In America we have been so profoundly blessed as a nation, that we sometimes forget how incredible our blessings are and the magnitude of the liberties we enjoy every day.
Our nation is now in a great challenge of decisions concerning the religious liberties that our future will or will not hold. But may we never forget how great our freedoms are, and what a painful price others pay for the liberties we enjoy.
Earle E. Lee has been a friend of mine for many years. One Sunday evening after church, he came up to me and shared this story. I had preached in part that evening on “Your Reasonable Service.” Here is what he shared:
What a privilege my wife and I had in August of 1991 when we hosted a group of eight people to go to Russia. In fact, we left America the day the Russian coup was the front page headlines in our morning newspaper stating Gorbachev was out and Yeltsin became the new leader of Russia. We saw the tanks in Red Square in Moscow. When the tanks left we traveled by train to Moscow.
The following Sunday we had the privilege of sharing in the first open service the underground church was able to hold after 30 years of meeting in secret. The service was 5 ½ hours long, but no one noticed its length because of the sharing of God’s grace to them that they experienced during the persecution.
A pastor was called up to share his testimony. He started by saying he did not want to share for fear of getting any glory to himself, but the group of underground pastors wanted his testimony shared. He told how he was saved and called to preach. The Russian authorities found out and wanted him to stop preaching or threatened he would lose his job (your jobs are assigned to you in Russia).
He refused to quit preaching even though the church could not pay him a salary and he lost his job. At that time he and his wife had three young children. The authorities arrested him and put him in jail four different times and demanded that he deny Jesus and stop preaching. Each time he refused to deny Christ and pledged his word that he would not stop preaching.
He was arrested a fifth time, and they told him that this time they would make him deny Jesus and quit preaching. They brought his oldest child in and put her in front of him and told him that if he did not sign that he would deny Jesus and quit preaching, they would literally put hot pokers in both of his daughter’s ears and make her deaf, and then they would pull her tongue out and cut it off to make her dumb.
While standing there looking at his daughter, and thinking of the consequence, his daughter looked up at him and said, “Daddy, don’t you deny Jesus for me.” He didn’t, and they literally put hot pokers in her ears and cut her tongue out.
They kept him in prison, and after a while they brought his next oldest child in, and because he would not sign to deny Christ and stop preaching, they did the same to her. They kept him in prison still longer and after a while they brought his third oldest child in and did the same to her. They eventually let him out of prison.
I noticed that while he was sharing his testimony there were three adult ladies sitting together and someone was signing to them in sign language. After the long service was over I asked our interpreter if they were his older children and she said, “Yes.” I asked if we could go and ask them a question. She arranged for us to do that. The signer told them that I wanted to ask them a question and they said, “Okay.” I asked them, “Are you not bitter at God?”
Immediately, three sets of hands began to move in unison and with smiles on their faces, they signed, “It was just our reasonable service.”
What a price these precious ladies paid for the cause of Christ! How incredible their spirit is after all they were subjected to. But indeed, we are all to be “living sacrifices.” And while I pray that we will never have to face in our beloved America what they faced, with the challenges to our faith that we do face, are we willing to be the Christians we are supposed to be? It is our “reasonable service.”
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”—Romans 12:1–2