To Live is Christ, to Die is Gain

How many of us wonder what it would be like to suffer for Christ?  Sometimes dying for Him seems easier than living for Him.  The thought of going through severe persecution or even death for our beliefs isn’t a pleasant thing, because frankly no one looks forward to dying, especially in a painful way.  We hope that natural causes, preferably in our sleep would be the way for us to go home, but the possibilities of being put to death for Jesus is a very real experience for many around the world as it has been since Stephen was stoned for proclaiming Christ in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago.

I imagine folks here have pretty much figured out that I think about persecution a lot; yet I’ve tried to bring the persecution of Christians to regular conversations for years, because it’s something every Christian ought to think about.  Not only the possibilities of it happening to any of us, but to make us remember those around the world who need and covet our prayers as they suffer for Christ.

Paul was one of the most persecuted apostles in the Bible, ironic for one who was once one of the chief persecutors of new Christians.  Paul was a fascinating person whose trials (literal- tried and imprisoned) and tribulations (shipwrecked) and eventual death for his proclamation of Jesus the Christ taught that indeed, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

In our limited view of our own time, it’s hard to understand the gain of death, especially if one dies for Christ- but even harder sometimes as we go day to day in our busy lives, that living for Him is even more challenging, yet people have lived out loud for Jesus in ways that the world would scoff at but the Lord says, “Well done”.

Tonight I am hopefully going to see the movie, Tortured for Christ, which is the true story of one man who did live for Christ in a big way, which brought him 14 years of torture in a Communist Prison simply because of his faith, yet his faithfulness grew into a world wide organization which to this day helps bring awareness and fights for the persecuted all over the world.

I’m talking about Richard Wurmbrand who was a Lutheran Pastor in Communist Romania.

In 1945, when the Communists invaded Romania and attempted to take control of the churches, Pastor Wurmbrand began an underground church which helped the oppressed believers as well as occupying Russian soldiers.

He was arrested in 1948, along with his wife, Sabina, who was imprisoned as a slave-laborer for three years on the Danube Canal. Pastor Wurmbrand spent three years being tortured while in solitary confinement. He was then transferred to a group cell, where the torture continued for five more years.

He was released in 1956, after eight and a half years, and, although warned not to preach, he went right back to the underground church. He was arrested again in 1959, and sentenced to 25 years. During his imprisonment, he was beaten and tortured again.

In 1964 the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance negotiated with the Communist authorities for his release from Romania for $10,000.

He was convinced by underground church leaders to leave and become a voice for the persecuted church. Pastor Wurmbrand traveled to Norway, England, and then the United States where he testified in Washington, D.C. before the US Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee in 1965. He became known as the “The Voice of the Underground Church” and was instrumental in publicizing the persecution of Christians in Communist countries.

In April 1967, he and his wife formed the organization, Jesus To The Communist World which eventually became The Voice of the Martyrs.

Voice of the Martyrs along with Open Doors USA are the main two organizations which today spread awareness, raise funds for release, or for Bibles for believers in some of the worst countries for Christians to live.  The people who carry on the work of the Wurmbrand’s continue to live for Christ in a way which gives encouragement and courage to those who are dying for Him.

They deserve to be remembered by us every day in our prayers.