Final Instructions (Part II)
Stand Firm in the Faith
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV)
The early churches were being established under the most violent time of persecution the church has ever seen. The Roman culture was one of sex, slavery, and violence, and Roman Emperor Nero had made it his goal to kill all Christians. He would impale Christians, light them on fire, and use them as human lampposts. Christians would be rounded up and used as bait in the Colosseum, often eaten by lions, tigers, or even dogs. It is under these circumstances that Paul instructed the people to stand firm in the faith.
We certainly don’t face the same challenges as the early church, but Christians all around the world are persecuted daily. There are several countries, particularly communist ones, where Christians are the enemy of the state. To understand Paul’s instruction, we are going to look at two stories of Christians who followed this final instruction from Paul.
Sarah Corson is the co-founder of Servants in Faith and Technology, an American missionary organization. In 1980, she and the organization had traveled to a remote village in Bolivia to bring the message of Christ to the impoverished villagers. A military junta had control of the area and decided to eliminate the American missionaries. One night, Sarah, from her front porch, spotted a soldier pointing his gun at her. She had only seconds to pray and then she said to the soldier, “Welcome, brother. Come in. You don’t need guns to visit us.”
The soldier was confused and soon the commander was storming up to the house, followed by thirty other soldiers. They wanted to search the house for guns and Sarah explained what they were doing. “We teach about Jesus Christ,” she said, “God’s Son, who came into this world to save us. He also taught us a better way than fighting. He taught us the way of love. Because of him, I can tell you that even though you kill me, I will die loving you, because God loves you. To follow him, I have to love you too.” The commander was struck by Sarah’s bold stance and decided not to take the women with him. He told Sarah if he took them they would be gang raped in the camps.
The following Sunday, the commander sent word to Sarah that he would be attending the church service. Sarah told the villagers that only those who were willing to lose their lives should come to church that Sunday. The church was packed. The commander and a fellow soldier sat through the service and the villagers welcomed them as brothers. Speaking to the congregation after the service, the commander said, “Never have I dreamed that I could raid a town, come back, and have that town welcome me as a brother.” Indicating Sarah, he said, “That woman told me Thursday night that Christians love their enemies, but I did not believe her then. You have proven it to me this morning. . . . I never believed there was a God before, but what I have just felt is so strong that I will never doubt the existence of God as long as I live.”
Sarah Corson stood firm in the faith in the strongest way possible. She shared the good news with a gun pointed at her; she loved her enemy and the love and grace that she showed impacted the man whose job was to kill Christians.
In 2001, “Kim,” a young North Korean man, watched as his friend was shot dead in front of him for being a Christian. Kim had never heard of Christ before and went home confused. His mother knew Jesus and she explained the gospel to him. When Kim’s brothers came home the mother and son shared the gospel with them. Kim and all his brothers prayed to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts that night. It then became Kim’s mission to secure Korean Bibles so he, his family, and everyone they met could learn the Good News.
Kim crossed the Yalu River into China in search of Korean translated Bibles. He found one. He told the Christians there that he needed five thousand of these Bibles and they worked to produce them. Kim made many more trips in secret across the Yalu River, smuggling in Korean translated Bibles.
When your faith is challenged, stand firm. When the culture tempts your sinful nature, stand firm. When you face death because of your beliefs, stand firm. Paul told the people of the early church, who faced persecution and death daily, to stand firm in the faith. In America, we are a long way from the persecution we see other brothers and sisters face in other parts of the world. Whether we face death for our beliefs or criticism in the college classroom, Paul’s message is the same: stand firm in the faith.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
· Sarah Corson’s story can be found at https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/witness/sarah-corson
· “Kim’s” story can be found in the book Jesus Freaks, Volume II.