We are living in a strange time and in my humble opinion, things are heating up all around us. I was reading an article just the other day with the heading; “CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION AND GENOCIDE IS WORSE NOW THAN “ANY TIME IN HISTORY” (link to the article here and the source report summary here). Unspeakable acts of hatred and the slaughter of our brothers and sisters around the world can be found on a daily base, in any news source available to us. The targeting of Christians driven by hatred- is sadly also evident in our western society and it is becoming more and more a challenge to profess our faith without being judged or “stamped” a bigot.
We should not be surprised though. Scripture warns us in that we will be hated, persecuted and worse.
What is so strange is that Christianity is on the rise, especially in countries where the persecution is the worst. Countries like Iran, China and Indonesia are exploding. According to the aforementioned report, China is treating Christianity as “a foreign infiltration”. Whilst researching data for my book; “The Goal Is Life“, I came to the conclusion that Christianity is growing slightly faster than the world population, with estimates around 65-85 million per year- how awesome is that?
It is just staggering to realise that, although we have access to live news and social media at any given moment of the day, Christianity is still on the rise. I mean, why would someone freely choose to believe in something that- in certain places around the world- will lead to persecution or death? This is only possible if you know that the offer is better than what the world can do to you- right? What is equally staggering, is the fact that the beautiful offer of life, remains just that; an offer. And by definition something that one can reject.
I have been immersed in the gospels recently, discovering new things every day. As I was reading through Luke, and specifically the story of Jesus calming the storm, I was blown away to discover just that posture of “denial or refusal” of the human heart. If you recall, the story starts with Jesus and his disciples getting into a boat as they set off to a place called Gerasenes. As they are crossing the lake, a storm rises and the guys “freak out” because they think they’re about to drown. Jesus is calmly sleeping in that same boat, but after the disciples wake him, he calms the storm, after shaking his head and asking his friends; “Where is your faith?”
Many a preacher would use this wonderful piece of scripture to talk to us about “having more faith” or “how can we learn to trust more in Jesus”- which is all good- but what is so interesting about this story, is that it is not about the storm or the circumstances around it. For me, it is about Jesus’s focus on his mission. I mean, he is not in the boat to teach his disciples a lesson in faith (although he will use any situation in our lives to speak to our needs, fears or brokenness, if we are open to hearing what he has for us), clearly he is on his way to the other side of the lake for a reason. And the reason- his mission– is the rescue of an individual, who has been suffering from all kinds of evil and brokenness for a long time.
After Jesus set’s this man free and ministers to his needs (The locals all came out to find the man sitting at Jesus’ feet, speaking with him), the entire community ask Jesus to leave them because they were overcome with fear! The story goes on by reminding us that Jesus honours our sacred “free will” by granting the people their wish. Jesus immediately leaves them and returns back to Galilee, from where he came, and then this beautiful verse: “Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were expecting him” (Luke 8:40).
Do you see the polarising opposites between the two “groups”? On one side you have people choosing not to believe in Christ- although seeing first hand what the offer is- and on the other side you have people waiting for him to return, that is what this story is about; are you longing for more or are you choosing to stick with what you already know?
If we are those who desire more, then we need to interact with the one who is offering. We need to sit down at his feet, be expectant and have a desire to receive all the goodness He is offering us.
As Christians, we have the most incredible news to offer, and not just because it is better than the alternative, but because it is real. The offer is intimacy, restoration, healing, freedom, joy, victory and so much more.
If you have yet to discover more, then I would encourage you to join us at one of our upcoming retreats, where we help you come closer to God, hear his voice and discover all of the riches he has for you.
And if you’re a new creation, just take a moment and look back on your own life, just to see how you have been rescued from that life. If you are still longing for that change to happen, please read our salvation prayer or contact me here.