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I Have Everything
Paul A. Williams
I Have Everything
The standing facts of the persecuted church around the world are stark, brutally disarming, deeply disturbing, and sadly, not very well reported among American Christians. It is happening in places like China, Turkey, Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Africa, India, Iran, Egypt, and North Korea. At least two-thirds of believers worldwide are suffering daily beatings and hideously cruel tortures. They are being snatched from their families and imprisoned indefinitely. They are being slaughtered. They are being burned alive. They suffer these things for no other reason than that they refuse to deny the name of Jesus. They will not quit living for him, and they will not quit telling others about him.
Back in 1997 it was closely estimated that at least 160,000 Christians were killed outright for their faith, on this globe, in that one year alone. If we total up current reliable figures from all areas of persecution, we find that every single day, sometime during the course of that day, at least 400 or so men, women, and children will in one final act of faith and love give up their life. It may happen for some as we finish our morning coffee. Maybe for others it comes right before we sit down for lunch. Possibly for others, as we are about to turn in for the night. Think about that for a moment. Even as I type these words the testimony of these faithful causes me to stop dead in my tracks. I have to sit quietly, I have to acknowledge, and I have to wonder.
I have to wonder about the pastor in India who left his wife and his beautiful seven- year-old daughter at home one day and made his way to the local bus stop he always used. His wife was notified days later to come and identify his body. Militant Hindus had dismembered his body, put it in a sack, and left it by the side of the road. The acid that was used on him had completely peeled off his face, and the only way his wife could identify him was from some scars on his legs and the type of undergarments he was wearing.
I have to wonder about another Indian pastor who was also a medical worker. One day these same militants lured him just outside their village by sending word that they needed medical help. When the pastor arrived to help them he was set upon with axes. Villagers reported hearing him scream out, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” before he was silenced.
I have to also wonder about the three bible translators working in Turkey that were set upon by Muslim extremists that had been invited to a bible study by the men. These three men were later tied up, tortured to near death for three hours in ways I prefer not to say right now, and then finally decapitated by knife to bring this excruciatingly slow, painful death to its conclusion.
The moment we are confronted with facts of this magnitude our first reaction tends to be shock and horror. After trying to process these realities, our next reaction may move more toward thankfulness, and then relief. We are thankful to God that we live in a free country where we can worship as we wish, and relieved that we don’t have to be a part of anything like this. They are legitimate reactions, and our thankful heart guides us to look heavenward. But if we allow the Spirit to continue with us a little longer we will also reflect on our own commitment in our radically different lifestyle. We should feel no guilt for being placed where we are in this world, but we live in circumstances as far removed from these episodes as from the red dust of Mars. Our lives can become so easily entangled in comfort and pleasure. Worse yet, some of us may have begun to worship at the feet of that idol called “my happiness.” We may wonder how we would measure up under similar persecutions. Well that answer is very simple. We would measure up just as these do, by the power and grace of the Son of God himself. How would these measure up in our circumstances with our many cultural temptations, and relative safety? Well that answer is very simple as well. They would measure up just as we can, by the power and grace of the Son of God himself.
I would like to tell you about a group of children being ministered to in Sudan. The majority of these children watched as one or both of their parents were methodically hacked to death with machetes by radical Islamic forces. Their meager crops and dwellings were then torched before the killers left.
What good can be found in any of this? Well, these particular children know Jesus. Well, how do we know this? We know this because only days later, in the midst of this sudden horror and roiling emotional suffering, these children, ages six to thirteen, gather and sit on make-shift split log benches situated within a thatch-roofed, dirt floor shelter. And what do they do when they gather? Well, of all things, they begin to sing. What could they possibly have to sing about? Well, they sing about Jesus. What do they sing about Jesus? From their wounded young hearts a song begins to move slowly to their lips. They softly begin this song in their own tribal tongue. Its beginning is barely audible, but they sing it out again with a little more volume. Well what is it that they sing? They sing, “I have everything, I have Jesus.” They repeat the phrase now with a rhythmic cadence, yet much louder. “I have everything, I have Jesus,” they sing.
The children are swaying now side-to-side, smiling at one another, and up at the middle-aged couple from America standing before them. They grin at the couple and they sing with enthusiasm, “I have everything, I have Jesus!” Now they are one voice and they clap their hands loudly in a staccato rhythm. “I have everything, I have Jesus!” And this glorious singing rings throughout this tiny Sudanese village. Puzzled neighbors soon begin to wander into the shelter. They look toward the front, curious, but unsure. They suddenly spot the singing couple up front and see tears streaming uncontrollably down their faces. The couple quickly swipes at their eyes, flash familiar smiles, and sing out even louder, “I have everything, I have Jesus!” And these precious ones are all lifted up in joy around the throne of God in praise, and in perfect peace. And though they are very young these children are finding even now, that losing all things in this world does not compare to the joy of knowing Christ, experiencing the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. A much persecuted Jewish tent maker once wrote a letter about it. You know what? He was right.
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