In the last two issues of HEART we have published extracts from a short but highly challenging booklet by Sister Joela Krüger of Germany’s Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, founded by Mother Basiliea Schlink in the ashes of her town, Darmstadt, after World War Two.
Previously Sister Joela has warned of a pleasure-seeking society where even Christians are programmed to avoid speaking of sin. Yet this society, in which the Church has tuned out uncomfortable topics from its message, will, she contends, be more willing to ban anything that reminds us of Jesus’s atoning sacrifice.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREPARE? If we want to experience the life-transforming power of the crucified Lord, we must start by admitting that we are hopelessly lost and in need of salvation. He can only deal with sin that has been faced up to and brought to him – not “mistakes” that we explain away and excuse. As we ask the Holy Spirit, he will show us where we are blind by nature. He is the Spirit of truth who will lead us into truth and freedom. He transforms timid people-pleasers into strong witnesses for Jesus who will stand firm, refusing to flee from today’s end-time battlefield.
Dr Theo Lehmann, a tried and tested pastor and youth evangelist from East Germany, said of his own experiences, “After spending so many years under a communist regime, it’s great to be living in a free, democratic country, not facing discrimination or persecution for my faith in Jesus. But I believe this is just a God-given breathing-space … We should use this time to get ready for what is ahead, when it won’t be ‘cool’ to be a Christian, but unsafe. Fireproof Christians will be needed, grounded in the Bible and ready even for labour camp.”
It doesn’t take much self-knowledge to realise how quickly our strength gives out and we run out of love. This is when we need Jesus. He does not demand the impossible of us, only what he himself won for us at Calvary: suffering love.
Coming from God – returning to God
The apostle John gives us a helpful insight into Jesus’ attitude as he began his Passion. Jesus loved his own to the last. He knew that he had come from God and was returning to God. So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet (see John 13).
Here we see Jesus’s strong sense of identity, the source of his dignity, power and authority. He knew exactly who he was as he began his Passion. Public humiliation was preceded by a private demonstration of his humility. This is how our own path of suffering will begin. Great deeds have small beginnings: in the family circle, in the work-place …
Jesus knew where he came from, and so do we. To all who receive him as Lord of their lives, he gives power to become children of God. However difficult some of us may find our personal background, we have been born of God. This is our identity, dignity and unique worth. We belong to the Father!
We know where we come from and we know where we are going. We don’t need to worry about the future. Our home is ready and waiting for us. We know our destination – and we are expected!
If God’s angels rejoice over every sinner who repents, how much more will they rejoice when a pardoned sinner comes home to the Father.
Our path through life is clear, for Jesus said, “I am the way”. He has promised that where he is, his servant will also be. He gives us the strength to persevere.
Left in no doubt
For all the grace and blessing we know in his fellowship, he never left us in any doubt that
it will be a path of suffering. But no matter how tough things may get, we have the sure promise “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
We are approaching the final stages of God’s plan for this present age, and in his word he has already given us all the help we need to come through in victory. In Revelation 12:7-10 we read of a battle in heaven, with God’s opponent graphically described as “the great dragon … that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.”
Then verse 11 follows: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” For us too, these are clear directions.
Threefold power to overcome
We overcome by the blood of the Lamb. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (John 6:56).
For Jesus’s followers this is no “hard saying”, but a deep mystery. As the branches remain in the vine and the life-sap courses through them, so we too are sustained by Jesus’s sacrifice, not least through Holy Communion. Here we share in the riches of heaven which he won for us.
We overcome by the word of our testimony. This does not mean a testimony that is cheap or vague. It means that we acknowledge a crucified Jesus Christ, that we believe in Holy Scripture in its entirety, taking God’s commandments as our standard.
Clearly, this could mean loss of employment, harassment, slander, fines or imprisonment. Revelation 12 continues: “They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
This is about a love that is willing to die! We are no strangers to hatred that is willing to die. Suicide bombers have demonstrated it with sickening frequency.
But Jesus has redeemed us and set us free to love as he loved us, to forgive and love our enemies. Love like this is from God and cannot be destroyed by physical, mental or spiritual suffering, no matter how severe the pain.
Those who love Jesus are like a seal over his heart (Song of Songs 8:6) and cannot be separated from him. He gives them the strength to keep his command, “Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)
The only permissible weapon in this spiritual war is a love that is prepared to die. No other love can strengthen, heal, encourage, sustain and comfort. By nature none of us possess the qualities we need for this kind of battle. But his grace is sufficient for us, for his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The needier we are, the more wonderfully he will supply our need. If we rely on him for help, we will not be disappointed. We will say with Paul, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ [Psalm 44:22] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35-37). And, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
How can we prepare?
(see also Strong in the Time of Testing by M. Basilea Schlink)
- Read God’s Word every day. Store it not just in your memory but in your heart. Cultivate a deep love for the Bible. Apply it to your life now, so that it will be a source of strength in times of suffering or persecution.
- In difficult situations, rely on God’s almighty power to help. Don’t give in to worry, but trust in the Father’s tender loving care. He will never give us more than we can take. As pressure increases, trust will become second nature to us, and God will be there to help.
- Learn to bear weakness, pain and illness in faith in the power of Jesus’ blood – his strength will carry us through, even if greater tests come our way in the future.
- When life seems hard to understand, practise
Accepting God’s will, consciously surrendering your own and saying, “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are all your ways, and in the future your judgments will also be true and just…” (see Revelation 16:7).
- Get the right perspective. Focus on Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, who was acquainted with grief. He alone has won the battle with Satan and sin.
- Lead a life of prayer. Prayer will be our refuge when we feel lonely and forsaken. Jesus will draw close and heaven’s glory will surround us.
- Overcome your fear of giving offence. Learn to please the Lord. Seek love and affirmation from him, not from people.
- Bless those who hurt or wrong you. Show them God’s love in thought, word and deed. This will put you on the right track for future dealings with those who seek to intimidate you. By looking on them with mercy, you will be at peace even in suffering.
Copies of this booklet are available from:
The Sisters of Mary
17, Gills Hill Lane
Herts. WD7 8DE
Tel: 01923 856316
General information about the Evangelical Sisters of Mary is available on their website:
(click on the British flag)