“My wife, baby and myself are, today, in the hands of communist bandits. Whether we will be released or not, no one knows. May God be magnified in our bodies, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:20”
In 1934, missionary to China, John Stam penned these chilling words in a letter to his mission agency shortly before he and his wife were brutally killed for their faith. They left behind their three month old daughter to be raised by relatives.
In the age we now live, we have access to pretty much any information we can possibly fathom. With all the information we read online, in books, see on the news, as well as stories we hear, it’s very, very easy to allow our minds to be filled with fear.
In 2012, my family and I had a very safe experience while we lived in China. But to be honest, it’s still too easy for me, as a wife and mother, to allow my mind to think on all the scary things that could happen when we return, and to conjure up wrong, fearful thoughts.
“How can I take my baby to a place where people have been killed for professing Christ?”
“What would I do if they took my husband and left me and my baby all alone?”
“What if we are thrown into prison and tortured for our faith? What would happen to my child?”
Fearful thinking doesn’t only come into play in ministry. It’s also a temptation to dwell on our fearful thoughts in everyday life. We have fears when it comes to our kids, our spouses, our health, our finances, our futures. And as much as I would like to say that my fears only surface when thinking about the mission field, that simply is not true. I have fears related to everyday life as well; just as many other women.
“What if someone kidnaps my child?”
“What would I do if my husband were to die in a car accident?”
“What if some natural disaster were to take my entire family from me?”
Safety and security is something we all long for, but it is not something that God owes us. Our fears are exposed when we begin to realize that our safety, comfort and security could, very well, be taken from us. And for some, that safety, comfort and security could be taken away with much violence and heartache.
The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God has not given us a spirit of fear. Now, Paul is writing to Timothy and there is reason to believe that Timothy is scared. His friend and mentor is about to be executed. He could be thinking that he may be next.
We like that part about not having a spirit of fear, but forget to read the next verse which tells us, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;”. Paul tells Timothy not to be ashamed of Jesus and Paul (himself), but not only that, he also tells him to be a partaker in the affliction and the suffering.
As American Christians, we have deceived ourselves into thinking that no persecution and no harm should ever come to us. However, we must remember that God is in control and it may be in His will that tragedy does happen to us. I know we would like to think that the safest place is in the center of God’s will but that is just not true according to what the Bible teaches. Our comfort and safety is not the goal; God’s glory is the goal.
The fact is, it may be in our Lord’s will for something devastating to happen in your life or mine. It may even be in His will for my family to be persecuted, imprisoned, kicked out of China, or even killed for our faith in Christ, but just as Paul said and as missionary John Stam was comforted before his death, I pray that this would also be my prayer: that God would be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.