I have previously shared my testimony of walking in the wilderness and what it was like to have my faith tested. So, it was with much interest that I ran across an article from Open Doors USA about the testimony of a Christian pastor held in a Turkish prison and experiencing the silence of God. In case you are unfamiliar with this organization, Open Doors USA seeks to strengthen and encourage Christians throughout the world who find themselves in danger because of their faith in Jesus. Pastor Andrew Brunson had been a pastor of a small Christian Church in Turkey for 25 years when he found himself serving a sentence for espionage and terrorism, which would result in him spending two years in a Turkish prison cell -- 735 days to be exact.
Pastor Brunson is candid in his admission that those two years were difficult because he did not feel the presence of God, and it resulted in a season of testing for his faith. In his interview, he reveals, "I was the only Christian in prison, and the only Christian I had any contact with throughout my two years was Norine [his wife]. So I was very alone, isolated in my faith. I prayed for peace so much. I did not feel much peace. Grace was taking me through, but finding strength, determination, peace and joy was actually much more difficult than I expected. So I didn’t feel people praying for me. I had grace, but it was an unfelt grace. My first year in prison, I broke repeatedly."
Many of us can identify with what it looks like and feels like when we've been broken before God. And many times, we, too, experience the silence and what we think is the absence of God. When asked what he learned through this season, Pastor Brunson responded, "There are actually a number of things that came out of my imprisonment in my own heart. Even though it was two years of the silence of God, I came out with a different intimacy, more confidence in my relationship with Him, which comes from having been tested and proving myself. It’s the difference between a soldier who has been trained and has skills, and one who has the same training and skills but has also been in battle."
That last thought, my friends, is at the heart of this post. As my husband and I enter into another year of our unique ministry of Inner Healing, I am increasingly aware of the difference in the faith of a Christian after they have received Inner Healing from Christ. Each one comes to our table, where they have an opportunity to meet with Christ; where He prepares a table [meal] for them in the presence of their enemies, just as David states in Psalm 23. And when they feast on His power to overcome the strategies of the Enemy in their lives; feast on His authority, love and righteousness, they leave a different kind of Christian -- one that truly knows what deep level faith is and how to walk in it. It's as if everything before was experienced through the doctrines and teachings of the Church, but when they experience what Jesus did while on assignment on earth -- hearing and seeing what the Father's will was for them -- those doctrines and teachings pale in comparison to a new level of real spiritual knowledge and awareness, gained through witnessing Jesus's presence [in the spirit] throughout their lives. No one can remain the same after that upgrade in your faith!
Pastor Brunson stated that his time in that prison was a test of his faith and he believes it is stronger today because his faith was tested and he learned what true perseverance was. Before prison, he knew his faith was strong, but until it was tested in the midst of God's silence, he had no proof of the strength of his faithfulness. He hadn't proven it to himself. For my husband and myself, we see that the Beloved's that come for ministry are also able to understand how they've been tested when we can show them the strategies of the devil to keep them from their purpose in this life. They can understand things about their relationship with God that they weren't able to recognize before. They can see that God hasn't abandoned them or forgotten about them; they can finally see that God didn't "allow" the bad things to happen, but that they have an enemy that comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and that when free will is exercised by themselves [or others against them], that IT IS NOT GOD'S WILL FOR THEM!
Like Pastor Brunson, we can move into a more intimate, strengthened faith with God when we see the truth that God sent us to this earth with an assignment to advance His Kingdom on the planet, and it has been the devil's plan to keep us from that assignment by bringing sin into our lives. And that sin has kept us in bondage to the lies of the devil until the very moment when we have the opportunity to receive the truth from Jesus's own lips! We can cast away the shame, guilt, rejection, anger, unworthiness and whatever other demon spirit the devil has attached to us, and step into a new identity, washed in the blood of Jesus!
As I've so often said, this life is a journey to become more like Jesus. Each of us has a purpose and an assignment, and we should expect the enemy of God to try to detour us from the path God has written in our Book of Life. After all, didn't Satan do the same thing to Jesus? Our journey is an opportunity to persevere and overcome the attacks from our adversary, and when the testing of our faith comes -- and it will come -- we can choose to rebuild and restore our faith to new levels; and we can form new perspectives about who we are from God's point of view... trading false images for truth.
So, because the Bible tells us that persecution will be on the rise in the End Times, we should take this time to not only get ourselves free from bondage and false identities, but prepare ourselves for the testing of our faith. It will be a time of proving to ourselves that our faith is authentic and that God will be faithful to us, even as we are faithful to Him. As Pastor Brunson reflected on his imprisonment, his words struck my heart: "... there’s already more of a cost to follow Jesus now than there was when I got out of college, and it’s about to very quickly accelerate... One of the things I think God was doing in me was having me go through this breaking and rebuilding so that I would learn and practice certain things that would strengthen me to be an encouragement and resource to others who are also going to face difficulty." May we all commit our hearts to do the same.
#Faith #EndTimesFaith #ChristianPersecution
Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?