Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A heart set free

A missionary friend gave me permission to post the following (it has been anonymised)...

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These past weeks have been a tense and challenging time following the warnings from the government and various western embassies. Living out here with young children has certainly focused my mind. We seem a long way from the peace and safety of the UK!  My initial response to events was to organise the building of a safe room in our house, which is now ready.

My second response was not practical but theological; it involved a reconsideration of the value my Christian beliefs.  A few weeks ago I lay awake one night, unable to sleep for worrying about our situation. In those early hours I was reminded that if we're not careful, fear can control our thinking and leave us in panic. And that night I experienced fear. I've seen the images of what happened at (some place) and also a year before at (another place) and my imagination was running wild. The thought of seeing my wife and children gunned down is not a pleasant one. Should we go home? Should I send them off the campus?

As I tossed in the dark that night, a change in the direction of my thoughts happened and I felt gently rebuked. That day I'd been reading a biography of the hymn writer Charles Wesley, "A Heart Set Free".  It records how in 1735 Charles and his brother John were crossing the North Atlantic on their way to the colony of Georgia when a terrible storm blew up. Apparently John Wesley noted in his journal how people on the boat became gripped by fear, in many cases screaming in panic thinking that they would soon drown. Then he and Charles came across a different scene: a group of Moravian Christians from Germany calmly gathered together to sing hymns and pray. What struck the Wesley brothers was that these believers confessed the absence of the fear of death. Death had no power over them. It was at this point that John and Charles realised that whatever kind of Christianity they possessed, it wasn't the New Testament kind. They had no sense of the peace that those Moravians displayed. Later after the Wesley brothers were converted, they roamed the British Isles preaching the gospel, the fear of death gone.  There was a lesson for me here. 

The next thought that came to me in those early hours was how theoretical our Christian theology can be when life is calm, predictable and safe. How often back home have I proclaimed from the pulpit that "Jesus is Lord", that he has risen from the dead and has conquered death? Countless times I have sung Stuart Townend's words, "No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me". Wonderful, precious words, but the question I faced that night was would I believe them now, or would I allow myself to be overcome by fear? In those night hours, faith was slowly getting a grip on me and replacing the fear.  Let's make no mistake about it, death is a tyrant and it holds all the sons and daughters of Adam in its power. We do almost anything to keep it at bay. And yet the heart of the message of Christianity is that what Paul called the last enemy really has been conquered. We are released from death's grip and power. And recognising that and believing it brings great freedom.

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