I recently returned from spending three weeks in Asia. A few days after I got home I came across the verses below. It was intriguing to me to read Paul’s words in light of what I’d just experienced.
For we do not want you to be unaware brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.
— 2 Corinthians 1:8–9
In America, especially the Bible Belt, we hear the name of Jesus on a regular basis, and not always used in the most reverent of ways. Jesus is often spoken of flippantly. At times, some use his name as a curse word. Even I have been guilty of half-hearted prayers “in the name of Jesus.”
In the country that I traveled to in Southeast Asia, it is illegal to openly talk about Jesus, and an even more serious crime to share your faith. Suffering for your faith is real today, just as it was in Paul’s day.
Paul knew what it was to suffer for talking about Jesus, but he knew who Jesus was, and he made the choice to suffer anyway. He knew that God allowed suffering to increase dependence on him, and he knew that God, through his son Jesus, is the source of life. Jesus is not a historical figure to be taken lightly, rather our living Savior to be worshipped with never-ending gratitude!
While I was in Asia, a girl, who we will call Amanda, accepted Christ as her Savior! She realized that the following words of Scripture are true:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
— John 3:16–17
God’s Son, Jesus, was the picture of perfection. He left the incredible comfort of heaven and dwelt among men. He was loved by some, but hated by many. He suffered a death that I deserve, that you deserve, and that Amanda deserves. But, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “God raises the dead.” Jesus defeated death. Amanda realized that she was spiritually dead, and that the only way to have life — abundant life on earth and eternal life with God — was through a relationship with his son.
Amanda risked everything to follow Jesus. When she was a little girl, she had an uncle who professed to have become a Christian, and her family’s response was to ostracize him. She knew that there was a risk of great suffering (as Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians) but, above that, she knew that Jesus was worth it. We prayed diligently that she would not meet the same fate as her uncle, but we knew that the risk was very real.
While I was away, God answered another prayer. Prior to Amanda telling her family, my friends and I had the chance to go and spend time in her village. We dined with her family and slept in their homes. We had no spiritual conversations, only sought to build relationships and serve them well. Amanda asked that we leave early the next morning so that she could talk to them about Jesus. When she told her family that she had become a Christian, they received the news with love and support! They told her that, if Christians were like those Americans who had stayed in their homes the night before, they thought she had made a good choice. None of them accepted Christ (yet), but what a blessing that, not only does she have a new life in Christ, but she still has a family and a home! Y’all, this is huge! I hope those of you who are believers will join me in praying for Amanda’s spiritual growth, and that her family would come to faith soon.
We live in America, home of the free. Let’s take full advantage of that fact and worship Jesus boldly. He deserves it!