“Jesus promised his disciples three things: that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” – GK Chesterton
A teammate encouraged us one morning with this quote just before we held multiple Bible studies with our friends, many from various unreached ethnic groups. We’d been really good at being in trouble in the few weeks prior, so it was helpful to remember that this is a promise from Jesus to us.
Our country’s government seems to ebb and flow with seasons of openness and crackdowns on Christians, and we were in the midst of a heavier wave of persecution.
During that time, one of the only local house church fellowships out here was shut down by the government, scattering the believers. Following that, the government began systematically searching our team – questioning us about our personal information, whereabouts, and intentions.
There were a few days where I woke up thinking, “The chances of today being a typical day and getting thrown out of the country are just about the same.”
In the West, we hear about persecution and sometimes walk away with this image of a Paul-like, even glamourous, view of what it’s like to walk through it. From the little we went through this past year, I’ll say upfront that it’s simply not as cool as I previously thought.
On the contrary, I walked around with weak knees and constantly wondered if I was being monitored. My best friend from the now-defunct house church spiraled into depression and fought borderline suicidal* thoughts.
Doesn’t sound as awesome as Acts, right?
Completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble. I consider Acts 4, after Peter and John are dragged before the council in Jerusalem. Their prayer includes a plea for God to “grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” Alongside this prayer for boldness, I also recall Matthew 10:16 where Jesus tells us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” because he’s sent us out as sheep among wolves.
What does it look like to become more serpent-like with our ministry? How do we keep sharing the gospel, but maybe in a different way during this season?
After Stephen’s stoning, the church in Jerusalem scatters, but God continues to bless their gospel proclamation. I confess that I’ve doubted God’s goodness and blessing during recent seasons of persecution. Yet despite my unbelief, we’ve seen some of the most promising fruit in this time than we’d seen all year. All of a sudden two people have come to know the Lord and several others are very interested.
I can’t help but believe that somehow these things are connected.
In the unreached world, you feel like you’re throwing seeds at a rocky cliff-side, hoping and praying that something will grow someday. It’s quite incredible that God is moving here in this season, and we have great reason to be absurdly happy.
*Editorial note: I (Elizabeth) have corresponded with the author about this incident. Without releasing any personal details, I can assure you that appropriate steps were taken to care for a friend and fellow believer in psychological and spiritual distress.
Don (not his real name) works with a team seeking to plant churches among unreached people in Asia. He blogs at www.thesowersproject.com, tweets from SowersProject, and co-hosts a missions podcast called Life On Mars, which is available on iTunes. He enjoys percussion, longboarding, theology, and robust coffee.