In light of recent news of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt because of their faith, I was reminded of something that I had written 10 years ago for a church history class while in seminary. It was a meditation based on the painting of St. Bartholomew. Christian tradition says that Bartholomew the Apostle was martyred for his faith. It was a brutal execution.
You can read the whole devotional thought here, if you’re really interested. It’s OK if you aren’t. That’s not really the reason I’m writing today.
I really want to share one of the meditation’s final paragraphs. Because the point is just as important today as it was when I wrote it ten years ago.
The image of St. Bartholomew calls upon us to pray for the persecuted church around the world. It tells us the story of the millions of Christians who have given their lives for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. It is a startling reminder that the price of following Jesus Christ is not cheap. It is not a road that will be traveled lightly. There will be trials and persecution of all kinds. In the end, it could cost the believer everything – including the loss of life. It is the example of St. Bartholomew that encourages the believer to press on towards the prize, knowing full well the costs involved. It is with that same confidence that we face the perils of following the Lord of all things.
I think these martyred Egyptian Christians do the exact same thing. While the nations rage and come up with a fitting response to these barbaric acts, let us count the cost and take up the cross with reckless abandon. Let us live in boldness, full of hope, joy, and love, as we press on towards Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.
I know it’s not easy. I’m not pretending it is. But this is how we are going to change the world, my friends.
I have signed up for the Blogging for Books program with WaterbrookMultnomah Publishing Group. You will see reviews of their books appear from time to time on Life in the Fishbowl. It’s part of the deal. They send me free books. I review them.
The first time I really heard about Steven Furtick and Elevation Church was on Wade Joye’s blog. I had been following the story of their premature twin daughters during the Summer of 2008. This sentence stuck out as I read one of his updates about their journey: “we are doing what Pastor Steven said during the Sun Stand Still series, and pray while we push.”
Sun Stand Still? That’s an interesting title. Surely it’s based on Joshua’s battle in the Promised Land. I liked it. It was memorable. Something I’d probably borrow in a sermon I’d preach somewhere along the way.
As I thumbed through the book, Sun Stand Still, I couldn’t help but think of the Joye family and how their two little girls survived their ordeal, propped up by the audacious prayers of their parents and others who loved them. I was glad to see their story mentioned in the book.
The basic premise of Sun Stand Still is fairly simple: God wants to accomplish amazing, seemingly-impossible things through us. I’ve read books like this one before. But there are a few aspects in this book that make it stand out compared with the others.
Especially chapter 10. That’s where he encourages us to speak Scripture to each other and ourselves. “Before Joshua could make his Sun Stand Still prayer, he had to make the ways and words of God a natural part of his vocabulary – in speaking to others and in speaking to himself” (p. 111, emphasis mine). He then encourages us to preach – even to ourselves.
At first, I was concerned that this was some type of “name it, claim it” type of theology. It’s not. He doesn’t guarantee that we’re going to be healed of all sickness and drive in a Bentley while donning the finest jewelry. He does, however, say that we cannot live in audacious faith unless we actually know God’s promises. Speaking Scripture to ourselves and even preaching to ourselves helps us learn and remember God’s promises. After all, faith does come by hearing.
This book has challenged me to dream again. It has also encouraged me to dust my old dreams off the shelf and begin praying audaciously for them.