Summary: examining persecution and what we are called to do when we face it.
Stand your Ground – Heb 10:32-39
Gladstone Baptist Church – 12/9/04 pm
Read From Jesus Freak p. 167 - Tsehay Tolessa - Ethiopia circa 1980s
"They forced my hands under my knees and tied them there. Then they put a stick through these ropes and hung me upside down. They filled my mouth with dirty rags. I almost suffocated. They beat me, breaking my bones. Great pieces of skin hung from my body.
"Then they freed me from bonds and forced me to run with bleeding feet over a path with sharp stones.
"Next, they put me in a small cell containing 62 people. There was only room to stand. Stand on what? On bleeding feet, on broken bones. The cell was completely dark and there was no air. Don’t ask how prisoners fulfilled their bodily needs. There was only one hole serving as a toilet, but no one could get to it.
"All had to stand pressed against each other to give a few the opportunity to sleep a bit lying on one side. Because of the limited space, no turning was possible."
Her cuts bled, but there was no medicine. Tsehay could not even hold a cup, so others had to help her drink.
Tsehay Tolessa was tortured by the Ethiopian Communists for her faith in Jesus Christ. She stayed in that cell for over a year, spending a total of ten years in jail. As a result of spending such a long time in darkness, she has not regained full vision.
As they tortured her, the Ethiopian Communists mocked: "Where is your loving Jesus?"
But Tsehay only pitied the blindness of her torturers. She knew that her Lord was always with her, alive in her heart. "Jesus was there, in the midst of human waste, in the humiliation, in the blood and stench. He is more than a King ruling in heaven, a Bridegroom. He is the One tortured in prison."
Read From Jesus Freak p. 92 - Peter, 8 years old. Philippines 1992
"We have your nephew," said the handwritten note. "If you surrender to us, we will return the boy to his parents." Brother MT stared at the message. It was from the leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. People in many parts of the Philippines have been threatened and persecuted for years by this group of terrorists.
Brother MT is an evangelist in the Philippines. He travels regularly into the mountains to preach to the terrorist groups. Peter, his eight-year-old nephew, frequently went with Brother MT on his evangelistic trips. He was a special help to him in children’s meetings in the mountain villages.
Because of pressure from the NPA, Brother MT was often forced into hiding. Still, as a result of his ministry, some of the NPA soldiers had given their lives to Jesus Christ and left the organization. MT had counted the cost and was prepared to give his life for the Gospel, but he was not prepared for this! He knew there was no hope that his surrender would save his nephew. He knew they would both be killed; still, he hesitated.
The boy’s parents insisted that MT ignore this order and continue his evangelistic outreach. As a result, the parents gave their son for the Gospel. Peter was killed on Good Friday, April 17, 1992. He was tortured for three hours and suffered very much. His hands were tied with wire, and the terrorists struck him in the legs and head with an axe. Finally, he was beheaded.
The abductors have warned the boy’s parents and MT that if they do not stop their ministry, they will return and torture them. Brother MT is continuing his dangerous work in the mountains among the terrorist groups.
Christians have always been subject to persecution. We are told of Stephen who was the first person killed for his faith in Christ in Acts Chapter 7. After that there was a great persecution of all Christians. Many were killed by the Roman emperors. James was one of them.
Read From Jesus Freak p. 193 - James, Son of Zebedee Jerusalem, Israel 44 AD
Several years after Jesus died, King Herod Agrippa decided to stop the spread of Christianity by striking its leaders. He had James arrested and sentenced to death on the basis of one man’s testimony. However, when this accuser saw James’ extraordinary courage and steadfast joy, even when condemned to die, the man was deeply touched in his heart. There on the spot, the accuser made a decision for Christ. He boldly cried out, "I want to follow Jesus also. I am a Christian."
The soldiers led James to be executed. Along the way, his accuser stopped the apostle and fell down at his feet. "I am so sorry for what I have done," he cried. "The blood of an innocent man is on my hands. Please, please, before you die, please forgive me."