A Call To Be Unique and Relevant
Ms. Starla Luke
The theme for the 91st Kumbanad Convention this year was UNIQUENESS OF JESUS CHRIST. For the day the Women’s Meeting was scheduled, the topic was “Uniqueness of Jesus Christ in His Ministry” and the thoughts presented were what our ministry today must include to make it unique and relevant to the people and times we live in.
William Booth, founder of Salvation Army said, “My Best Men Are Women”. Jesus often depended on women when He wanted to get a word around. In that sense, even Jesus knew that, to get some work done, women were more efficient than men!!
As women when we think of being ‘unique’ we tend to think of doing things differently. A modern woman would probably see and claim WOMEN EMPOWERMENT, anticipating that will make her ‘unique’. For most, Women Empowerment could mean ‘doing what a man does’! But for a Christian woman, it is not so. Instead Women Empowerment is to do WELL what God has entrusted women like us to do!
You and I could be a Proverbs 31 woman – a homemaker; a Priscilla - well learned in scripture and teaching others; a maid in Naaman’s household - living and working in restricted surroundings; a Deborah, who is ruler, judge, singer, prophetess - a woman in authority, powerful in ministry and responsible for many; or a Corrie Ten Boom - who spent years as a prisoner for Christ. Does not matter what role you and I are called to play, we are called to do it well. We are called to prove our uniqueness by sincerely striving to do well what God has entrusted us to do.
True Empowerment is guarding ourselves from all that is unwanted. To be content with what we have and to use it well to further God’s Kingdom on earth.
There is no dearth of Biblical exposition these days. What we need is to make the Word we hear come alive to us. My heart is filled with a few thoughts relevant to the times we live in. We hear and see so much about ‘persecution’, ‘ghar wapasi’ etc. As women, what is our role in this entire issue? How do we respond? What can we do in the given circumstance to prove our uniqueness? We can sincerely strive to do well what God has entrusted us to do.
Two thirds of the world’s Christians are women. We are called of God, not to stay quiet at such a time as this. We are a major task force with the responsibility to aid the work of God through evangelisation. Some of the means by which we can do so are highlighted below:
1. Make aware to our children and discuss in our families the happenings around us. Cause an interest in them to see themselves in such situations and discuss their possible responses when faced with such challenges. Ask them to voice their thoughts out loud - even their fears. Will they run away, compromise or stand strong? This can and must be done in our churches with our youth as well.
2. Educate and Equip our younger generation. Soon after the massive earthquakes in Gujarat and Latur etc, the schools in those areas made it compulsory to have a mock drill, where students had to run out of school buildings and protect themselves when a siren blew. Similar ‘disaster management’ techniques were encouraged and applied even after the Tsunami.
Likewise, we have a responsibility to raise our children on life stories and biographies of the persecuted and martyrs for Christ. The stories of Richard Wurmbrand, Corrie Ten Boom, Brother Andrew, Jim Eliot, Graham Staines and other men and women of God who suffered or gave their lives for Jesus. These must be included in our Sunday School syllabus.
As I was growing up in Secunderabad during my High School days, our local Sunday School was mainly taught by two elderly sisters- Vimala and Sumitra Anandam. They were both High School Headmistresses and sold out for the Lord. They prepared their Sunday School lessons with the same planned precision and diligence as they did their regular school work. Every Sunday School we were shown large charts and told missionary biography stories, with pictures to show us who we were learning about. Each story sometimes took a few weeks to cover, but it was done so well that even today when I hear about William Carey, Pandita Ramabai, Hudson Taylor etc - the memories are vivid and clear.
Gifting as prizes such books and or movies through DVD’s, will expose our children and youth to inspiring lives who have lived for Christ without counting the cost. Not educating them thus is actually like sending our children to live in the sea without teaching them to swim.
Group discussions can be held for our youth on how they will respond if faced with such challenging situations.
Invite such men and women - to our Sunday Schools, Youth Programs and churches - who have labored and suffered for the Lord, to share their experiences. I was personally challenged by the testimony of Pastor Kristudas of Karnataka (an alumni of India Bible College & Seminary) who was attacked and his hands and legs were badly cut by radicals for the sake of the gospel.
At the peak of Christian persecution in Khandamal, Odisha - the believers refused to deny Christ even at the cost of their houses and possessions being burnt down. The most dedicated Christians in Iran and Iraq are those under 21 years of age. All they need to do to stay alive is to forsake Christ, which they refuse. The strongest churches in these two otherwise Moslem nations is packed with those below 21.
What will be the stand of our children and youth if and when faced with similar challenges. What about you and I?
