How strong is your faith in God? How much hardship will you suffer for God? To what extremes will you continue and forge ahead not to fail God? Will you keep holding onto your faith even if your life is threatened because of your faith?
Some weeks ago I received an e-mail pleading for prayer:
A friend from Ohio just got a text message from her brother asking her to shower him and his parish in prayer. He is part of a mission team and ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going from house to house to all the Christians asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has.
And so far all have consequently been killed.
But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families – even if it implies their own deaths.
He is very afraid and has no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have seen their children martyred. Yet he says he knows God has called him for some reason to be his voice and hands at this place at this time. Even so, he is begging prayers for his courage to live out his vocation in such dire circumstances.
And like the children be able to accept martyrdom if he is called to do so.
She asked me to encourage everyone we know to please pray for them. These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom.
I wonder aloud whether I would be prepared to look on as my children refuse to malign Jesus’ name and then allow them to be murdered before my eyes?
This is Paul’s story:
24I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. 25I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. 26In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. 27I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. 28And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 32Remember the time I was in Damascus and the governor of King Aretas posted guards at the city gates to arrest me? 33I crawled through a window in the wall, was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life.
I wonder whether my faith is strong enough. I wonder whether my love for God is deep enough. I wonder whether I have the guts to take a stand like that, while everything around me falls. I wonder…
Father, I don’t know what to pray now. Amen