Lord Jesus – Dearer Than Life
By Lois J. Stucky
When the Lord Jesus first sent out His twelve disciples two by two, He warned them that they would be hated by some and be persecuted as was He Himself. Opposition to the message of the Lord Jesus would be so strong, He told them, that even the most tender of family ties would be severed and cruel death of the believer might follow (Matt. 10:21-22). In the meaningful and moving last hours before the crucifixion the Lord Jesus sought again to prepare His beloved disciples by reminding them that, "If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you ...for My name’s sake" (John 15:20-21).
The strong persecution experienced in the beginning of the Gospel age, is still being practiced throughout the world as we near the end, even in intensified measure. It is almost incredible to some of us who are privileged to live in areas of comparative religious freedom, that mere man, manipulated by Satan, dares to violently oppose the love plan of the eternal and divine Creator and Sovereign of the universe – God’s plan that all the world should hear of His love for them and His provision through the Lord Jesus Christ that they need not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
But the Apostle Peter tells a suffering church late in his life of much persecution: "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified" (1 Pet. 4:12-14). "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you," wrote the Apostle John whose eyes had seen and whose hands had clasped his beloved Master’s as He went about doing good and yet was despised by many (1 John 3:13). So we are to "think it not strange" and "marvel [wonder] not," but rather, thank God that He is glorified even amid the hardships of persecution.
Sacrifice, which usually entails deep suffering, seems an important word to the Heavenly Father. God was willing to sacrifice His well-beloved Son to die on a cruel cross as the atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sin. Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed His life of young manhood on the cross that His blood might reconcile to the Father those who would believe (Col. 1:20).
Today there are persecuted saints bowing in loving worship before the Father and the Son who gave so much that they might inherit the priceless, eternal salvation which is now their cherished possession. Renouncing their faith would free them from persecution and possible martyrdom. But, they count the Lord Jesus dearer than their own lives. It may cost tear-dimmed eyes and bleeding hearts to present themselves a "living sacrifice" as their "reasonable service" in return (Rom. 12:1). But "Choose for me what You will," is their spirit. "I will pay the price." How precious it is to God when He sees pure gold without the alloy of selfishness, for it reflects the image of His beloved Son.
The main plea of the persecuted to us in lands of freedom is "Brethren, pray for us!" Their heart passion is to be true to their Lord to the end. Will you please take the world’s persecuted saints to heart for prayer? You may see page 11 for helps in doing so.