Show Me Your Scars
The current population of the world (2-2019) is reported to be 7.7 billion with 2.3 billion Christians. About 2/3 of the world’s Christians live in difficult or unfriendly places. Those of us in the Western World are almost oblivious to the difficulties in other lands. It varies from extreme persecution of death to the difficulties of getting a good job or apartment because non-Christians will not hire Christians or rent to Christians.
Christianity was birthed into persecution and spread in spite of persecution. Following Jesus is not an easy way. As Christians we worship in edifices of spectacular cathedrals to the primitive coverings of woven palm fronds suspended from wooden poles. Some worship services are broadcast around the world while others are in huddled, cramped, dim-lit rooms.
Jesus made a surprising statement in Matthew 10:21-25 (NKJV),
(21) “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.
(22) And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
(23) When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
(24) “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
(25) It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!
Jesus warned His followers that difficulties and persecutions would come to them. Not counting Judas Iscariot, history tells us that all but Apostle John died a martyr’s death.
No one’s persecution was recorded as the Apostle Paul’s. In Galatians 6:17 (NKJV) he reported, “for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”. Many ministers have their credentials (ordination certificate) framed and placed on their office walls (as do I) yet Paul’s credentials were the scars on his body from being beat, stoned, and jailed. He could have shown his scars. He was an old soldier who had been in the thick of battle against the forces of evil in this fallen world. He was a Kingdom of God warrior who was known in the Situation Room of Satan.
His love for Jesus and the church was unmatched. The Gospel he preached radically changed the world. He made an interesting and often mis-interrupted statement in Colossians 1:24 (NKJV), “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church”.
The Apostle was not saying the sufferings of Christ were insufficient (the crucified Savior is the sufficient sacrifice for all sin) but the persecutions were not finished but continued through the saints. The sacrifice of Christ was finished but the afflictions of Christ continue in those still in the fight. The body of Christ is the “body” of Christ not just figurative. The ministry of Christ continues through Spirit-filled saints. So, do not despair when you suffer difficulties for Christ but rejoice as they did in the early church, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41 NKJV).
Paul outlined some of the things he suffered. By the way, when he penned these words he was not finished. There were other difficulties, persecutions, and martyrdom in his future. He lists his persecutions and difficulties in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 (NKJV) that put us to shame:
HE WAS THE EXAMPLE OF A SUFFERING SERVANT
(v. 23) Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.
HE SUFFERED PERSECUTION
(vv. 24-25) From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. / Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;
HE PERSEVERED THROUGH DANGERS
(v. 26) in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
HE ENDURED DIFFICULTIES
(v. 27) in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—
HE CARRIED THE BURDEN OF THE CHURCH
(v. 28) besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
Present day Christians are not immune to persecution. It is a present reality in many parts of the world. The next great awakening may be fueled with the blood of the saints and illuminated through the fires of persecution.
So, the next time we are sad or discouraged because we were overlooked at church or teased at work, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “Show me your scars!”
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt