Lessons of Gratitude from the Persecuted Church
As we transition from Thanksgiving to preparing for Christmas, the birth of our Savior, let us ponder about the great things God has given us that sometimes we take for granted.
It is just at this time of tradition and comfort and abundance—even overabundance—that we in the West should ask ourselves:
Am I thankful for my salvation? Am I sure?
People who are thankful share their gratitude with others. When was the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?
We hear the Gospel so often in the West that we have gradually forgotten its true meaning and power. We are so familiar with it that it fails to move us anymore. We take the Gospel for granted.
Does this shock or surprise you?
When I, as a student at the University of Southern California, began comparing Christianity and Islam, I had many questions. The more I compared, the more questions I had because I came to realize that both couldn’t be true. Then when I heard the simple message of the Gospel, it changed my life dramatically.
The Gospel has power.
The simple Gospel has three simple truths:
1) God created you, and He loves you.
2) He is perfect, but you are not. To reach Him, you must be perfect because He is perfect. You can never be perfect; therefore, you can never reach Him on your own.
3) Because He loves you, He did for you what you could not do for yourself. That is what Love does. You could not reach Him so He reached out to you. He came on earth to meet you and save you.
It’s that simple.
In the persecuted church, we see how this simple Gospel has the power to transform individuals, families, and even societies and nations. We see drug addicts being set free; hopeless, desperate people at the verge of suicide change into persons with joy and love for others. They discover not just a reason to live but find a mission to live for: to love God and to share this life-changing Gospel with others.
The apostle Paul also endured beatings and imprisonment, death threats, and even martyrdom. He travelled far and wide to share the simple truth of God’s gift of salvation. Yes, he saw God’s power transforming lives! So on his third missionary journey, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16, ESV).
In the West, if we are honest, most of us are ashamed of the Gospel. We may not call it “ashamed,” but we are shy about it. And if we are shy and ashamed of the message we have to share, why would God show us its power? We must be confident that the Gospel is THE ANSWER to personal, family, and society problems. I am not saying we must be rude, but we must be bold.
If you are thankful for your salvation, show it by sharing the Gospel with love and humility—but also with confidence—during this Christmas season.
Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you more lessons of gratitude we can learn from the persecuted church—from the people who must live their faith on the front lines of spiritual battle.
In the meantime, give thanks for the Gospel and pray for the persecuted church everywhere, especially in Iran.
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