Syrian Christians are being tortured, crucified and beheaded in Aleppo, Syria because these Christians are reaching out to their neighbors with the love of Jesus. This isn't a bible story. It is happening now. Radical Islamicists in Aleppo ordered Christians in their city to leave or face death. These followers of Jesus refused to leave their hometown, choosing to remain in the city to provide aid in the name of Christ to survivors of the carpet bombings.
When the deadline to leave Aleppo passed, these Christians were apprehended, and their torture began. One Syrian Christian father watched as his twelve-year-old son's fingers were cut off. When the father still refused to renounce Christ and convert to Islam, the radicals then beat both father and son, and crucified them with a sign above their heads that read "infidels." During their torture these Syrian Christians sang, prayed for their torturers and displayed super-human inner strength. One eyewitness said the way these Christians died astounded their persecutors. They died as conquerors, not victims.
Meanwhile, we American Christians sip our lattes and nibble our pastries, but find it impossible to overcome the "hurt and pain" we've experienced in life. Most of us can't even spell Aleppo, much less see the difference between the pain and suffering in their lives when compared to ours. We complain about the songs we sing in church, the lack of Facebook likes we receive, and the various ways people disrespect us. We find it easier to point our finger at someone else as the cause of our pain than to look within ourselves to find the reasons for it.
We American Christians have become masters at playing the role of victims.
Jesus said, "Things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart" (Matthew 15:18). To express "I'm a victim" in life is the ultimate sign of a void within my heart. When I see myself as a victim, I have little or no comprehension of God's love for me in Jesus Christ.
Oh, sure, I may say I understand God's love for me. Maybe I'll even sing about God's love. But the proof is in how I live. When crunch time comes, if I find my satisfaction and happiness in other people, or other things, or in my ability to control life, then I'll play the role of victim. I must play the victim because I am. That in which I trust for my happiness and security has been stolen from me.
Never find the source of your happiness today in what you may lose tomorrow.
I can never lose the love of Christ.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither heights nor depths, nor anything else in this world, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).If I'm void of a comprehension of Christ's love for me, then when things get out of control - like a son's fingers being cut off by a radical Islamicists - I'll scream and fight, seek to control and manipulate, lie and steal, look back and payback, and ... well, you get the picture. But when "I know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, then I am filled up with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:19).
And when filled with the love of Christ, then what comes out of me when squeezed by painful events is the love of Christ. So God will sometimes allow the heat to surround me to reveal the heart that is within me.
Now for the Good News.
God is at work in all His people, turning us from a mindset of victimization to a mindset of being "more than conquerors." The same passage in Romans 8 that points us to the love of Christ trumpets what it means for Christians to be "more than conquerors" in this life. Read it carefully:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:35, 37).The little phrase "more than conquerors" translates one Greek word - ὑπερνικ. I'll transliterate the root words of this compound Greek word in English - SUPER NIKE.
Super is the Greek preposition which means more than or superior.
Nike is the Greek word for victory. Nike is more than a logo; it's a state of mind.
Christ's love for me makes me "more than victorious" in my mind, no matter the troubling situation that comes my way in my life.
This is really Good News.
The gospel is not just about "going to heaven." It's about being able in this life to be "more than victorious" even when your son's fingers are cut off. It's about having the ability to pray for those who are in the process of actually crucifying you. It's about having the power to be kind to those who hate you and cause you affliction or distress (trouble), famine or nakedness (loss), and danger or sword (harm).
By pointing my finger at someone else as the reason for the loss of my happiness, or the source of my pain, or the one I believe is responsible for my struggles in this life, I am playing the role of victim and am losing any sense of being more than victorious through Christ's love for me.
I must stop it.
For when I rest in the love of Christ - something that no one or no thing can ever take away - I will find that this life's troubles, losses, and painful events only give me an opportunity to show the world that I am more than victorious through Jesus Christ who loves me.
My New Year's resolution is to go through 2017 with a mindset that I am never a victim of my circumstances. I am always more than a conqueror through Him who loves me.