“To you… we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.” As we reflect on Remembrance Day, we are called forth to “keep faith” with those who have gone on before us. This is true not only of our remembrance of the veterans of past and present earthly conflicts who have fought to preserve our freedoms. We must also reflect upon the sacrifices of those who have gone before, and even now serve in the battles in spiritual realms.
The apostle Paul reminds us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” and he urges us to “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11-12). From the earliest days of the church, this battle has been engaged. While Christ has effectively won the victory through His shed blood, the fight against the powers of wickedness continues, spiritually and physically.
Even before our Lord Jesus was crucified, he warned his followers that He must suffer, and that they, too, would be hated and persecuted by those who hated Him first. Those who choose The Way of Jesus must count the cost, and be willing to give up all that they have held dear: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14: 26-28). These are hard words, and emphasize the seriousness of choosing to be a disciple, but we are assured the rewards are far greater than any amount of suffering. For Jesus has also promised that those who walk in the suffering of their Lord, for the sake of the righteousness of God, will be “blessed” for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He encourages us to “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5:10-12).
The Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, and the church was born. Almost immediately Peter and John were imprisoned for their witness to the gospel, and a short time later Stephen was stoned to death, and this was followed by the first of many great persecutions. Yet God used these events to scatter his people, and through them the gospel has been brought to the “ends of the earth.” Wherever it has gone, some people have received it joyfully, while others have hated it, and have tried to stamp it out. It is a wise Christian who takes the time to read the history of the sufferings of those who have been true disciples, ready to sacrifice and even die for their faith that the Kingdom of God may continue to grow. Records like Fox’s Book of Martyrs and stories of more recent events, including those taking place around the world today, remind us that we too, as disciples of Christ, are called to give up all we hold dear, walk as Christ walked, and if so called, suffer as He suffered. We in North America have suffered little thus far, but that is changing. We need to consider carefully our attitudes to the small sufferings we face in our daily lives and whether we are truly willing to sacrifice our pleasures, as well as our lives. We need to recognize the suffering of members of the body of Christ world-wide, who are truly demonstrating every day what it means to be a disciple. Have we counted the cost? Are we truly standing by these soldiers who are keeping the faith? Are we willing to stand at their side and truly be disciples? Am I prepared to “keep faith” no matter what? To do it joyfully? Am I truly a disciple?
Date: November 2005