07/16/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In many persecuted nations, the government will tighten its grip on Christians as the Church grows. However, what they don’t realize is that this often has the opposite effect than what they were looking for!
As one pastor put it, “You can’t shake a monkey from a tree.” In other words, the more you harass the Church and try to convince Christians to abandon their faith, the tighter they cling to Christ.
Praise God for the countless brave believers around the world who are risking their lives to shine the light of Christ in oppressive nations.
When I went to Vietnam, I met with lots of pastors. I’ve been to Vietnam numerous times. But every time I met with the pastors, I’d hear, firsthand, about the suffering they go through. It ran the spectrum. It could be they were denied welfare, they couldn’t use the village well. And then it goes up from there. Beatings, torture, imprisonment, and some of them even had to watch while their wives were being raped by the police. So it’s mind-boggling what they go through. They’ve been doing this for decades and the Church keeps building, they keep going on. Pastor Bao, just before I came, had seen 22 people come to Christ, and the police rounded them up immediately and said that they all had to recant, they had to turn away from Jesus and they didn’t. They were arrested on the spot.
And you know what Pastor Bao said to me? He said, “Look, when I am persecuted, when I suffer, it confirms my identity for one, and it shows that I am on the right path.” Pastor Binh was one of those pastors who couldn’t use the village well, then they expelled his children from school. And then this is something that happens all the time, he would be subjected to weeks of interrogations. You get to go down police station all day long and get interrogated. And it’s not a voluntary thing obviously. Brother Dun came to Christ and he lost his military pension, but that was just the first thing that happened to him. Right after that, they burned down his home. A while later, he actually lost his son, his son was suffering a serious illness. He traveled a long way to try to get medical help, and on the way back, he found out that his son had passed. And he gets home and none of the villagers will come grieve with him because he’s a Christian and they’ll get in trouble.
But Christians came by, he was already a Christian, but the Christians came by and said, “Do you know that God could raise your son from the dead? He has this power.” And so Pastor Dun just took it as a child he trusted and believed, and they prayed, and miraculously, his son came back to life. Now this created such a story, you could imagine, right? A thousand villagers came to Christ. And from that time on, he was persona non grata with the police, he was a permanent enemy of the police.
When I would sit with these pastors and listen to their stories, and see the effect, even, of the abuse they’d suffered over the years, I had always asked them like, “How do you endure? How do you hold on?” And you know what? One of the pastors said to me, he said, “You can’t shake a monkey out of a tree.” And think about that. You know what he’s saying? So in the story, in that little picture, word picture, the tree is God, and I’m going to guess that you can figure out who the monkey is. The monkey is you and I. And the picture is this, if you’re hunting a monkey and a monkey’s up a tree, and you try to shake it, now, we don’t know this in the west, but if you try to shake that tree, the more you shake the tree, the tighter that monkey is going to hold on. That’s why I think the parallel is clear. Look, when we suffer, we’ve got to hold onto the tree. That’s the answer and that’s what they say they do. Hold on to the tree all the more.
Each of us, in life, is going to go through some intense periods of suffering; that’s just life. God knows what he’s doing with your life. But regardless, when you go through extreme pain or extreme suffering, it’s natural, honestly, to question God’s goodness. That’s just what we’re going to do because we have limited perspective. That’s understandable, that’s nothing to be ashamed of, but I would say, regardless, we’ve got to hold on and you’ve got to trust. And just remember that monkey, and the harder it shakes, the harder you hold on. All right, God bless you.