You can have everything taken away and still be rich if you have Jesus. I have been looking at Jesus’ letter to the persecuted and poverty stricken Church in Smyrna where he tells them they are rich. With that statement we come to articulate the second crunch point in Jesus’ adjustment of our thinking about God, the gospel and the Christian life and it is this: Jesus is the true treasure.
I came across a little book a while back as I was clearing up my study. It doesn’t look like much on the outside, it’s a small book, rather faded with an overexposed black and white picture of a smiling family on the front but as I flicked through its pages I became deeply effected by its contents. It’s called “Tortured for Christ” and its 128 small pages contain the testimony of Richard Wurmbrand.
When the Communists seized Rumania they started persecuting the church and arrested Richard in 1948 for preaching the gospel to his people and to the Russian soldiers. In his book he describes in detail some of the most horrendous tortures imaginable that were meted out to him and other Christians day after day, year after year in an underground dungeon. I was appalled. But listen to what he says:
“When I look back on the fourteen years of prison, it was sometimes a very happy time. Other prisoners and even the guards very often wondered at how happy Christians could be under most terrible circumstances. We could not be prevented from singing, although we were beaten for this. I image that nightingales too would sing, even if they knew that after finishing they would be killed for it. Christians in prison danced for joy. How could they be so happy under such tragic conditions?”
It’s because they where rich! They had Jesus.
“In solitary confinement, we could not pray as before. We were unimaginably hungry; we had been doped until we became idiots. We were as weak as skeletons. The Lord’s prayer was much too long for us. We cannot concentrate enough to say it. My only prayer repeated again and again was “Jesus I love thee”. And then, one glorious day I got an answer from Jesus: “You love me? Now I will show you how I love you” At once I felt a flame in my heart which burned like the coronal streamers of the sun. The disciples on the way from Emmaus said that their hearts burned when Jesus spoke with them. So it was with me. I knew the love of the One Who has given his life on the cross for us all. Such love cannot exclude the communists, however grave their sins. Communists have committed and still commit horrors but “many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods down it”.
They had Jesus and nothing, nothing could take that away from them. Such was their understanding and enjoyment of the riches of Christ that in their torturers they saw people whom Christ had died for and sought with all their heart for their salvation. And you know what? Some of the guards actually received Christ. “In those who watched mocking when Christians, smeared with excrement, were tired to crosses, we saw the crowd of Golgotha which were soon to beat their breast in fear of having sinned”. They experienced close up the transforming power of the gospel that “Where sin increased grace abounded all the more.”
He also says that they had a clear view of the future and “saw in the shabby and dirty and weak martyr…the splendid crowed saint of tomorrow”.
When you suffer for obeying Jesus he always leaves you better off, both now and for all eternity.