I am reading the book Tortured For Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. (the founder of Voice of the Martyrs) Pastor Wurmbrand passed away in 2001 after many years of serving his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His story is many times difficult to read....but I cannot put the book down. My heart will not let me..... for it has become entwined in his words.
I ,myself, have been a Christian for 30 years. I grew up in church surrounded by family and friends who were also Christians. The Lord was real to me at a young age, and I accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior just before my 11th birthday. Living in the Western world, I've never known persecution for my belief in Christ. I've never faced the possibility of death, or been submitted to torture for my strongly held beliefs. Having been born and raised in the United States my faith has never been tested under the possibility of death. Don't get me wrong, my faith has been tested. I've been forced to walk through many dark valleys in my 41 years of life. Valleys that I would have never wished for myself......but none of us can know what we will be called to endure in this life. We live in an imperfect world and that world many times causes hurt and pain. But never have I ever feared death because of my faith.
I say all that about myself to reference why this book is having such an impact on me. Mr. Wurmbrand was a Romanian orphan. He grew up in a family that espoused atheism. He was taught that there was no God. To him the love of God did not exist. He states in his book, "I was an atheist, but atheism did not give peace to my heart." An old man had been praying that God would send him a Jew. He wanted to tell a Jew about Christ...because his Jesus was from Jewish people. God brought Richard Wurmbrand to this old man's small village---he had no reason to be there aside from the fact that God steered him in that direction. Mr. Wurmbrand met Jesus during his trip to that village and his life was never the same again. Not long after his wife was also converted.
When the Nazis came to Romania, Mr. Wurmbrand was already the leader in his local church. He speaks of the terror that the Nazis brought to his land...but goes on to say that the one advantage of enduring the Nazis was this: "They taught us that physical beatings could be endured, and that the human spirit with God's help can survive horrible tortures." The Nazi terror was great, but it was just a taste of what was to come under communism.
Since Pastor Wurmbrand had been brought up in atheism he had a passion to be able to witness to the Russians. (Beginning August 23, 1944 one million Russian troops entered Romania and soon thereafter the Communists came to power.) Mr. Wurmbrand endured 14 years (1948-1964 in prison with a short reprieve of 2 years in the middle where he was let out) in prison and was tortured during this time.....and yet, still did not have hatred in his heart for the soldiers that were so merciless to him. He understood that Christ loved them too. That Christ had shed His own blood for them too. That they needed Christ in their own lives. He hated communism but loved the people. This love could ONLY come from Christ in him.....no human could have endured what he did and still love his persecutors....and not go mad.
One testimony especially touched my heart. A member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party led the torture against a Christian man who had been sentenced to be beat to death. The officer said to the Christian, "You know, I am God. I have power of life and death over you. The one who is in heaven cannot decide to keep you in life. Everything depends upon me. If I wish, you live. If I wish you are killed. I AM GOD!!!" He mocked the man.
Looking death straight in the eye the Christian man replied, "You don't know what a deep thing you have said. Every caterpillar is in reality a butterfly, if it develops rightly. You have not been created to be a torturer, a man who kills. You have been created to become like God, with the life of the Godhead in your heart. Many who have been persecutors like you, have come to realize--like the apostle Paul---that it is shameful for a man to commit atrocities, that they can do much better things. So they have become partakers of the divine nature. Jesus said to the Jews of His time, ' Ye are gods.' Believe me, your real calling is to be Godlike--to have the character of God, not a torturer."
At that time the officer did not pay much attention to the wisdom of this man who was about to die.....but a seed had been planted in his heart and later this officer came to know this Christ personally.
It would be easy to read this blog, to say that this is indeed terrible but that it happened a long time ago. To have this attitude would be truly sad....because there are brothers and sisters in Christ that are killed and tortured still yet today. Men and women that are brave in the face of death, and uncompromising in their love for their Lord. They are falsely imprisoned for nothing more then refusing to stop talking of Jesus Christ. There are many communist led countries still in this world today....as well as Islamic countries that do not tolerate Christianity in any form. Much like the Christians of old, these saints face cruel punishment under the hand of godless dictators and their governments.
Please pray for the Underground Churches all over the world. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ that struggle with the knowledge that at anytime they can be kidnapped, killed, wrongfully imprisoned, have their family murdered, their churches burned to the ground, stripped of all their possessions, or enduring brainwashing and mental torture. Their Lord has not forgotten them....Let us not forget them either.