Monday, February 08, 2016

Lessons learned in prison

Daniel Waheli, with his wife and children, was serving as a missionary in a predominantly Muslim country in Africa. One night, six men came. Four of them had guns. They took him and put him in a small cell with a thin mattress.

He had been questioned by authorities before. He would tell them that he loved their country and he had started a successful business there. Then he noticed the writing on the wall of the cell: "Oh God, it has been more than five months. Please, help me to get out of here." He realised this might take longer than he had thought.

Work had kept him busy. Here, he had time to listen to God's voice. He prayed for hours at a time. God began to speak to his heart. He could barely keep up with all the things God told him. After they gave him his Bible back, he pulled strings from the mattress to serve as bookmarks. He looked at the places he had marked each day to remember the things God had told him. Eventually, he had more than 120 bookmarks.

He was released after almost three months. The presence and the voice of Jesus were clearer to him than ever they had been before. 

Waheli says God taught him five principles about suffering that every follower of Jesus should remember:

1.  Be ready for persecution. Suffering is promised for every person who seeks to live a holy life before God, regardless of calling (2 Tim 3:12).

2.  Rejoice in your sufferings. Suffering can help us develop character which can lead to a hope that does not disappoint (Rom 5;3 - 5).

3.  You are blessed by God in your suffering (1 Pet 4:14; Matt 5:11).

4.  Seek to "bless those who persecute you" (Rom 12:14). The power of love and forgiveness in action helps suffering Christians to bless their persecutors. Pray that God gives you eyes to see your persecutors as people who know not what they are doing and who deeply need Jesus.

5.  Suffering will help you comfort others. God often allows something to happen to you so that you can learn and "be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Cor 1:4).

God intends to build our character to help us better serve Him in love and perseverance. Waheli says his suffering induced indescribable peace, joy and hope in God and in His promises that with and through Him, we will lack nothing.

May we endure hardship with joy and perseverance.

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