Can the Western Church Learn to Sweat?

New karate students are aware of their limits.
They have a humility that keeps them safe.
Then, they learn a couple of things.
Pick up a few moves.
Land a kick they’ve worked to understand.
That’s when they get stupid.
I’ve seen it.
An underbelt (a student who hasn’t yet achieved black belt)
gears up for sparring night,
feeling their mettle,
and suddenly, they’re challenging the sensei, the teacher,
to a match.
There’s never even a blink of suspense.
Bam. Pow.
They’re on the mat. Just like that.
It requires a lot more work, sweat, and training to take on the reigning king of the hill.
Which is kind of what it sounds like
when we believers in the West talk about the persecution we’ve endured
and speculate about how we’d face the threat of martyrdom.
We talk tough.
We’re committed.
We know how we’d answer the hard questions of faith looking down the barrel of a gun,
or so we say
because really all our speculation is just a parlor game
engaged in from the comfort of our small group living rooms,
kids playing at war with a controller attached to an X-box,
who cry when mom says it’s time for a bath.
The truth is,
we’re soft.
God determined where we would live
and He placed us in a land of freedom
but He didn’t tell us to lay back and enjoy the ride.
The laziness is all on us.
We’re great at predicting that our freedom has an expiration date.
We excel at outcry and prophetic proclamations that one day persecution will appear in our Inbox.
But too often,
we make our predictions between commercials
not hours of prayer.
So if we know it’s coming – how do we prepare?
For some of us, it’s about manning the watchtower. Scanning the horizon for signs of attack.
Sounding the alarm and defending the freedom we have.
There’s merit in that.
But our souls are flabby and unfit.
An old Chinese proverb says, “The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in war.”
Can the Western church learn to sweat?
From my limited understanding of life in countries where believers are persecuted,
martyrdom isn’t the first hurdle they have to clear.
These brothers and sisters make a thousand hard choices in their lifetimes,
choices that test and tone their faith
until the muscles of their souls are hard as the rock on which they build their lives.
Making the choice to follow Jesus in other lands
doesn’t just make you weird or socially awkward,
it costs you something –
family, friends, standing in the community, preferred jobs, customers, income, reputation, good schools for your children
sometimes it separates you from your children or your spouse,
it results in beatings, imprisonment, loss of home, possessions, and daily freedom.
Just showing up to worship requires dedication and sacrifice we in the West can only imagine.
Jesus doesn’t make their lives better – He makes them a daily D-day.
They choose Jesus anyway.
When the men with guns show up for you in these lands,
you’ve put in the sweat,
your soul is conditioned to die
because you’ve been laying down your life every day before breakfast.
These are people who see the worth of Jesus – only Jesus.
So, if we know it’s coming for us
(and according to the comments on my blog, we do)
how do we prepare?
Our first step is to learn how to use our freedom to serve our brothers and sisters who suffer.
Another is to be sure of the God we follow and know why we do.
And we could whine less.
Cultivate hearts grateful for adversity,
develop a greater tolerance for hardship and suffering,
care less what people think
and care more what God does.
We could consume less food and more Scripture,
exercise our freedom of religion
by practicing it even when no one is looking
Into the mirror I ask,
“How do you expect to go from choosing restaurant options
to choosing to die for Christ
with no steps in between?”
Do I forgive those who hurt me and those I love?
Do I bless those who reject me?
Do I love my enemies?
Have I stood for Christ enough to have enemies?
Have I consumed His word and learned to intercede?
Am I able to endure with love, patience, trust, and without grumbling?
We’re soft
But we don’t have to remain in that condition.
We serve a God who is worthy
And we can become, not only servants of, but students of the persecuted church.
What about you, Western loved ones?
Are you ready to sweat? What’s your first step?

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14 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Uh wow. Striking chords..fire alarms going off. Open my eyes, Lord!!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Terra says:

    Great post, we are called to man the watchtowers.

  4. Puffdoggie says:

    The US church not only is soft. They have gone to other countries and planted and modeled soft Christianity. I believe that if most American Christians were to honestly ask themselves what cost they are currently paying (sweat) to follow Jesus, the answer would fall between little and none. Start doing something for the Kingdom which actually costs you something.

  5. Mark Landon says:

    I just recently found your blog, Lori…..The things you have accused us (the American “church”) of have been banging through my heart and mind for some time now. Reminds me of some of the same warnings of a guy named Tozer 50 plus years ago….we are soft, we are spoiled, we are coddled and comforted by those in our pulpits who will one day be held accountable for our flabby condition….may Jesus strengthen you as you keep watch.

  6. Tina Seward says:

    http://allynsalley211.blogspot.com/2012/12/living-for-your-faith.html — I wrote a blog post over a year ago dealing with this subject. We Christians are so quick to proclaim how we’d die for our faith, but I wonder how adamant we are about living for it.

  7. Verna Volker says:

    So much truth! Being a pastors wife, I see that so much. People comfortable with the church. Not wanting to look outside the church walls. Too worried about which flowers should go on the altar etc…God, change our hearts! Thank you!

  8. KWill says:

    The troubling beauty of your words to one recently revived by the grace of God in Jesus after years of Judas-kissing Him breaks my heart for the weakness of “us”, the Church…My conscience was so seared (and willingly so, to my shame) that I could blind myself and still search for the door into sin after having had amazing times with Jesus in prayer and study of His Word…It is frightening to learn that, no matter how much you know, the possibility of walking out remains suicidally seductive, despite the deep beauty of the grace of God in the face of Jesus…I weep for a new heart…Thank you for your honesty…It is refreshing (and jolting)…May God richly bless you for the mercy of your words of healing and a call to return…