Ravi Zacharias on June 20, 2014
Years ago I was given the great privilege to be in Shanghai in the home of the famed Chinese evangelist Wang Ming Dao. He told us that he was put in prison for his faith in Jesus Christ, but he soon renounced his faith and was released from his imprisonment. Thereafter, he says, he lived with such torment of his soul that he walked the streets of Beijing saying, “My name is Peter; my name is Peter. I’ve denied my Lord.” Soon, Mao Zedong put him back into prison—this time for eighteen years. Wang Ming Dao said every day in prison he woke up and sang the hymn by the hymn writer Fanny Crosby,
All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt his tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
At first the guards tried to silence him. When they weren’t able to succeed, they resignedly put up with his singing. Gradually, as the years went by, they would gather near the opening to his cell to listen as he sang of God’s faithfulness to him. Eventually, they began to ask him to sing to them and to teach them the words of the song. Such is the impact of one who walks faithfully with God.
Many years earlier as a young man trying to come to terms with God’s call in ministry, I stood by a garbage dump in Ban Me Thuot, Vietnam: it was the grave of six missionaries martyred in the Tet Offensive of 1968. All alone, I pondered the price they had paid for following Christ. I asked myself whether any of them would have answered God’s call on their lives if they had known that their lives would end in a garbage dump. God knows our frailties; how loving of Him that He does not allow us to know the future. I prayed there by that grave that God would make me faithful so that I would not focus on the cost, but rather, keep my eyes on the mission to serve Christ with all my heart, soul, and mind, and on the sweetness of the walk with Him, day by day.
The Bible speaks of many who suffered on behalf on the gospel who were unwilling to abandon the precious faith entrusted to them. Consider the apostle Paul, who knew intimately what it was to write, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). Think of the stoning of Stephen and the heartache endured by those recorded in Hebrews 11. Furthermore, eleven of Jesus’s twelve disciples died a martyr’s death; not one of them anticipated how they would die when they came to him. If they had known where following Jesus would lead them, one wonders whether any of them would have started on the journey, for as they proved later, they were not particularly brave men.
And yet, faithfulness over the long run is the shining example of what faith is meant to be. The story of the gospel in China is only one recent example. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong burned the seminary libraries, expelled Christians from the country, and declared that the name of Jesus would never be pronounced on Chinese lips again. He tried to bury the Christian faith completely. Today, the Chinese church is the fastest growing church in the world.
Many, many times I have looked back at my own journey. Had I known the cost it would exact, I am absolutely positive that at the very least I would have had grave reservations and trembled at stepping onto the road. What I have concluded is this: The greatest of loves will often come at the greatest of costs. We may never be imprisoned for our faith, but what one deems to be of ultimate value exacts a cost in proportion.
I have a friend who spoke to me of how difficult it was for him when he finally learned the heavy cost of his sin through the forgiveness extended to him. He had betrayed his wife and family and lived through the pain of asking for forgiveness and rebuilding that trust. Somehow over a period of time he assumed that even for them, the hurt was mended and the past expunged from their memory. One day he returned home from work early in the afternoon, just to get a break. Unaware that he was home, his wife was on her knees crying out to God to help her forget the pain she and her children were bearing. It was a rude awakening to him of the cost of his sin and of his family’s sacrificial love. Now multiply that wrong by a limitless number and you will get a glimpse of what Christ bore on the cross for you and for me.
The greatest of loves will never come cheaply. The greatest of loves that you and I can ever experience is an intimate relationship with God, who has given everything for us. And yes, sometimes, it takes everything you’ve got to honor that love and it takes everything you’ve got to honor that trust. Look at any athletes who have succeeded. Discipline and perseverance are indispensable parts of their lives unless they cheat. When you have discipline, you have the marks on the body to demonstrate it.
There is always the temptation to misjudge the cost halfway through the journey. God reminds us again and again that the true measure of gain is only calibrated at the destination. That is why even Moses, when he asked how he would know that God had called him, was told, “When you get there you will know it.” That’s not the answer he wanted but that was the profound lesson he learned.
Fanny Crosby, bearing the marks of blindness in infancy by a traveling doctor’s questionable treatment, sang of God’s faithfulness and love to her dying day—and saw the end with the eyes of her soul:
All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.
That may be why, even in singing the hymn, the last two lines are repeated: “Gushing from the Rock before me, Lo! A spring of joy I see.”