Counting the Cost of Contending for the Faith

Contender Ministries

The 18-year-old Christian saved from a death sentence has been given 75 lashes instead on the adultery charge she says was actually rape. The punishment of Abok Alfa Akok has prompted further protests at the action of the country's Muslim authorities. Akok's execution was ordered under Islamic law -- which is supposed to be applied only to Muslims -- after she was found guilty of adultery. Her claim that she had been raped was not accepted by the court because she was unable to produce the four male witnesses required by the Shariah code. The sentence sparked an international outcry and was overturned by an appeals court that ordered a "rebuke" sentence instead. That turned out to be the lashing, which was carried out last week before Akok -- who is six months pregnant -- could appeal, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said. "This woman's inhumane treatment highlights the appalling misuse of Shariah law in Sudan," said CSW director Stuart Windsor. "This is the second time that she has been denied due process of law, quite apart from the injustice of a Christian being subject to Shariah law."

     The words of Jesus to the church in Ephesus as recorded by John in Revelation 2:2,3:  “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.  I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”

Christian Persecution Statistics in China 2/27/2002

From "The Voice of the Martyrs", March 2002

The following statistics, which show Christians persecuted for their faith, relate only to a small branch of China's giant house church movement. This small branch contains less than 500,000 members, and is less than one percent of China's Christians. These statistics cover a 19-year period through 2001.

Christians arrested: 23,686
Christians sent away for "re-education through labor": 4,014
Christians forced to flee to avoid arrest: 1,545
Christians permanently handicapped by police abuse: 208
Christians killed by police: 129

Noted Bible teacher Dr. M. R. DeHaan once said, “To come to Christ costs nothing, to follow Christ costs something, but to serve Christ costs everything.”  Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:39. 

In countries around the world, Christians face arrest, torture, imprisonment, and even death.  In many Islamic countries, converting from Islam to Christianity is punishable by death!  Here in the United States, we’re fairly fortunate.  There is no law against being a Christian – yet.  For most of us, the worst we’ll suffer for our faith is a little teasing, ridicule, and scorn.  Some may face discrimination or loss of friends.  But very few of us will face the loss of our life because of our Christian beliefs.  There are exceptions, though. 

When teenager Cassie Bernall left home for another day of classes at Columbine High School, she had no idea that she wouldn’t be coming home.  Later that day, when an armed schoolmate asked if she believed in God, this recently redeemed girl said, “Yes”.  That one word, a testament and defense of her faith in the face of grave danger, was the last word that Cassie spoke before being shot to death. 

            While I doubt that Cassie’s killer would have spared her life had she said “No”, she nevertheless demonstrated an honesty and bravery that are an example for us all.  She went beyond the comfort zone of professing and celebrating her new faith in the confines of a church building.  She carried her faith with her and held it up before her as she stared a demon in the face.  I have no doubt whatsoever that she soon felt the embrace of her Savior, and heard the love in His voice as He said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

            I recently read the book, “The Embarrassed Believer”, by Hugh Hewitt.  He posed an interesting question that challenged me.  I pose a similar question to all of you now.  If you went to a nice restaurant with a group of colleagues from work, and one of them bowed his or her head and quietly asked the Lord’s blessing on the meal, would you be embarrassed?  Suppose you were at McDonalds with some co-workers, and they began to snicker at a family that was praying at another table.  How would that make you feel?  Would you have the courage to bow your head in prayer while surrounded by unbelieving friends or colleagues?  It is almost a certainty that to do so would result in some teasing or ridicule.  It may not even be to your face, but I can almost guarantee it would be there.  You may not be asked to accompany that same group of people to lunch again.  They may start to avoid you around work.  Would you be willing to make that sacrifice for your beliefs?  After all, it won’t kill you. 

            I think most of us, if honest, might feel a certain degree of hesitation or embarrassment in that situation.  That’s okay.  But will you overcome the embarrassment to make a stand for your beliefs?  Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me….If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23, 26).

 -  A Christian sentenced to hang for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad has been granted one final hearing before the Pakistan Supreme Court, according to the Compass Direct news service.  Ayub Masih, 34, was convicted on the testimony of a Muslim who claimed that during a private conversation his Christian neighbor slandered Muhammad by praising Salman Rushdie's book "The Satanic Verses." His case is the first under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law to reach the Supreme Court.

-  A New York City school is accused of religious discrimination for allowing the display of Islamic and Jewish symbols, but not Christian symbols. According to the Catholic League, Dr. Fran Levy, principal of the Thomas Jefferson Magnet School of Humanities in Flushing, N.Y., issued a memo directing teachers to bring religious symbols to school that represent Kwanzaa and the Islamic and Jewish religions, but excluded Christianity, with the exception of a Christmas tree, which is a secular symbol.

          If you pay attention to the news, you’ll see that the attacks on Christianity are on the rise.  Even in the United States, it is becoming increasingly unpopular and “politically incorrect” to be a Christian.  A large humanist movement is afoot to demonize Christianity and brand Christians as “intolerant and divisive”.  Cases that test our religious freedoms are being fought in the courts with greater frequency.  The trend is not going well for Christians.  Biblical prophecy indicates that it will continue to get worse.

A former employee of a Trussville, Ala., Target store has filed suit against the company, alleging that managers fired her because she refused to remove or hide a Christian cross hanging from her neck that was visible to customers. Cindy Dunn of Springville, Ala., filed the suit last week against the Minnesota-based retailer the nation's second-largest after Wal-Mart over management's alleged discrimination against her because of her religion, according to a report in the Birmingham News.

            We know it will get worse for Christians.  That process has started.  Look how far our nation has already wandered from its Christian roots.  There is a danger though, in accepting these things simply because it’s been prophesied that they will happen.  As attacks on our faith have increased, Christians have largely remained silent.  Why is that, I wonder?  Are we content to limit expressions of our Christian faith to weekly worship services and mid-week Bible studies?  Are we more comfortable to only ask the blessing in our own homes where unbelievers won’t see us?  Are we afraid to leave our comfort zones to express our opinions as our rights are being eroded? 

- A high-ranking House leader Thursday led a series of attacks on National Public Radio for slandering a Christian group. While five lawmakers raised the issue on the House floor, a congressional subcommittee confronted NPR’s top brass.

- Residents of a small Louisiana town are fighting back after the ACLU won a lawsuit over signs the town put on public property that proclaimed their faith in God. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the town of Franklinton and forced town officials to remove four signs from public property that said, "Jesus Is Lord Over Franklinton." Now, in a movement to have their own say, the town of 4,000 has posted more than 1,000 signs on lawns and storefronts that express their faith in God. The most popular sign says, "Jesus is Lord of All."

            Remember, to serve Christ costs everything.  There is an element of risk involved, but Jesus has called us out of our comfort zones when he tells us to “take up your cross daily and follow me.”  In Luke 10:2,3, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  Go!  I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”   There you have it.  There are our marching orders.  Jesus wants us to serve him like lambs among wolves.  That is clearly not a comfort zone. 

            Do you want to serve the Lord?  So do I.  Let us leave our comfort zones and wear our faith on our sleeves.  Let us speak up on behalf of our Lord, for if we don’t do it, who will?  Be ready to give an answer to those who ask you about the hope that lies within you.  Be courageous enough to face the scorn and ridicule for the sake of your Lord.  If someone asks you if you’re a Jesus freak, say “You betcha!  Do you wanna know why?”  And when you feel weak, as I often do, remember the Lord’s words to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  May God bless you and strengthen you as you leave your comfort zones and contend for the faith!!


Contender Ministries