I did something really amazing this weekend. I put my eye to a lens and gazed at a star millions of miles away from me. I saw the glow of a fire that burns 140,000 times hotter than our sun. I viewed photons, or particles of light, that began traveling to my eyes 642 years ago (Betelgeuse, for those of you who are wondering). I stood in my friend’s backyard and beheld the majesty of God.
As I did, I was reminded of this verse:
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing” (Philippians 2:14-16, NIV 84).
Something else rocked my world this weekend. I finished a book called The Insanity of God. If you haven’t read this book, you need to. It’s the true story of a man and his family who dedicated fifteen years of their lives to minister to the people of Somalia, only to return home disillusioned about the realities of sharing Jesus in a war-torn, dangerous, and mostly-Muslim environment.
So, the Ripkens decided to travel to nations where Christianity has grown in the midst of severe persecution in order to interview those who live out the Gospel in a dangerous climate every day. What they found in the stories of hundreds of saints in places like Russia, China, and the Middle East, was a faith that brought light to some of the darkest places on the planet.
From prison cells, men and women sang. Where there was no Bible, youth memorized the entire Gospels. There were no worship wars: believers gathered together, mouthing the words of praise songs so that they might not be overheard and arrested. No worries about church running past noon: many of these believers gathered from midnight to 3 A.M. to avoid detection by authorities.
And yet they were filled with joy.
These believers could have kept the truth to themselves and avoided persecution. But, no, they held out the word of life–shining like stars in the universe. They traveled many miles to meet together with other believers. And God performed miracles, signs, and wonders in their midst.
I read of another star this week. A Hebrew woman named Hadassah but given the Persian name Esther, which means “star.” She, too, could have kept quiet and not risked her life. But she knew that the lives of others were at stake. And so this “Star” laid it all on the line. She, too, held out the word of life, and declared, “If I perish, I perish.”
Sometimes I won’t even share the Gospel in the grocery store, in the Bible Belt, in a nation in which I could possibly be ridiculed, but that’s about it. Our brothers and sisters around the world would be ashamed. In China, a Christian is not even considered for leadership until he has been to prison. Not Food Lion–prison.
I want to shine like a star, like an Esther, like these men and women who so courageously share the Gospel with their friends and neighbors. I want to stop playing it safe and give it all for Jesus. I want to be so red-hot, on fire for the Lord, that when I start shining, I burn for all eternity.
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
Pray for the persecuted church, that they would be faithful unto death. (That’s what they pray.) And pray for the courage to shine like a star in the universe, holding out the Word of life to those around you. We may not perish for sharing the Gospel, but others will perish if we don’t.
The movie is now out on dvd. You can purchase it here through Amazon: The Insanity of God dvd
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