Insight

Welcome to the blog of Commissioner Clive Adams. Leader of The Salvation Army United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland
 
 

If I die, I die!

25 February 2014 - 5:42pm
| by Clive Adams
|

‘If I die, then I die!’ Their reference is as casual as ours to bad weather – not the extreme kind of weather that has brought about so much suffering and damage in southern England and Wales in recent weeks and months; not the ‘worst in a lifetime’ storms that have battered our coasts and rivers and beleaguered the local inhabitants; just the ordinary wet, windy, cold, unpleasant, ‘typical of this time of the year (regardless of the actual time of the year)’, everyday vagaries of the British climate. Their references contained less complaint than ours to the run-of-the-mill bad weather we face.

I sat with growing amazement as I listened – aghast at the extremity, the seriousness of what they described and the almost absurd calmness of their descriptions. Even the occasional weeping of some seemed subdued.

I had to check with the leader to ensure that those who were speaking had not been specifically selected because of their extreme experiences. But, this was no specially selected group. The leaders had chosen them at random, which meant that it was a common experience rather than an exceptional one – as common as bad weather, as inevitable as bad weather.

I was at a Brengle Seminar in Bangladesh, and we had asked some of the delegates to share something of their respective spiritual journeys – a kind of This Is My Story period of witnessing and sharing. About half the group had been asked, and part of each afternoon was devoted to listening to these journeys. Common to all the testimonies was great suffering, and, for many, that suffering came through persecution. The suffering was most often described in the context of God’s power and God’s grace – a means to emphasise God’s character rather than their own. I heard tales of life-threatening confrontations, where, but for the intervention of others, serious injury would have been the best possible outcome; of literally starting from scratch in a place where deprivation and need have different connotations to what we know at home; of being disowned by family, emotionally and materially, and losing everyone and everything from the past; of great loneliness despite being surrounded by people, because of rejection and opposition – to the point of having to give birth absolutely alone.

I heard about the healing of God when faced with serious illness and medical opinion had reached its fatal conclusions; the supply of God when even the extremely limited resources dry up; the protection of God when oppression – spiritual, emotional and/or physical – is strong.

I looked about, searching for some reaction from the other delegates as one officer concluded her sharing with Esther-like determination: ‘If I die, I die!’ Although I wondered whether she knew of Esther’s statement, I did not need to wonder that this was an exaggerated, attention-seeking, dramatic but empty declaration – given what she had said in her testimony, it was not! And the reaction from the delegates was not unlike our reactions when someone talks about bad weather – it was shrugged off as inevitable.

Jesus spoke about these extremes in paradoxical terms (Matthew 5: 10-12, paraphrased): ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for being and doing right, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven! Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on my account. Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in Heaven is great, for in this same way people persecuted the prophets who were before you.’

The Amplified Bible (v 10) expands ‘blessed’ to read ‘happy and enviably fortunate and spiritually prosperous (in the state in which the born-again child of God enjoys and finds satisfaction in God’s favour and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions)’.

As I observed the Bangladeshi officers over those short days of the Brengle Seminar, I saw something of this paradox in their demeanour and their worship. I believe they know what this means – not merely intellectually, but rather actually, experientially. It’s a much deeper knowledge than can be appropriated through study.

I was humbled as I listened to their commitment… their devotion… their faith. I was challenged about my concept of depth. My knowledge was such that they seemed grateful for my teaching, but I felt myself to be wallowing in the shallows in comparison to their commitment, their devotion and their faith! It brought a challenging perspective to my life, my lifestyle, my ministry and my officership. I find myself wishing that more UKI Salvationists could be similarly challenged – I think it could affect the way we approach our mandate and mission here!

Comments

Submitted by Estelle on

Love when our faith is deepened by others. Bless you Commissioner. May this never leave you and may you be taken to new depths. For my colleagues in Pakistan. May the almighty blessings be stronger and more than ever.
Maybe this is also why they are growing as an Army.

Submitted by Russell Wyles on

I share your amazement and concern. The comfort of our citadels is a challenge to us, likewise the public perception and warmth has a coddling effect that we should be wary of. With Phillipians 1:21 as my favourite verse - to live is Christ and to die is gain - I am reminded that I am very unlikely to face the real challenge that some of our brothers and sisters face. Thank you for this gracious challenge.

Submitted by David Alton on

Thank you for your insights from your sharing with Bangladeshi officers.

Submitted by Graeme Smith on

Sobering reading in a time when we in the UK tend to see persecution of Christians as being centered around issues of not being able to wear a cross or when the law no longer promotes Christian values. In our situation our response tends to be to shout loudly that 'our rights' are being eroded and the government should do something about it.

I wonder what would happen were we to embrace the true Christian response shown by our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters.

Submitted by John Howe on

We thank you for your 'insight' on the very real faith of our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters! We thank them for sharing their experiences and showing how we can weather all sorts of storms in our lives by stepping out in our faith. Thank you too for the wonderful photos you shared from your trip. It was great to see you wearing their traditional dress. It reminded me of the story of Wm Booth asking officers about to be posted overseas. Can you be a Zulu? Can you be an Indian or Bangladeshi in this case? TY!

Submitted by bonnie beard on

complacency and comfort are the enemy's best friend. We are warned in revelation to be either hot or cold for Christ - not to be tepid. How easy it can be to become tepid. Please help me to be burning hot and on fire for Christ, let us be passionate about Him and not take the easy route of conforming. Let us be in the world, but not of the world

Submitted by Charles Durman on

Praise God for the growing Kingdom of God through The Salvation Army in Bangladesh and the vibrant faith of our Officers, Soldiers and Young People there. From a small mustard seed a mighty tree is growing!

Submitted by Stephen Poxon on

Humbled.

Submitted by Margaret Coles on

Thank you for bringing Matthew 5 to our attention.
I,too, love the Amplified version which enriches Scripture. I'd never thought of it in this light, but my precious Saviour has taken me along that road right here in the heart of Cambridgeshire. Satan is indeed a roaring lion seeking to devour God's people but I know now for sure that 'greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world'. I see daily signs that Jesus has overcome the world and reigns over all and we will reign with Him if we are found 'in Him'.
Stand firm in your faith.

Submitted by Charles Durman on

I am also reminded of a prayer written by an Egyptian Christian, fairly recently, that said "“Please don’t pray for us. Please pray with us. If you pray for us, you will pray for the wrong things. You will pray for our safety. You will pray that persecution will cease. But if you pray with us, you will ask God to bring millions of Egyptians to faith in Christ. You will pray that when the inevitable backlash comes because of our witness, we will be faithful, even if it costs us our lives" Now there is real faith amidst real persecution

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