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SPOTLIGHT ON...

Have you ever realised just how difficult it can be to be a Christian? If this perhaps seems a strange question to you, ask yourself, What does it cost me? By this we do not mean our weekly offering for our Church. For our spotlight this month I have reached beyond this town, beyond this country, to a place where the Christians really know the cost - to Rumania, and a man called Richard Wurmbrand.
When the communists first took over in Rumania, a great Congress was called for all the clergy in the country. It was made quite clear to them that Chlistianity would not be tolerated, and that their role from then on was to maintain a superficial pretence



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of Christianliy, whilst, at the same time, acting as informants on members of their congregations. Most clergy were no doubt shocked by these demands, but few had the nerve to stand up in the Congress and say so. Among the few ministers who did stand up was Richard Wurmbrand, and at great risk to his own personal safety, expressed his views in no uncertain terms. From then on he was a marked man, and very soon afterwards, he and a few other ministers realised that if the Church was to escape persecution it would have to go underground.
Subsequently, Wurmbrand, his friends and very often their families, spent many years in and out of prison, enduring most horrible tortures at the hands of the communists. The latter had one aim, that of breaking down the Christians and making them deny Christ. There were, of course, some Christians, who did break down. Among them was one of Wurmbrands closest friends, a bishop who endured torture after torture. When asked by Wurrnbrand why he gave way, he tearfully asked, "Have I not suffered more than Christ ever did?" Is this possible, as Christ is in every Christian and shares his sufferings?
Smitten by illness and tortured, Wurmbrand tells of the continual presence of Christ in his prison cell, and how every torture endured, strengthened him spiritually, and only succeeded in frustrating the communists more and more. He was brainwashed and only retained his sanity by continuously repeating verses from the Bible and praying.
Wurmbrand views prayer and his relationship with God like this. Imagine yourself as a customer going into a shop because you need something. In such circumstances you would only go into that shop at a time of need. But there are, says Wurmbrand, some Christians who treat God's presence like a shop. Rather, he says, be a shareholder in that shop, one who is constantly involved, than be the occasional customer.
Wurmbrand was eventually released from prison in 1964 after a ransom of 2,500 had been paid for him by Christians in Norway. Threats were made against himself and his family if he revealed what had happened to him in prison, but this has not deterred him from writing and preaching about his experiences.
About four years ago he was the guest speaker at the annual Keswick Conference. A friend of mine, who had been there, later told me of the tears in Wurmbrand's eyes to see young people, young Christians, being able to get together and ramble freely over the hills in the Lake District.
In case any of our readers are interested to read further about this modern day St. Paul, I have included for you a list of books, and I wholeheartedly recommend tham to you. Perhaps after reading this short account, you may be able to answer my initial question, and to realise how great a cost some Christians have paid and are still paying.

R. Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ: The Soviet Saints In God's Underground, Hodder & Stoughton paper backs.

 

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