Spearheading the gospel into unreached regions is risky.
In the time it takes to read this blog post, another Christian will be killed because of his or her faith in Jesus Christ. 160,000 believers around the world will be slaughtered this year alone. . . simply because they love Jesus.
This should not be a news flash. The physical risk of “going public with the glory of God” among Satan-dominated peoples is obvious. Jesus warned his disciples that they would probably be “chugged” (disposed of quickly and without pause), just as lions chomp through lambs (Matthew 10:16; 1 Peter 5:8). That is the likely reality of identifying with Jesus in this world; and most shrivel up at the thought.
However, Scripture describes the butchering of believers as horrifically beautiful. Horrible because of the indescribable torment endured by so many; but stunningly beautiful in their humble Christ-likeness as they are afflicted, persecuted, struck down; but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). As one Chinese Christian martyr confidently testified to his tormentors, “You can kill me, but you can’t hurt me and you can’t stop my testimony!” When Jesus followers are crushed by suffering, the aroma of Christ stretches out even more widely and rapidly among the peoples (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; Acts 8:1).
Not Violence, But Violent Faith
The Kingdom of God does not advance by physical violence but through violent faith (Matthew 11:12). Burning the Koran, for example, is not the way of Jesus. Kingdom people advance the Name of Christ by humbly exercising violent faith against hell, not against people (Ephesians 6:12). We do this by "turning the other cheek," "overcoming evil with good" and going into the world with the gospel as lambs to slaughter.
Violent faith is beautifully displayed through Daniel and the three young Hebrews as they respectfully submitted to literal furnace flames and hungry lions. They were miraculously delivered and God’s sovereignty over the gods of the nations was broadcast throughout the earth through Nebuchadnezzar’s own edict!
This is the Kingdom way! Violent faith says — “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king that we will not serve your gods" (Daniel 3:17-18). These men were respectful, polite, humble, cheerful, but spiritually violent in their undistracted faithfulness to God.
Others, like Paul, were delivered to God through martyrdom, but also by violent faith, forcefully exercised by peacefully, and joyfully, surrendering to the fire, the rope, or the chop block.
There is something dynamic in suffering for the gospel that produces supernatural affection and compassion for those causing the harm. At the same time, when God is praised instead of denied in the midst of such affliction, unbelievers take notice. Some are inevitably saved, which generates more persecution, which in turn, fuels an even more passionate spread of the gospel. The result is that whole new regions are quickly populated with believers and churches. This is how suffering and persecution nearly always advances both personal sanctification in the sufferer and the speedier, wide-ranging expansion of the gospel into the far-flung places.
This is biblical boldness: to plow through hostile resistance with the love and gentleness of Christ towards the enemies of the cross. There is nothing more powerful in evangelism than a life humbly laid down for Christ. God is glorified by these gospel risk-takers and the world’s unharvested fields need many more like them.
David Sitton is the founder and president of To Every Tribe Ministries. David is a career church planting missionary who lived and worked in Papua New Guinea for 16 years, making first gospel contact with several headhunting, cannibalistic tribes.
We're excited to have David join us at our 2011 National Conference, "Finish the Mission: For the Joy of All Peoples."
Recents posts from Dave Sitton —