If we live large for Jesus our days may see conflict but our sleep will be sweet. Being a gospel advocate has never been easy. From the beginning of the church followers of Jesus faced threats, persecution, and often martyrdom. Bishop Stephen Neill reminded his readers of the cost of confessing Christ in the church’s infancy. “Every Christian knew that sooner or later he might have to testify to his faith at the cost of his life.” Today the situation is similar in many respects to that faced by the early disciples of Jesus. Like them, we must be adaptable without compromising and gracious in our speech. Like the first century church, today’s global church is again becoming a church of miracles, martyrdom, and massive growth.
As did our predecessors, we’re to live out the gospel in truth and love. Missionary great Hudson Taylor admonished, “Let them see that you are rejoicing in God, you do not need any other protection, you put your trust in God, you are prepared either to suffer or be delivered as He sees best. They will learn that there is something in the gospel worth risking life for.”
More than ever in my lifetime I’m taking special note when I read words like these: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8). When we’re mistreated for Jesus’ sake our testimony is only strengthened when we forgive the assailants.
Jesus said, “Because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:12-14). He warned that the love impulse of many would be choked off because of sin and lawlessness. In other words, there is a natural tendency to “circle the wagons” and give our focus and energy to self-preservation. Tragically, many Christians today are in no mood to do anything redemptive for the rest of the world. Yet Jesus prophesied that in the midst of a climate of global anger and recrimination the gospel would go to every nation and people. If we are to respond to the crisis of our times in a God-glorifying way we must recommit ourselves to fulfilling the Great Commission.
“But realize this,” Paul counseled, “difficult days will come” (2 Tim. 3:1, NASB). In a real sense these are both the best and worst of times. We cannot be reticent in our gospel witness. Playing it safe isn’t safe. Jesus taught that those who are self-protective are actually the most at risk. “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:34-35).