Is God’s Grace Sufficient?

The following is a true accounting of three acts of faith.

The young man voiced his fear about persecution; he wasn’t sure if he could remain faithful to God through such an ordeal.  In older theology, the question would have been voiced, “Is God’s grace sufficient for persecution?”  This same thought went through my mind one night on a back street in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

While attending college north of the City, every Friday and Saturday night, a group of us would drive into Greenwich Village to work in a coffeehouse called the “Wayward.”  This was our opportunity to witness and share the love of Jesus with the street people and anybody else that wanted to come.  One evening around 11 PM we ran out of coffee.  I volunteered to go buy some more and took a friend and his sister with me.  As we were cutting down a back street we heard someone yelling and screaming behind us.  I turned and saw a man running straight at us holding a metal thing over his head like a dagger.

Being a new believer, my first reaction was to fight.  So I stepped forward as he ran in and grabbed the guy’s jacket and used his momentum to throw him off to the side.  I heard the metal thing hit the ground in the dark.  Then I turned to fight because he was now running straight at me.  In that moment, time slowed and I began to think about the fact that I had given my life to Christ and I was no longer my own.  So I decided not to fight, but to trust God and so I just stood there.

This guy comes screaming back, grabs me by the front of my jacket and slams me against a brick wall.  He is screaming and cursing and has his fist cocked at my face and I’m thinking here it comes.  When suddenly, I felt this peace settle over me and surround me like a warm piece of plastic and all I felt for this guy was love.  The same love that Jesus had for him and I started smiling at him.  Apparently that really freaked him out and he dropped me down from the wall and ran off screaming.  But I wondered, do the persecuted believers or martyrs experience the warm plastic feeling of peace and love?

While attending a college in Canada I had the privilege of meeting a retired missionary who had spent some time in China before Mao took over the country.  We were sitting at the breakfast table eating and he began to tell me about his brother who had also been a missionary in China at that time.  In the late 1940s Mao’s Communist fighters had taken over most of the country.  Almost all the foreign missionaries had been evacuated.  A few missionaries stayed, one of them being his brother.

One night the Communist Chinese came to his brother’s home.  They pushed his brother aside and marched into his home confiscating all his Bibles, commentaries and other Christian books.   He had a considerable library.  They took the books out into his front yard, piled them up and poured gasoline over them and set them on fire.  His brother was heartbroken.  In the morning, filled with fear and grief, he walked out into his front yard to look at the smoldering ashes.

Everything was burned; his whole library was nothing but ashes.  Then he noticed among the ashes a small piece of a page charred around the edges from one of his bibles.  He picked it up, read it, and wept.  It read, “Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” On hearing this story I couldn’t take another bite of breakfast and I too wept.

The question, “Is God’s grace sufficient for persecution?” is best illustrated in an eyewitness account by a Mr. Coggeshall in the year 1555.

“For believing the Gospel of Christ and the truth of the Scriptures, Thomas Hauker was condemned to be burned to the death.  As he was being led to his place of burning, many of the faithful in the crowd that followed asked him to somehow give them a sign if the grace of God was sufficient in the fire.  His persecutors tied him to the stake, piled faggots around him, and set them on fire.  For a while Hauker prayed aloud, but the violence of the flames soon took away his voice, and he stood silent in the flames, unmoving, even as his flesh turned black and his fingers burst into fire.  He stood that way for so long that most thought he was dead.  Then suddenly and unexpectedly, this blessed servant of God stretched his arms over his head toward the living God, his hands flaming like torches, and, with an act of rejoicing that all could sense, struck his hands together three times–as if for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Then his hands fell to his sides and he slumped forward into the flames.”

Now my young friend, “Is God’s grace sufficient for persecution?”  Let us repeat together in our hearts the words of Saint Paul, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   So my friend, God’s grace IS sufficient for persecution.

Matthew 16:18
The New Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe.  Rewritten and updated by Harold J. Chadwick, Quoted from page “XX” of the Forward.  Copyright © 1997 by Bridge-Logos Publishers
Romans 8:38,39

Copyright © 2010 by William D. (Nick) Nichols

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