Jesus has overcome death. He lives! God works through believers around the world—even in anti-Christian countries—to share the message of his victory.
Bradley D. Wordell
A recent trip to an Asian nation reminded me of God’s powerful working in the world. God can make flowers blossom in the desert and myrtle trees grow where once there were only briers. God sends the gospel into the darkest corners of the earth and calls precious souls into his marvelous light. And no matter how fiercely the prince of this world roars, he cannot stop the Lord Jesus from tending his flock like a shepherd and from gathering the lambs in his arms close to his heart.
Even in countries where the prince of darkness employs anti-Christian government policies and anti-Christian religion to threaten, abuse, and attempt to snuff out the church, yes, even there, believers remain. It is truly amazing. And those believers not only have faith, they have strong faith, rooted deeply in God’s Word.
How can this be? It’s only because Jesus lives. The kingdom is his, the power is his, and the glory is his, because Jesus lives.
The kingdom is his
Sadly, many non-Christians and, surprisingly, many who call themselves Christian say that it is arrogant and wrong to bring the Bible’s teachings to other cultures. The conventional wisdom of our age says, “Every religion has some truth in it, and every culture is rich and beautiful just the way it is. Don’t go changing the world.”
We might have agreed with that if Jesus had not risen from the dead and if we didn’t know the meaning of his resurrection. God has declared Jesus to be his Son, the Redeemer and Savior of the world. Jesus truly is the Resurrection and the Life. No other religion or culture claims a founder who has risen from the dead. In the one invisible kingdom of God, the risen Christ is king.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the mission of his church have always been closely connected. On that glorious Easter morning, God sent his angel down from heaven. “Come and see,” he said and added, “Go quickly and tell” (Matthew 28:6,7). Later the risen Savior himself told his disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (v. 19). Shortly before he was taken up before their very eyes, Jesus said to his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The message of Easter is for every nation, every person.
Sending the gospel across cultures to other parts of the world requires sacrifice, energy, boldness, and determination. Without the clear command of the risen Savior, the church would not have owned this Great Commission. But now we can’t help speaking about this kingdom, because it is the kingdom of Jesus, who is alive forever and ever.
The power is his
In the Asian nation I visited, there are few Christians. While my taxi driver estimated that 15% of his nation’s people are Christian, a recent census indicated that less than 1% confess faith in Jesus.
It is difficult to be a Christian in this country. Confessing faith in Christ immediately brings you down to a very low position in society. Like the lepers in Bible times, you are an outcast and considered unclean. Many won’t want to associate with you, and they will cleanse themselves from impurity if contact occurs.
In the rural areas of this country, people share equipment and work together to farm the land, to sow, and to harvest. But once you confess faith in Jesus, you are on your own. Your neighbors don’t want you to help in their fields, and no one will help you in your fields.
In many remote areas of this country, medical care is not readily available. If someone is gravely sick or badly injured, the people of the community will carry that person many miles to a doctor. But not if you are a Christian—even if you are dying.
If you confess faith in Christ, it is likely that your family will disown you. You are no longer welcome in your parents’ house, your grandparents’ house, or the houses of your siblings. Your chances of receiving government aid during times of famine or natural disaster are very low, and it is more likely that you will have run-ins with police and government officials.
Extremists may burn your house or your school or your place of work to the ground. You may be put in prison and beaten if anyone accuses you of trying to convert people to Christianity. The newspaper and the television news might broadcast false accusations against you. The constitution of the country states that it is illegal to baptize anyone—even your own children—under the age of 18. Clearly, the devil hates Baptism, which connects people to Jesus’ death and resurrection. He uses anti-Christian government and anti-Christian religion to try to prevent it.
But wonder of all wonders, in this environment God has his believers. They are his treasured possession. Flowers in the desert. Myrtle trees, where once there were only briers.
Again, how can this be? And how can there be pastors among them, who know their Bibles well and who encourage and equip and serve these believers? This can only be because the risen and ascended Savior provides leaders for his people. All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus. The church remains and grows, because Jesus lives.
The glory is his
It is our privilege to be supporting Christ’s people in this Asian country. We support them with our offerings, with humanitarian aid, with friendly Christian counsel, with theological training, and with our prayers.
In our nine-day workshop earlier this year, 12 national pastors gathered to study God’s Word and to grow in their ability to feed Christ’s sheep and lambs. These pastors may be lowly in the eyes of their society, but they are faithful, humble shepherds under the risen Christ. They serve with very little reward. They certainly don’t serve for their own glory but for God’s glory and the benefit of his people. They know that the glory belongs to Jesus, because Jesus lives.
This month and in all their weekly worship services, they celebrate the resurrection of their Savior: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” They have their hearts set on a better country, because Jesus lives.
Join me in praying for these pastors and the people they serve:
When all their labor seems in vain,
Revive their sinking hopes again;
And when success crowns what they do,
Oh, keep them humble, Lord, and true
Until before your judgment seat
They lay their trophies at your feet. (Christian Worship 542:3)
Our labors and their labors in the Lord are never in vain. Because Jesus lives.
This article was first printed in the April issue of Forward in Christ.