After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was my opportunity and blessing to enter many of the countries of the former USSR and sit at the feet of many believers, while listening to their stories of faith which were often surrounded by seasons of severe persecution. It was as if my Bible was exploding in present active tense. I was interviewing, in my lifetime, Daniel in the lion’s den and Ezekiel defying and defeating the wicked Queen. I was being introduced to a faith which believed what God has always done, He is still doing!
I had interviewed a very godly, older gentleman. This pastor had been imprisoned and tortured. His beloved wife died while he was incarcerated. He talked about God’s sustaining power in the midst of persecution and suffering-yet he sternly suggested that no one should desire persecution but simply accept whatever God sends their way.
The next day I was in another home interviewing a brother in Christ whose father was severely tortured in prison. At 7 am, over breakfast he was telling me his Bible-like journey with Jesus. Before we could finish breakfast, the door opened and the older pastor from the day before entered the house. I was interviewing this 2nd pastor in the home of workers from America. They were very gracious in hosting me and in the setting up of many godly interviews. I greeted the older pastor, asking him what his agenda was for today. He replied he was off to a new area, of his central European country, to evangelize and attempt to plant a church. He further told me he had come to the house to pick up someone to help him. I certainly expected him to leave the house with the man from the West or the man and his wife. I was shocked by whom he was taking with him.
He was taking the 13-year-old son of this family from America. His parents were too busy to go.
I interviewed the 2nd believing brother until late in the evening. Almost at dark time the front door opened and in came the old pastor with a dirt-stained, scratched and bleeding, 13-year-old boy from the West. Without hesitation this boy exclaimed to his mother and father,
“You won’t believe what happened! I went with pastor today to a new area and he asked me to share my testimony. After we talked some of the people got so angry they threw stones at us and one of them hit me on the head and caused me to bleed a little bit. But after these hateful people left, and many of these villagers saw how we loved even those who cursed, beat and stoned us, many of them gave their lives to Jesus, they were baptized, and we started a church today!”
And suddenly I realized what real discipleship entails. Real discipleship is taking us, our children, other people’s children (when the adults are unable and unwilling to go) and extending the kingdom of God in the toughest of places. What this older pastor gave to the 13-year-old American boy on this day was a genealogy of faith which he, himself can reproduce for generation after generation. The 13-year-old can now lead his friends, possibly his parents, and, someday his own children on this exciting journey called faith in Jesus. He learned from that persecuted older pastor some hard lessons; faith comes with a price. He learned from a godly, former imprisoned pastor the price which has to be paid to see scores of people and multiple families come into the kingdom of God. He learned the joy of suffering with the end result of churches being planted in the homes of others.
This 13-year-old boy had modeled for him that day a faith which is bigger than a mob and more enduring than a rock to his head. I wished he could have learned these lessons and blessings from his own father. I wish it had been his parents who had introduced him to the challenges which come by walking with this Savior. Yet this old man knew who to take with him, who was willing to be discipled, and whose heart was tender enough to forgive even those who attempted to stone him. This old man learned from Jesus and these were lessons too hard-earned not to pass them on to the next generation.
2 Tim 2:1-7 “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.” RSV