How God Uses Hardship

by Mar 22, 2009

I’m in Cambodia right now, investigating opportunities for our church to partner with ministries here.

If you’re under 40, you probably don’t remember the brutal genocide 30 years ago which wiped out an entire generation of people in Cambodia. We’re staying with a pastor who lived through that – he was sent to a concentration camp where many of his relatives died.

The people who survived the “Four Years of Hardship” passed on horror stories to their kids, and so the young people in Cambodia understand that there is no hope to be found in human institutions. This is making them more open to Christ than their parents or grandparents ever were.

Still, 95% of the people here are Buddhist, so the people who do commit their lives to Christ face intense persecution. They are usually kicked out of their families, sometimes worse. Tonight we worshiped with a few hundred college students, and it was incredible to see the joy they have in the Lord, even in the face of incredible difficulty.

This morning I preached to a church full of people who see their sin and their need for a savior, but aren’t ready to fully commit themselves to Christ and declare themselves to be Christians because they’re scared to death about what might happen to them. I asked the pastor what it takes for the typical Cambodian Buddhist to become fully committed to Christ.

He had a one-word reply: Hardship.

Their everyday lives are already hard (no one can go outside after 9pm for fear of violent gangs that roam the streets), but it’s only when they face intense hardship that they become willing to sacrifice everything for Christ.

Could it be the same in America? I already see signs that the (relatively light) hardships caused by the financial crisis are making Christians more generous than ever. NPR ran a story on a church in hard-hit Michigan that had to lay off staff due to the economy, but now plans to give more to the poor during the recession than they ever did before.