I’ve just finished reading the story of John and Betty Stam, they were missionaries to China in the 1930’s. It’s been a real inspiration to me this week, it’s definitely worth a read. It traces their lives from infancy to the time they were martyred for Christ. The strength and focus of their faith is not something we see much of today. From early on both of them separately consecrated their lives totally to God and his will, and they were prepared to go anywhere he said and give up everything for him, even unto death. Even after they both met and fell in love they decided not to get married as it seemed God had different callings for them and that was the most important issue. They parted for a year or more and concentrated on Gods work alone.
Johns faith really woke up something in me. He had little money and had to pray every month that God would provide his college fees – and he did every time. He lived only for God and it was his favourite topic of conversation. Although brought up in a Christian home he was not born again of the Spirit until he was 21. So often in church Christians assume that because they are brought up in Christian home and they prayed ‘the sinners prayer’ when they were 7 it makes them a Christian. The Bible says it’s far more radical than that. You must be ‘born again’ Jesus says in John 3:7.God will take away the heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, Eze 36:26.It’s life changing stuff – you can’t ‘ not really remember the time you got born again’ as many religious folk will tell you! God says ‘you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you says the Lord.’ Jer 29:13-14. Its a heart thing becoming a Christian. Doing good works, being moral and upright, reading the Bible, even leading small groups or a church does not make someone a Christian….. it’s having a new heart within.
I love the way that both John and Betty lived 24/7 for God and nothing else. When I look at the church these days so much of it seems to be based on having fun, going to parties, pubs, meeting up with friends to ‘hang out’ having ‘cool’ holidays in far flung places, wearing the right clothes, knowing the right people, having the ‘perfect’ family life, job, education!!! ARGHHHH it really grates on me. I get angry for Jesus as he placed little value on these things. Real sacrificial love seems to be missing – particularly I’ve found love for the poor and outcast. I can bet you you will not find them included in church in most peoples friendship groups. They will be on the edge and isolated. This makes Jesus cry.
I remember being at a church meal a while back. I was pretty nervous of the kind of folk who would be there and of the inevitable questions about my job, family etc. I braced myself and went. Yes of course they all wanted to know what I did for a living and asked about my husband etc! I bravely inquired of one person about what God was teaching him at the moment and he blankly stared at me gobsmacked. He managed to mumble some response on the lines of he was hoping to become the youth pastor in his church. He seemed quite taken aback by my question!
It does make me think how many people in leadership in the church are actually ‘born again’ and living 24/7 in Gods will? Real Christianity involves putting God 1st totally, it means getting down on our knees and being willing to sacrifice our children, our lovely spouses, our jobs, our reputations, our homes or our social standing or whatever God requires of us. He who holds onto his life will lose it -Matt 10:39
John and Betty did eventually marry in 1933 and start missionary life in China. They had one year together. In that time they had a baby girl. On the day the communists came to their door Betty was bathing her baby. They arrested all 3 of them and marched them miles through the mountains to a different town. On the morning of Dec 8th 1934 John and Betty were marched in their underwear through the town and beheaded in the town square.
Betty had to leave her 3 month old baby on the bed alone, not knowing if she would ever be found. Anyone who has had a 3 month old baby will know the agony she must have gone through. (The picture on the left was taken of baby Helen when she was found.) To be dragged away from your baby and leave it defenceless goes against every maternal instinct. Betty went quietly. Both of John and Betty didn’t scream, shout, or try and resist.
They were prepared to lose their lives for Christ and for His glory and they meant it.I think if either of them popped into your average church today they would be horrified at the lack of faith, lack of self sacrifice and at the hedonistic attitude most who claim to love Christ have!
The baby was eventually found screaming 24 hours later. She was eventually reunited with her Grandparents and brought up in the States where she lives today.
Real Christianity costs.