The Triumphant Faith

On the surface, Christ seemed weak – he gave himself up to die on the cross.

In reality, Christ triumphed – he triumphed over death, he triumphed over Satan.

People have made the same mistake about Christ and his followers over the centuries.  Believers have died from persecution but their persecutors lost in the long run.

I was thinking about this recently as my wife and I toured St. Petersburg in Russia for a couple of days.

Vladimir Lenin, first ruler of the Soviet Union, called religion the “opiate of the people” and set out systematically to destroy Christianity and other religions in the new Russia.  But he and his successors failed.

We visited some great Orthodox churches in the city, churches which were used by the Communist Party for their clubs and organizations.  Indeed, we were told a swimming pool had been installed in the sanctuary of a Roman Catholic church to be used by sports groups.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, these churches have revived and are now active again.

Why?  Why did Christianity survive 70 years of propaganda and persecution in Russia?

Years ago, I remember reading a passage in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s great book A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which gives a clue.

The hero, Ivan Denisovich, is a prisoner in one of the notorious Stalinist gulags in Siberia.  He joins a work crew going out in the freezing cold in the early morning.  One member of the crew is a Baptist who looks up at the dawn and smiles.  He praises God.

Ivan considers this man to be strange.  He reads the Bible and tries to talk to Ivan about the Lord – something Ivan rejects.

Another incident struck me a while ago.  I recall hearing about a Soviet KGB officer who joined in beating a young girl who was part of a Christian group worshiping God in the Russian forests.  She held on to her faith though she died from the beating.

This incident was so embedded in his heart that he later became a believer himself.

This tells me that nothing can destroy Christian love and faith.  People may die, but Christ will live on through others.

The prophet Isaiah had something to say about this.  Through Isaiah, God said in Isaiah 55 that as the seed leads to bread for the eater “so is my word that goes out from my mouth.”

He adds: “It (his word) will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

In other words, people who set out to destroy Christianity are up against God and his purposes.  They don’t stand a chance.

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