Rejoice in the LORD; Think of Others

Yeshua’s Inheritance Congregation is meeting again through YouTube. We thank God for this possibility, and will continue to adjust to the situation as the government and health ministries update their requirements. If it is a recommendation, we will weigh it and make what seems the right decision at the time. If it is an order, we will obey it, being part of the general Israeli population.

Earlier this week I participated in a Zoom meeting of people from around the Middle East, and we had the privilege to “sit in” with Andrew and Norine Brunson. He has become well known because he was arrested in Turkey in October, 2016 for being a supporter of terrorists, and sentenced to life in prison in October, 2018, but released that same day, with help from the U.S. President. He was a pastor in Turkey for 20 years before this. He was not ever a genuine threat to the Turkish government or people, but he was falsely accused for political reasons as an active Christian leader.

I want to share a couple of things that especially spoke to me listening to him and his wife. He was extremely open in sharing his personal struggle of faith during his two years in prison, including two months in solitary confinement. He did not know at first what was going on outside, but later learned that his wife was generating prayer around the world for him, and through this, also for Turkey. I admit that I was not part of that movement in any focused way.

He had heard from the Lord early during his imprisonment, asking him if he would be willing to stay in longer if it would bring more glory to God. He answered, “yes”, not knowing, of course, what that would actually mean. As time wore on, and wore on some more, he forgot what he had said to the Lord. Instead, he became offended at Jesus, whom He thought had abandoned him. Before his imprisonment, he knew the Presence of God in his life, and in the church. But now, he felt alone, even discarded, despite all of his praying in his situation.  He received some hope that the Lord had given him some indications twice that he would be released, but both times it did not come through.

What he was learning was to trust in Jesus, no matter what he was afraid of, or whatever comfort and support he was losing – that intimacy that he had known before. It was a matter of his heart and of his will to abide in Jesus, believing what he knew to be Truth. And Norine learned also for herself that she had to surrender all to Jesus, and trust only in Him, not in human institutions or powers, whatever agents they may be under God’s sovereignty.

Two things that Andrew learned about his own faith in such a situation was that he was not right with God in two particular things that greatly helped him once the Word of God convicted him of his unbelief and disobedience.

Let’s look first at what all are familiar with as words, or as lofty teaching; but Andrew Brunson was going to experience them, and put them to the test:

  1. Mt 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My (Yeshua/Jesus) sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

He was reading a book by Richard Wurmbrand, who suffered as a Jewish believer in Rumania for 14 years. Wurmbrand determined that he would rejoice, and so began to dance to the Lord in his celleach morning. This convicted Andrew, and he confessed his hard heart against God: Andrew told the Lord that he was not rejoicing, and was not exceedingly glad! He purposed in his own heart and mind to begin to rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, as far as he was able. Each day, he said, was a test of his will. Each day was a testing of his heart. Each day he determined that his body and his mind would rejoice and be exceedingly glad for being counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus, and trusting that the Lord would be glorified (just what God asked him at the beginning).

We might not remember the next verse as often as we do what Matthew wrote:

  1. Phlip 2:4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Andrew was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippian believers, written while he was in prison for the gospel’s sake. This word convicted Andrew that he was not thinking of the interests of others, but only for his own under the circumstances. Again, he confessed his sin before the Lord and repented of his own self-interest. He was not loving others as himself. He was not identifying with other believers who were also suffering for being disciples of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are holy. We are being given an opportunity in our quarantine, in our quiet, or in our balagan (mess; disarray) during this corona virus crisis to prepare our hearts in terms of our love for Yeshua. Difficult times are promised to come to us before the return of the Lord. We must be convinced in our hearts that we know that He, who died for us, loves us. He will not leave us nor forsake us, but He will possibly bring very severe trials to us in order to purify us, prove and strengthen our faith, sanctifying us as we grow in the knowledge of His power and grace. The more that we know we are forgiven by God for our sins, the more we will love Him and others for His sake. As we endure in the faith to the end, allowing His work to be done, He will bring more glory to His name, and more Christ-likeness, more Godliness, in our own character. When we are emptied of our “self”, Messiah in us becomes more evident. He is worthy to receive blessing and honor and glory and power forever and ever!

Let us practice rejoicing in the Lord. His joy is our strength. If we know that God loves us it strengthens us, encourages us. Our children grow when they know that the father and mother love them, are for them. Let us think of others even as we ourselves may be lacking or suffering. These are not natural qualities under very difficult circumstances, but we want to become more like the Son of God, who is perfectly like His Father and ours. We pray that God would fill us with the Holy Spirit to help us to sacrificially thank and praise Him, and to supernaturally trust and obey our Savior God, to the glory of His Name! We want to be faithful witnesses to the gospel, and to the truth of Yeshua the Messiah and the Kingdom of God.

Give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is good; and His covenant faithfulness is forever!

This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, March 28, 2020, and reposted with permission.