THE SAME FAITH!
Hebrews 11:39 “These were all commended for their faith…”
The writer of Hebrews says that some Saints saw triumph and victory while others received persecution and death. He concludes, “These were all commended for their faith.” It was the same faith that gave victory, that brought shameful conditions, floggings, cold, hunger and death.
In the same week I heard testimonies of a California businessman who came to Christ and a Chinese official who made the same decision. The man in California saw his family restored and his failing business prosper. The Chinese official lost his job and his family. After years in prison he was given the job of sweeping streets with a hand broom. Brothers and Sisters, I am here to tell you that these both were commended for their faith. It was not greater and lesser faith; it was the same faith.
In the earliest days of the church James was beheaded in prison. In that same place an angel rescued Peter and brought him out. Did Peter have the greater faith? No! It was the same faith.
Of the eleven surviving Disciples, ten were martyred for their faith. Was this a lesser faith? Do those who preach the Gospel for years and die of old age in their own bed have a greater faith than the Disciples? No! It is the same faith!
2 Cor. 11:23 Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
Does this list indicate the weakness of Paul’s faith? Of course not, it was the same faith.
Billy Graham spent his latter years at home with his family. Watchman Nee, the great Chinese evangelist and author died in prison. Does Billy Graham have the greater faith? No, it is the same faith.
Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, was jailed along with her entire family for hiding Jews from the Nazis. She alone survived to tell the story and preach the forgiveness of Christ. Did she have greater faith than her father and sister and the hundreds of thousands of Christians who died in that awful holocaust? Her calling was different, but it was the same faith.
Richard Wurmbrand suffered twenty years in a Romanian prison for preaching the Gospel. Then he was miraculously rescued and spent thirty years in the United States heading up a worldwide ministry to the persecuted church. Did he suddenly find real faith after twenty years in prison? No, It was the same faith that put him in prison that brought him out.
As we speak, Christians in a hundred nations of the world are being persecuted for their faith. Does our freedom to worship here tonight result from a greater faith? No, it is the same faith.
Does the sister who is healed of cancer have more faith than the sister who faces death with dignity and a calm assurance of her salvation? According to my Bible, it is the same faith for which they are both commended!
Can faith in God lead to riches and a blessed life? Perhaps in America, in Somalia or the Sudan it leads to slavery and death. It is the same faith.
Jesus said to forsake all, take up your cross and follow him. Nearsighted American evangelists with no understanding of history, the Bible, or the state of the church in the rest of the world, have told us to grab our moneybags and run after a Jesus who is constrained to heal us and make us rich.
Jesus, the Bible, history and current events, clearly teach that faith can nail you to a cross or burn you at the stake! The same faith that heals one allows another to suffer agony. The same faith that rescues one will martyr his brother. God alone is sovereign!
Friends, I watched Venezuela fall from the inside. I lived through 200% inflation and 60% unemployment. Most Christians were blessed and provided for through the worst, others lost everything, and some lost their lives. No one was talking about getting rich with Jesus. Christians were in all night prayer meetings begging for food to feed the babies. Most received provision, but the poverty brought death to Christian homes.
If your faith is based on the search for healing, riches and a blessed life, it won’t work in a depression or under persecution. Brothers and Sisters, I will tell you plainly that a faith that can’t handle sickness, poverty and persecution is not a saving faith. It is another faith.
You must understand that because the faith that Jesus spoke of calls for forsaking all and taking up a cross, and the faith that Paul spoke of calls for enduring beatings, imprisonments, cold, shipwreck and hunger, I have trouble following those who speak only of healing and blessing.
A missionary from Wycliffe told us of 3,000 languages without a word of Scripture. There are billions of people in the world who have never heard the Gospel once. If the Kingdom of God is to be extended in the world it will take more than “feel good Christians” in “bless me churches.” God is looking for men and women who will commit to follow him to a martyr’s cross if that is where He leads.
There was a great mission movement in the late nineteenth century. Young Americans lined up for the trip to Africa. There are cemeteries in Africa full of little crosses. The average life span of these young people once they reached Africa was three weeks. Almost all of them succumbed to jungle fevers and died. They knew the odds when they signed on. A few developed immunities and lived to carry on the work. Millions of Christians in Africa owe their salvation to these brave young people. God is still seeking Christians with that same faith.
After 9/11 the Muslim religion in America saw the greatest conversion rate in history. Young people were drawn to a religion worth dying for. The problem is that the Islamic martyr is always intent on murdering others and dying in the process. It is Murder-suicide, not martyrdom. The Christian Martyr dies rather than renounce his faith. That same faith causes the Christian Martyr to forgive and pray for his killers. That is true martyrdom!
