A few years ago I watched as a Christian leader talked about a daring project he had underway. His interlocutor commended and encouraged him and concluded the conversation with the hope that he would not have to face stiff opposition. What if he were to, I thought?
Sometime later my mind went back to a well-known maverick Nigerian atheist educator Tai Solarin. Tai Solarin had a customary mode of greeting ‘May your way be rough’. He believed that adversity forges character and character will take you through life victoriously, that you would thrive in the midst of trouble. He did not believe in avoiding opposition or fearing it, rather, in tackling it head on. I venture to say that he was closer in his thinking to the Bible than he knew and than many believers are.
Avoiding offence and trouble
Granted as Christians we do not wish adversity on people, but have we not bent too far back in the other direction, in seeking at all costs to avoid offence and trouble? Afterall the book of James does say ‘consider it joy when you are faced with all kinds of trials….’ And Jesus said ‘In this world you will have tribulation…’
Trouble is not the litmus test of how right or wrong you are, it simply says that someone’s feathers have been ruffled and frankly some feathers could do with some serious ruffling. In our society simply saying I believe in God will rub some people up the wrong way, so we either bury our heads in the sand or we accept that we will not be always loved.
Some contemporary Christians live in mortal dread of any kind of negative reaction from non Christians, convinced it would drive people away from the gospel; not so. Nearly every where Paul went he faced trouble, not the ‘they said unkind things about me in the newspaper’ type of trouble, but the ‘they want to kill me’ type; yet people got saved.Either we #Christians bury our heads in the sand or we accept that we will not be always loved. Click To Tweet
The gospel thrives in the midst of trouble
The difference is that we are a trouble avoiding, risk averse generation of Christians. Not only was Paul no stranger to adversity, he almost thrived on it and certainly thrived in the midst of it. Nor did he think that adversity hindered the spread of the gospel, quite the contrary. He wrote to the church in Thessalonica and reminded them of how he preached the gospel to them in the midst of severe persecution and how they welcomed it with joy from the Holy Spirit.
Those people even became examples to other believers and the message of the Lord rang out from them. Astonishing stuff. But it gets better. Not only was there persecution in Thessalonica, but before that he said ‘we had previously suffered and been outrageously treated in Philippi’. The outcome was not that they retreated into their lair but that God gave them boldness to go on to Thessalonica and preach the gospel there despite great opposition.
I like that, ‘despite great opposition’. That is what we must be, not a ‘no opposition mentality’ generation, but a ‘despite great opposition’ people, thriving in the midst of our enemies. Nothing significant is achievable if we fear to be challenged. Our faith is the faith of courageous men and women who willingly accepted death so the gospel could be heard. And sometimes merely being a believer is recipe for trouble, sets us up for great opposition.Our faith is one of courageous individuals who willingly accepted death so the #gospel could be heard Click To Tweet
A story of courage
There are places in the world today where Christians are demonstrating unimaginable courage in the face of great opposition, courage to survive and courage to preach. The story of the christian faith is a story of courage.
I heard a Nigerian bishop describe the slaughter of his priests by Islamic militants and the decimation of whole congregations in Northern Nigeria. Then he posted his own son, also a priest to one of the dangerous areas. People were shocked and asked why he would do such a thing. His reply, ‘why would he send someone else’s son if he was not willing to send his own’? It humbled me.
Dying for the sake of Christ
Young women have been abducted from school by Boko Haram, some of the christians among them forced to convert, yet brave girls are still going to school daily when they do not have to go into hiding. Pastor Marc Enoch’s oldest daughter was among the almost 300 schoolgirls snatched from school, known worldwide as the Chibok girls. She was reportedly buried alive when she refused to convert. Her father is quoted by Christian Today as saying “I was told that my daughter refused to change her religion. I was told that they dug a hole and buried her from the neck and stoned her to death, To die for the sake of Christ, that’s the happiest thing for me. I’m grateful that she didn’t change her religion. She trust in God.”
Just as powerful is the testimony of the family members of the 21 Copts slaughtered by IS in 2015 because they would not renounce their faith in Christ. Their children are proud of their fathers and their faithfulness to Christ. The widow of one of the men said “I’m proud of him. He has lifted our heads up and honored us and all the Christians.” Even as the apostle Paul stated that his imprisonment had given boldness to others to preach the gospel, even so it is reported that the Coptic community in Egypt has have been ‘ emboldened by the example the 21 men …in their refusal to deny Christ.’ (Source; The Christian Post)
How are we living for Christ?
In much of Northern Nigeria, going to church on Sunday morning is fraught with danger. Yet these ministers go and they preach the gospel. Many could have fled to the South, but chose to stay on. Father Gideon Obasegie, assistant to the Bishop of Maiduguri a city under fire from Boko Haram, who along with his bishop had chosen to stay says “You can destroy the churches, you can destroy the rectories, but you cannot destroy the faith.”
Amazing stories of courage.
In some other parts of the world, we are afraid of being criticized, mocked and whatever other petty things happen to us Christians. Could it be that we will not see real change until God finds people willing to endure these things as good soldiers of Christ? Is it possible that God is looking for a people who will dare to do, say, what God wants, who will trust Him to take them through every challenge and choose to stand and conquer and not fear and fail?
We may suffer some; we may offend some, but others will be moved to commitment to Jesus. And that is what we are here for. Shalom!You can destroy the churches, you can destroy the rectories, but you cannot destroy the faith. Click To Tweet
PS – for whatever reason this article, first published several years ago on the French blog seems to have remained in draft form in English, it is now being published with the addition of the stories of courage.
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