By LESLIE LUDY
Jackie Pullinger, a long-time missionary to China, spoke about sharing the Gospel with a woman who had been a prostitute for more than forty years. She had been rejected, abused, and mistreated in nearly every way imaginable. If anyone would seem to have valid reasons why the hope and victory of the Gospel couldn’t truly be experienced, it would be a woman like this. Yet it wasn’t coddling, human sympathy, or personalized psychology principles that delivered this woman from despair and changed her from the inside out. Rather it was the transforming power of Jesus Christ. She became a new creature in Christ, and, as Jackie described it, “she had all her life again.”
Throughout Christian history, the Gospel has spread like wildfire whenever the most destitute and notorious people have been radically changed by its power. In all the great revivals, people were drawn to the Gospel when they saw drunkards forsake their alcohol and prostitutes begin to live in purity. If the Gospel can offer such freedom and triumph for people with these backgrounds, can it not do the same for us?
Modern Christian ministry often sets us up to believe that we have “special circumstances” because of specific things we have been through, and therefore the Gospel can’t truly be applied to our lives in all its fullness and power. We assume that if we’ve been through extreme difficulty or disappointment, we are entitled to a “special version” of Truth — perhaps seasoned with a few sympathetic words such as, “Don’t worry, God knows your situation is unique — you can’t be expected to apply biblical Truth to your life the way others do!”
When we play the “special circumstances” card, we are merely creating a makeshift excuse to not take Jesus Christ at His Word. There is no situation that the power of the Gospel cannot permeate and transform, and there is no wound that His cleansing blood cannot heal. In fact, the more extreme the circumstances, the more opportunity for His supernatural grace to be demonstrated in all its life-changing power.
For me personally, it has not been the times when things have been easy that I have felt the most impact of God’s Truth in my life, but when things have been the most difficult. In our ministry and books, Eric and I frequently emphasize the joy, peace, victory, and triumph of the true Christian life. Consequently, some assume that our lives have been relatively easy and that is why we can speak about these truths with such confidence. They haven’t been through anything really challenging, people think. That’s why they can talk about lasting joy. Or, They haven’t been abused like I have, so that’s why they can preach about forgiveness and victory over sin.
But in reality, Eric and I have been through tremendous personal trials and struggles. Anyone who has been in front-lines Christian ministry for twenty years, as we have, knows that it’s like living on a battlefield. We have taken many bullets along the way — both from the enemy’s spiritual attacks and from various people who have reviled and rejected us. We have experienced intense personal grief, such as losing our second child to a miscarriage, and we have been stabbed in the back by friends we deeply trusted. We have faced extreme financial crisis through the dishonesty and corruption of others. We have been threatened, cursed, and called terrible names publicly. Most of the details of these experiences can’t be shared without dishonoring certain people, so we don’t often write or speak about them.
My point is this: it is not because we haven’t been through trials that we can speak so confidently about the transforming power of the Gospel, but because we have faced so many. We have personally experienced the victory that comes when we cling to the Cross and allow His divine power to give us strength far beyond any strength we could ever find within ourselves. That doesn’t mean that every day is filled with sunshine and roses. There are times when we must wrestle through the tears, the hurt, the confusion, and the fear until we finally “break through” to a clear, Truth-filled perspective. But when we wrestle for it, it always comes.
As you are contemplating the victorious, triumphant Christian life that He has called you to, beware of an attitude that says, “But my situation is different. I can’t experience that kind of joy and freedom because…”
Mrs. Charles B. Cowman wrote, “Faith has nothing to do with circumstances. It deals entirely with the Word of God.”
Even if you don’t sense an immediate victory in the midst of your difficult circumstances, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t intend to give it to you. Continue to pursue His promises until they have become reality in your daily life. And soon you will be able to confidently declare along with Paul, “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:14a, emphasis added).