The Senior’s Pastor at First Assembly of God in Fort Myers told the story that when communist rebels neared the compound in East Africa where he was working he and his family fled. Another missionary family there felt God calling them to stay. The rebels forced the man who stayed to dig a large pit. The missionary, his wife and two small children were thrown in the pit and buried alive. As the dirt was falling and the children were screaming, the man told his wife that they could renounce their faith and live – there would be time to repent later. The wife said no, that she couldn’t live that way, and that family died together in that hole in the African soil. The details of their death became known because their faith so touched the Lieutenant that lead that squad of rebel soldiers that he later accepted Christ. He then went and led seven more of those soldiers to the Lord. They formed an evangelistic team and today are preaching in French Africa, France and even in Québec. It took faith to leave, faith to stay, and that same faith to turn a rebel soldier into a preacher. “These were all commended for their faith…”
Abraham: Heb. 11:9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Israel: Heb.11:13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Overcomers: Rev. 12:11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
- World Population: 6 billion people.
- One third of earth’s people call themselves Christians.
- One third of non-Christians live in already reached people groups.
- One third of non-Christians live in unreached people groups.
- 680 million (~11.5%) are Evangelicals or Bible reading Christians.
- Active persecution of Christians takes place in: Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, China, Iran, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Algeria. Over 160,000 believers will be martyred this year.
- Of the world’s 24,000 Major People Groups, 10,000 (having 2.1 billion persons) are considered unreached – though Christian work occurs among most of them.
- Most of the unreached people groups are located geographically in what some scholars call “The 10/40 Window” – from West Africa across Asia between ten degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees north.
Within this 10/40 window are:
- Most of the world’s unreached peoples;
- Two-thirds of the world’s population, although only one-third of the earth’s land area;
- The heart of the Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist religions;
- Eight out of ten of the poorest of the world’s poor, enduring the world’s lowest quality of living.
- Only 8% of the world’s missionary force and 0.01% of the income of the world’s Christians.
- While about 900 of these unreached people groups are scattered among various world cultures, 9,100 of them are primarily in five major cultural blocks:
- 3,330 unreached Muslim groups. Nearly a billion individuals are Muslims. One sixth of the world’s population.
- 2,550 unreached tribal groups with only about 140 million individuals.
- 1,660 unreached Hindu groups comprise a population of about 550 million individuals.
- 830 unreached Han Chinese groups in which live 150 million individuals.
- 830 unreached Buddhist groups. About 275 million individuals are in these groups.
These 10,000 groups in total are in 3,000 clusters, which have similar cultural characteristics such as having dialects of the same basic language, etc.
- Over two billion people live in these unreached people groups and every day some 50,000 of them perish without having heard the Gospel. That is about 26 million a year.
- 60% of unreached people groups live in countries closed to missionaries from North America.
- 22 million internationals visit the US each year. Of these, some 500,000 are university students from 220 countries 25% of which prohibit Christian missionaries. 80% of those students will return to their countries having never been invited to an American home.
- 40% of the world’s 220 Heads of State once studied in the US.
- 60% of international students come from the 10/40 window (the most unreached nations).
- 10% of international students are reached with ministry while in the US.
- Worldwide Christian churches devote more than 85% of their resources on our own development. That is, only 15% of this arsenal of personnel, finance, prayer and tools goes to bless unreached people groups. In the U.S., the picture is even bleaker. According to the Bibles for All World Prayer Map, American Christians spend 95% of offerings on home-based ministry, 4.5% on cross-cultural efforts in already-reached people groups, and 0.5% to reach the unreached.
American evangelicals could provide all of the funds needed to plant a church in each of the 10,000 people groups with only 0.2% of their income. If all the missionaries needed came from this country, less than 0.5% of evangelicals aged 18 – 35 could form the teams required.
- 410,000 Missionaries from all branches of Christendom
- Only between 2 and 3% of these missionaries work among unreached peoples.
- 140,000 Protestant Missionaries
- 64,000 Protestant Missionaries from the US
- Distribution of Protestant Missionaries among cultural blocks.
- 74% Among Nominal Christians 3% Among Buddhists
- 8% Among Tribal Peoples 2% Among Hindus
- 6% Among Muslims 2% Among Chinese Folk Religions
- 4% Among Non-Religious/Atheists 1% Among Jewish People
Global Church Member Finance in US Dollars:
- 12,300 Billion – Total Annual Income
- 213 Billion – Giving to Christian Causes (1.73% of total income)
- 11.4 Billion – To Foreign Missions (5.4% of giving to Christian causes
- 87% of foreign mission money goes for work among those already Christian,
- 12% for work among evangelized non-Christians; and
- 1% for work among the unevangelized.
- The church of Christ has over 100 times the resources needed to plant native churches in these people groups.
Two-thirds of the world’s population is functionally illiterate (including millions of adult Americans). That’s more than 4 billion people who wouldn’t understand the Bible in their own language if they had it.
- At a steady rate over the last 20 centuries, and in all 238 countries, 70 million Christians have been martyred – killed, executed, murdered – for Christ.
- Christians spend more on the annual audits of their churches and agencies ($810 million) than on all their workers in the non-Christian world.
- 818 unevangelized ethnolinguistic peoples have never been targeted by any Christian agencies ever.
Perhaps God would send you…