower of Christ—or as Jesus refers to the victorious believers in the book of Revelation as— an Overcomer! (Rev 2 & 3)
Life's hardships and discouragements are inevitable. But believers cannot allow anything to hinder them from trusting God to work out the details of life on our behalf, as His children. Consider how Paul instructed Timothy to face hardships:
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4 NASB).
This sort of godly lifestyle and bondservant attitude (Philippians 2:8-11) is overwhelmingly common in the national churches of the world that are growing large, deep, and strong in Christ. We should not be surprised when we hear of hopeless, searching, and lost souls gravitating to Christians who walk through life in such a manner. This has always been the goal of Jesus for His church… handling life's challenges as difficulties, not insurmountable problems—
…and behaving as Overcomers.
To end this letter, here is a special message we received from our national church planting partners in Serbia: “Unbelievers are closely watching Christians and the Church. They see that we are happy, that God takes care of us, and that we are at peace. They see that Christians are convinced that if we die, we go to a better place and that we have hope in our Lord! With this letter, I want to thank all the Empower donors who have helped our poor Roma people because we are currently in a hard situation. I know it is a hard situation globally, but your gifts are helping us survive the winter with food and firewood. Thank you all very much.”
Those of us at Empower Ministries also wish to reiterate these same sentiments.
"Thank you all very much."
This has been an incredible year to be alive, as we are seeing God move in mighty ways in dozens of countries around the world. God bless you and your families and have a wonderful, “hope-filled” New Year.