This morning, while reading Acts, one section in particular hit me hard.
“After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name.” – Acts 5:40-41 (emphasis mine)
Following Jesus used to come with a COST.
I immediately thought of Jim Elliot and the other four martyrs who died trying to spread the Gospel to Huaorani people. (You can learn more about them by watching the movie End of the Spear). Elliot and the others felt called to this unreached tribe in Ecuador, known for violently attacking anyone who tried to make contact with them, but even having counted the cost of going, they proceeded in faith, knowing that God would be glorified, no matter if they died or lived to tell the story.
And yet, Americans are calling not being able to gather in an air conditioned room and being told to wear a mask “persecution”.
Maybe that’s why that verse hit so close to home this morning. Here we are in America, what is considered one of the richest countries on Earth, calling something as small as not being able to gather inside of a building the “persecution of the church”.
I mean…have these people even read the Bible?
Do they realize how the apostles died?
Paul was beheaded.
Peter was crucified upside down (HE requested to be turned upside down because he said he wasn’t worthy to die the same way Jesus did).
Thomas? Killed by spears.
Philip? Killed because he converted a Roman proconsul’s wife.
Matthew? Stabbed to death.
James? Stoned and clubbed to death.
Simon? Killed when he said he wouldn’t worship the “sun god” of Persia.
Matthais? Burned to death.
John? Although he is said to have died naturally, he was exiled to Patmos, but only after he thrown into boiling oil.
And I haven’t even begun to get into how many times they were beaten and thrown in jail for preaching Christ crucified! And still, they got up and preached AGAIN the very next day!
My heart is heavy that we in America are so addicted to comfort and safety that we dare call not being able to gather in a giant sanctuary persecution.
I’m not saying the “American” part of the Church isn’t facing any persecution at all. We are, but the things we are all vocal about right now are more an inconvenience that life threatening persecution.
Have we truly counted the cost of following Christ in our lives?
Look at Luke 14:25-35 (emphasis mine):
Now great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. “Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty? It isn’t fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it out. Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.”
Remember the Huaorani people? The Joshua Project estimates that they are currently 40% Christian and 15% Evangelical. Although Elliot died alongside four other martyrs spreading the Gospel to them, the work of his wife (Elizabeth Elliot) and other wives led to them hearing and receiving Jesus. And there could be more, but they only count those who have confessed Jesus as Lord, been baptized, AND have shown the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives (but that’s a totally different blog post for another day).
When we say we have counted the cost of following Christ, we are essentially saying “My life belongs to God to be used for His purposes, whatever those may be“.
You can not worship comfort and worship Christ at the same time. You can’t place safety on the throne of your heart and claim “only Jesus” sits there.
“Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (emphasis mine).
So I ask you, if you consider yourself a Christian today, have you counted the cost?
Should God call you to die a martyr’s death so that an unreached people group would know Christ, would you go?
Should someone come tomorrow and threaten to kill you unless you renounce Christ, would you still claim Him?
Brothers and sisters, I am not saying I am any better than you. I can be very cowardly. I have chosen, at times, to not speak truth to people because I have felt it would put a target on my back. I know, should God call me to a moment such as the ones I mentioned, I am FULLY dependent on the Holy Spirit to empower me to glorify God in moments of trial.
So know, if my life is ever taken in such a way, God kept His promise to provide a way through the temptation to deny Him (1 Corinthians 10:13).
All I am saying is this: How many of us have truly counted the cost? How many of us have said “Lord, my life is Yours and Yours alone. Whatever you wish to do with it, in riches and in poverty, in good times and in bad times, I will trust You and I will choose to glorify You above anything else on Earth”.
Have you counted the cost?
“The body they may kill, the truth of God abideth still.” – Martin Luther
Grace & Peace,
Credits: How the Apostles Died.