This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.
~ 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NIV)
Our Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church.”
However we splice it, the Christian life involves living with mystery. Many times the will of God is utterly incomprehensible to us. This is as it should be, since God’s ways are so much higher than ours, but it doesn’t make it any easier to live with. Living with mystery is hard.
Mystery should make us silent, humble, careful. We should not rush to explain what cannot be explained. But I remember on a visit to China meeting a famous house church leader. We were talking about revival. Revival is a mystery. Why does God bring it to some countries and not to others? We don’t know. This leader said he knew: “Oh, there is no mystery to revival. Revival is brought about by persecution. You pray for persecution, and you will get revival later on.”
But this is quite untrue, and one has to make allowances for persecuted Christians, for though they may know the history of their own churches well, they are often unaware of the history of the church worldwide. It is obvious that God has brought many revivals about without persecution. The Great Awakenings of 18th century America and Britain for example were brought about largely as a result of the preaching of Whitefield and Wesley. It is also obvious that there are places where persecution has not brought revival. One thinks of the whole of North Africa and the Middle East, which provided so many of our early church leaders like Tertullian and Augustine. Now there are only the sandy ruins of churches, and Islam.
Mysteries also should make us honest. We have to admit “we don’t know” to God. But all too often we beg for answers we simply could not handle. But if I look at the experiences rather than the explanations of the persecuted, I see that at the heart of mystery is not frustration, but joy and grace.
The same Chinese leader—so confident he knew the formula to revival—also shared a prison experience: “I had lost my church, my freedom, and I was starting to lose my health, and I cried to God, Why are you letting me go through this?” He received no formal answer, but said, “I felt a light within me that chased away the darkness, and I received the companionship of Christ. I cannot explain it any more than that, though God knows I have tried. It never comes out right. But the mystery of God’s will was the means I rested on the bosom of Christ.”
Mysteries appear dark, like black holes on the outside, but as we enter them, we are in for a wonderful discovery. At their center is not darkness, but light. This light is the light of Christ. Don’t be afraid of a mystery. It is dark on the outside, but full of light on the inside.
RESPONSE: Today I will not fear mystery but love it by entering to find the light of Christ.
PRAYER: Lord, keep me silent, humble, careful and honest as I explore the mystery of Your grace.