As mothers, Sunday School teachers or responsible women of God, it is our duty not only to stand up boldly for Christ, but its equally important to equip our youngsters to stand firm amidst persecution without denying Christ.
Another life example is the testimony of Minoti. A nine year old, she heard a song in her native Sahdri language, about the love of Jesus and was drawn to Him. She started going to the local church and began to experience His amazing love. When she displayed her love for Jesus she was sent out of her house and spent an entire night on a tree top outside her home. Minoti prayed for grace from Jesus when she was all alone. She received divine healing when unwell and parents taunted her asking her to go to Jesus for her needs. After enduring persecution from her family and loved ones for 3 years she was sent away. The Lord brought her to a Girls’ Home (run by Jacob & Annie Thomas, Kuwait) in another district, where Minoti completed her High School education. Today, Minoti is studying at India Bible College & Seminary in obedience to the call of God upon her life. But what is most touching is that, for the past 5 years. Minoti has neither seen her parents nor have they shown any interest to know about her welfare. She has no way she can go to them. Yet, Minoti has not swerved from her devotion and love for Jesus! Have we the same commitment? Can we inspire our children to stay so strong when called to take a stand for Jesus.
3. Pray much and encourage others to pray during such times. Pray for our children now as they are built up in God’s Word, that they will grow in steadfastness.
We need to instill in our children the need to pray for the persecuted as well as for the persecutors.
We know what happened when Esther cried out to God - an entire nation was saved. All because one woman showed the boldness and took the initiative.
When Saul was transformed, he was cause for change in numerous lives as well.
Remember, the women of the Bible had no role models or martyrs to learn from on how to respond to a crisis.
Esther, the queen, had none like her to learn from. The only precedence she had seen (or maybe just heard about) was of Vashti being banished for disobedience! But Esther gains enough courage and to go the King, be heard and win His favour!
Miriam, when she endured slavery had none to encourage her, but she held on to the godly values and did not retaliate or rebel amidst slavery. Hence, when the time of deliverance came, she burst into song and thousands of Israelites were led by her.
Both Esther and Miriam only had godly values passed on to them. Opposition and times of persecution is the best time to display Christlikeness and respond in kindness. This is a tremendous challenge if we try to do it on our own but with the power of the Holy Spirit and the example of our Lord to encourage us, we can do it.
Persecution also helps us understand or recognise who our true friends are. These trying times also bring together children of God to pray and stand with one another. Very recently, the UCPI (United Christians Prayer for India) met as a group of interdenominational church leaders to pray for our nation.
We also respond to persecution by affirming our commitment to God, to His people and to His work in the world.
Our forefathers, grandmothers and mothers endured much affliction for the sake of the gospel. Their steadfastness is what sustained and brought the church to where it is today. Our commitment today to what we have been entrusted with will determine where the church will be a few decades from now - if the coming of the Lord tarries.
Our attitude amidst suffering can be akin to David’s in I Sam. 24:1 – 26:25 when King Saul pursues David with the intent of killing him. What greater level of persecution can one face than being chased to death, literally? How does David respond? Did he retaliate by killing King Saul? David had enough opportunities to do so. When people deliberately harm us, how do we respond? We have a choice. Does anger boil within us or do we reach out for a bucketful of mercy – to free ourselves?
NO EMOTION IMPRISONS THE SOUL MORE THAN THE UNWILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE!
Finally, the power of persecution- In Acts 12, we read of Herod persecuting the church. Peter is in prison. He is released miraculously by the angel of God and led out through the prison gates.
The thought that there were more women than men in the room praying for Peter’s release rises from the fact that in v. 17, ‘Peter motions for them to be quiet’, on seeing the surprised look on their faces – he knew that women found it more difficult to contain their emotions and excitement. The praying church even at Herod’s time had a band of women who were prayer warriors.
Herod was at the height of his glory. And it appeared the church was at it lowest point ever – apparently on the verge of ceasing to exist. Herod was declared as god – when he impressed people with his oratorical skill (Acts 12:21-22).
King Herod was smitten by the angel of the Lord, was eaten by worms and gave up the ghost (Acts 12: 23). He who seemed powerful enough to wipe away Christians was no more in no time! Where Jesus, the King of kings is not given the glory, earthly kings and kingdoms perish - that is the beginning of their downfall and ruin.
However, the Word of God continued to increase and grow and spread (Acts 12:24). The church that almost ceased to exist because of Herod’s threat – was now growing and spreading!
What seemed an impossible and hopeless situation turned around. In the face of persecution, when a man or woman turns to God in prayer, God turns things around! To experience power amidst persecution we must pray amidst persecution!
As Christian women, may we rise up to meet the need around us. Be prepared to teach and mould the generation after us - to educate them, equip them and to empower them for this time and age.