Richard Wurmbrand was considering coming to Christ, having been given a Bible in a remote mountain village while recovering from TB as I wrote in my previous post.
“Each word of the New Testament awakened within him a desire to keep reading.”
I wonder if that has ever happened to you? I remember when I was a brand-new Christian feeling just the same way, especially as I read through Matthew’s gospel with Zoe. I loved the parables they just seemed so full of wisdom! He must have felt the same.
“Richard examined the parables of Jesus and pondered His astonishing words: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).”
We will see in future posts how much and how often that verse was to be proved in the fire of his life which he gave to Christ soon after, especially in what he went through during many types of abuse, torture and imprisonments. So often he would be the only Bible his fellow prisoners, his captors and torturers would read. The only scriptures he could access would be hidden in his heart where the government could not ban them and the authorities could not confiscate them. He would later recount that when snatched off the streets by the communists and thrown roughly into a car he recalled his recent study where he had counted all the times God had written ‘Do Not Fear’, and the man holding the pistol to his head could not understand why he was smiling.
As I read his book this verse about loving your enemies and praying for persecutors seems to be perhaps his life verse, though he doesn’t say so explicitly it would prove incredibly prophetic. Do you have one?
If you know me or have read any of my books or some previous blogs, chances are you may know my ‘life verse’ is from those challenging words Zoe had underlined in a bible she gave to me from Mark 8:34 ‘Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”’ So yes, my ‘life verse’ is a toughie.
I’ve had many people tell me their life verse is Jeremiah 29:11 – and I love that too of course, it’s promise is engraved on my wedding ring.
But the wider context is a promise in times of exile, when God seems very far away and it’s as if his plans have been confounded or forgotten, a word from a weeping prophet to hold tight hold of in a tough place. A promise to keep a whole generation in a holding pattern, the plans and the prosperity are a promised but not a present reality. Do we really want that to be our life verse?
Others tell me John 10:10 – the second half of which gets bandied about a lot to entice people to follow a wafty kind of Jesus who (even if you stay in your sin) brings the therapeutic deism mis sold these days, Christianity lite. A God who doesn’t need to save us wants everyone to ‘flourish’ by accepting ourselves as we are so we can enjoy life in all its fullness however we want it. If you’re going to have a life verse, have it in full.
Anyone who reads the whole chapter will find the context is a warning against such false teachers, hirelings not shepherds. Even just reading the whole verse should wake us up that as CS Lewis said this world is not a playground but a battleground, and that to choose the follow Jesus is to switch allegiance and fight a deadly foe.
We must hold tightly to the truth of the Word of God because to follow him is to reject the devil, choose good not evil, truth not error, life not death. The only way we can prevail is to hold tight to every promise of God, in the word of God. The thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy is the father of lies, who throughout history Christians have always faced in spiritual warfare. Sometimes he attacks with subtlety and doubt and an ‘alternative interpretation’ as in Eden – ‘would God would really say that?’
For others like those on the Open Doors watch list right now, like the Wurmbrands found when the Nazis and then the Communists came, for others in history like Bunyan when he was imprisoned for sticking to God’s truth, the enemy attacks head on.
He is the dragon Pilgrim faced by as he walked innocently through this world:
“Apollyon rushed at him, throwing darts as thick as hail! Notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and his foot… until Christian was nearly exhausted…because of his wounds, becoming weaker and weaker – Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then Apollyon almost pressed him to death — so that Christian began to despair of life.”
Whatever promises and prophecies God has impressed upon you, whatever others tell you about the Bible and how it needs updating or downgrading, don’t drop your sword.
If you have, pick it up again! Get used to wielding its weight.
As the Lord himself showed us when he himself faced and beat the adversary, the word of God is our only weapon against such attacks.
Human strategies, philosophies and arguments are a vain hope – useless to push back that darkness. But hell trembles when we open our mouths and declare, “It is written.”
Is that too simple for you?
Do we want to fight him on his own terms?
The Lord Jesus Christ did not do so. He stood in his authority, learn from him that when another attack comes, we strike again with the sword as he did saying, “It is written again”.
John Bunyan did not just have a favourite life verse or two of course. The reason Pilgrim’s Progress is my second favourite book is that it’s so full of scriptures as to bring truth to life in every sentence and story.
Spurgeon famously said of Bunyan;
“Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.”
What would it look like for that to be true of you and me, of the church? To have souls full of the Word of God. We would not be afraid in the world amidst all its changes – we would be world changers!
Whatever battle you are facing, picture Christian all but defeated, until he picks that sword up again. Then he ‘rushed at him, saying, “In all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him who loved us!” And with that, Apollyon spread his dragon wings, and sped away, so that Christian saw him no more for a season.”
Hold on to the sword, resist the devil and he will flee from you.