I am reading through the Book of Acts in the New Testament these days. I have read it many times before in different English versions. Now I'm reading from The Message which uses contemporary language. It appeals and speaks to me in a fresh way.
Lately, I've been finding myself crying as I read the lives of these first century Christians.
I cry as I read about the early disciples and apostles. I thank God for them and the nameless others from that period who endured severe persecution and gave their lives for the love of Christ. So now we have the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Revelations... Plus the books of the Old Testament.
I cry as I imagine the many men and women who through the centuries remained faithful at all cost to follow Christ and keep God's Word. I don't think there's any other book that has withstood as much opposition as the Bible. It's still being opposed today, burnt, confiscated, declared illegal, accused of hate crimes, prevented from being taught even in so-called free countries. But people still die for it.
I cry as I remember the missionaries who, following Christ's Great Commission to "go into all the world", laboured and gave up life's comforts, even their lives, to take the gospel to unknown foreign lands including my own.
I cry because I am grateful. Eternally grateful.
It must have taken thousands of faithful people to bring me to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I never saw them or knew them but I hope to personally thank them in heaven some day.
And then there are the ones whom God brought to my path from a young age who directly or indirectly drew me a step closer to knowing Him...
...the college students who went to my high school to mount a concert where I first heard a gospel presentation.
...the Crossroad singers from abroad who performed at that concert. They went as volunteers, raising their own support, spent many months or years preparing.
...a student boarder at our house who owned the first Holy Bible I ever touched in my life.
...my father who, intentionally or unintentionally, promoted Bible reading to me when he started taking trips and staying at hotels from where he took home Gideon's New Testaments. I took a pocket New Testament from his room and started reading it in secret. I quickly got hooked.
...the Certain Sounds Singers who visited my campus like the Crossroads Singers did 3 years earlier. This is where I finally invited Jesus into my life.
...each diligent Bible study leader and fellow student, many just a little older than myself, in the university who took time to guide me through the Word of God and answer many difficult questions.
...many preachers and teachers, often working with meager pay and difficult circumstances, who faithfully built me up and helped me grow in my walk as a Christian even when I wasn't always teachable.
I cry as I think of the countless people whom God used to prepare my path long before I was born and brought into my life so that I may know Him. It's like He orchestrated this huge production to get through to me.
I still have those people in my life today, co-travelers in this faith journey.
Thank you all you faithful people.
Now it's my turn. I don't mean now now. From the time I made a decision to give my life to Christ, it's been my turn.
It's my turn to be faithful.
It's my turn to observe and preserve His Word.
It's my turn to pass it on.
It's my turn to make my own sacrifices, to endure the insults and mockery and criticism from people and institutions which sometimes scare me silent...
To be honest, it's not easy to follow Christ. Jesus said it Himself, "You must take up your cross..." I can't do it on my own. God help me!
But having Christ in my life in a very real and personal way makes any sacrifice a small thing. And it will be fully rewarded, by leaps and bounds.
I found this video on GodTube. It's a song by Steve Green (shown here) that has resonated in my heart since the first time I heard it, perhaps in the late 80s or early 90s. I remember singing it with a small group at our church. I'm not sure if I already had kids then, but they were certainly in my mind. Because in the end, all I want my boys to remember about me is that Mom was faithful. And it's only because God is.
Steve Green singing Find Us Faithful