I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. I read one book over mid-term break and a second one since then (post on that one forthcoming), both of which have bold, controversial titles that make you want to know more.
The first book I picked up on Kindle a few weeks ago is called The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken
As David Platt says in the foreword - Suffering is one of God’s ordained means for the growth of His church. He brought salvation to the world through Christ, our suffering Savior, and he now spreads salvation in the world through Christians as suffering saints. In the words of Paul “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.
Nik shares his “pilgrimage through persecution” that began with his involvement with relief work in Somalia just after the civil war in the early 1990’s. Nik experienced the horrors of a post-war Somalia, and though he aided in feeding 50,000 starving people daily, he came away from his time in the horn of Africa feeling defeated and discouraged. He had witnessed “the insanity of evil, the inhumanity of people, and the pain of failure.”
It was then that God used heartbreak and suffering in his own life to take Nik down a different path, on a journey all over the world to listen and learn from believers who have lived through intense persecution and had seen the church persevere and even thrive as a result.
Nik shares story after story from the underground church in a number of different countries. The gravity of the nature of their (in some cases ongoing) persecution is evident in each story. All of the names and many of the locations have been protected, in fact, his own name has been protected. He mentions at one point in the book that he does not want these believers to experience more suffering on his account. Persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ is one thing; persecution because of any carelessness on his part is unacceptable.
Ultimately Nik sees evidence of Jesus and His resurrection power in places that even today are very much closed to the Gospel.
”Before we can grasp the full meaning of the resurrection, we first have to witness the crucifixion. If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the risen Jesus.” (p. 308)
I like books (and sermons) that knock me around a little, that make me take a hard look inward at my own faith in Christ and what I’m willing to be obedient unto. I do think the danger here is to romanticize persecution and set these believers on a spiritual pedestal, as if every believer should be striving for this, and I think he flirts with that line. Overall, though, I very much appreciated reading the true stories of God’s ongoing work among the nations.