In chapter 13 of The Last Words of the Martyrs, I introduce you to Gurunath. He is serving a life sentence, but William, one of ICC's regional managers, met him when he was temporarily released from prison because his father was dying.
So when you meet a man whose life has ended for all practical purposes, what do you expect to find? Anger, rage, detachment, resignation?
When William met Gurunath, he was struck by his overpowering smile. Struck by the incongruity between Gurunath’s circumstances and his beaming smile, William asked why he was so happy and Gurunath let us in on the secret source of his joy.
“I was (let out of prison for a time) because of my (dying) father (but) I’m overjoyed because my [time in prison] has forever changed my parents. During these past days, while I have been home, my parents have professed their faith in Jesus.”
“In prison, (every day) I do group devotions and Bible studies,” he shared. “We are jailed with many men accused of (attacking Christians) in the riots. They were resistant to us at first, but over time, six of them have [heard] the Gospel and converted to Christianity - they attend our daily devotions.”
“In spite of my challenges, I thank God for turning my mourning into dancing. I will go back to the jail putting my trust in His hands. I do believe God will help and all seven of us will be proven innocent and released from prison.”
I don’t know about you, but when I hear Gurunath’s story, I’m really convicted. You see, my heart, soul, and mind are continually focused on what I don’t have, what may go wrong in the future, and what’s lacking in my life. Can you relate?
Think about the persecuted though. Persecution strips you of everything, either bit by bit, or suddenly. When this happens, you come to a very clear fork in the road. You either give in to the demand of the persecutors by giving up on Jesus or you let go of any hope in the world with all its false promises of security and contentment.
Stripped of all that they have and ever hoped to attain in this world, the persecuted initially find themselves starved of hope and contentment. They are left with nothing but the water that flows from the throne of God and into all the world and down into their hearts as a source of life.
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple. – Ezekiel 47:1
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive. – John 7:38-39
Circumstances force them to drink deeply from this flow and they become rich with the rarest wealth: joy, peace, and contentment that are way out of whack in their lives, considering their circumstances.
A Better Life
This concept is not foreign to you. You see it in Scripture and you know it’s possible, but for most of our days, we aren’t living this out. Our circumstances constantly push us the other way.
Think of what’s happening in our country right now. Tensions abound between men and women, black and white, left and right. We are constantly being pushed toward discontentment and the hatred of our fellow citizens. Satan is having a field day as we see division, his calling card, on display all around us.
I hesitate to even say that much because you may think there is some hidden political message in it. There’s not. I merely feel heartbreak over the division and anger everyone seems to be feeling.
If that doesn’t keep you in a state of permanent angst and bewilderment, there are probably plenty of experiences in your life either recently passed, going on presently, or coming just ahead that continually push you toward anxiety and discontentment.
In the end, “The world is too much with us,” as the poet William Wordsworth said so eloquently.
"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not."
“The World Is Too Much With Us,” William Wordsworth
The Persecuted Show Me the Way
The answer for me and for you is the same as it is for the persecuted. We must let go of the world and any hope that it can feed our heart and soul. We must turn inward and rediscover the stream that brings life and healing.
This metaphor of a river that brings life is woven throughout Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke of. Living in a way where we drink daily from this river is the answer of how to live with a heart full of thanksgiving. So if you can, stop what you are doing and sit with God. Praise Him for His presence that brings you life and ask Him to fill you up and reveal Himself to you afresh.
Circumstances and Satan conspire to “bewitch” you and turn your heart cold; to remove hope from the horizon. His presence brings life and healing and can restore your heart and mind no matter your circumstances.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life,
bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be anything accursed,
but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him. They will see his face,
and his name will be on their foreheads.
And night will be no more.
They will need no light of lamp or sun,
for the Lord God will be their light,
and they will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)