This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
I John 3:16
Growing up in the Soviet Union, Lena and her brothers attended an illegal Sunday School. The government passed laws the prohibited any form of religious teaching to children. Lena’s parents knew why. Children who learn nothing about God at home and hear years of atheistic propaganda in school will rarely become Christians.
So one of the women in the church, risking fines or imprisonment, organized meetings for children at her house. She taught them songs about Jesus and His love for us. They recited poems about God, vying for the chance to perform. She asked the boys to read from the Scriptures, just like the presbyters or deacons did. And she always served some kind of sweet treat.
There were other ways to hold children’s programs. If one of the children in the church had a birthday, there would be a big party for all the children in the church. All the kids would get dressed us up and wrap a gift. Lena’s mother sent her four children to the party in pairs, instructing them to take different routes, so as not to attract attention. Everyone knew that one of the neighbors would report an illegal religious gathering of children. The parents of whoever was having the party made sure their child’s birth certificate was on hand. When the police came to break up the meeting, the parents presented the birth certificate to prove it was a legitimate birthday party. Once that interruption was over, the parents told Bible stories and taught the children about the faith.
These people all took great risks for the gospel. Each in their own way, they responded to God’s call to make disciples and to teach the next generation. All of them knew the consequences could be harsh: fines, time in jail, death. Yet they all considered obedience to be more important than saving their own lives, because they kept their eyes on God, and trusted in His promises. They were more concerned with storing up treasure in heaven then preserving their safety on earth. They took a risk, and saw how God helped and protected them.
What risks do I take for the gospel? It’s a pretty short list. And the risks seem large only because I haven’t tried to overcome them. God didn’t have a chance to show me what He can do. When we take a risk, not only to do we have the blessing of obedience, but receive the joy that comes from seeing God’s work in our own lives.
The risks also seem large because I forget God’s promises: He will never leave me or abandon me; He has given me eternal life through His Son. Compared to eternal glory, what I’m afraid of losing seems very small indeed.
Lord, give me the courage to take some risks for you.