"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear...." ~ 1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)

Have you ever suddenly found yourself confronted with an opportunity to bear witness for Christ, or the need to "speak into" someone's circumstance with life-changing words of faith and comfort, but seemingly having nothing of value to say? Just the other day, I had such an experience as a tug on my sleeve in a grocery store gave way to an unexpected encounter with a very dear old friend who is a follower of Jesus.

As one who is generally not short on words, I quickly engaged with the perfunctory "How are you?" but then sensed that I should simply "listen" to what was on his heart.

Within moments, I was privileged to hear his pain as I discovered that my friend's brother had died only two days prior, and that every indication suggested he had died without faith in Christ. There were no words...so I paused and waited upon the Lord. Only then did it occur to me that, in the time it had taken for my friend to engage my faith and share his own, I had alternately prepared (though thankfully had not expressed) a short promotional speech about the wonderful things God was doing in my life and in the lives of my family members. While under different circumstances, such would have been an appropriate word of praise to a wonderful God. In that setting, it would have constituted a missed opportunity (as Peter says above) to offer "a reason for the hope that is in you...."

The brothers and sisters VOMC serve, who are in peril because of their expressed faith in Christ, are not suffering for a lack of "hope," despite the fact that it is so sadly lacking in today's world. Their hope is eternally in Jesus, and nothing would deter them from expressing that "in a heartbeat" whenever the opportunity arises, though the risks and care they must take in doing so are much greater than any that you or I are likely to encounter. I think it is safe to assume that their dialogue with fellow persecuted believers, or with the perpetrators of the persecution levied against them, would not "skip a beat" if presented with an opportunity to offer "a reason for the hope that is in [them]." Ironically, it is such expressions of hope that can bring upon the faithful the worst kinds of abuse.

As we determine to "listen" and "hear" the stories of those to whom we are spiritually bound as one, let us pause and allow the Holy Spirit to etch upon our hearts the pain and joy of those who live on the razor's edge of the sword of truth.

In Him,

Doug J. McKenzie
Chief Executive Officer
The Voice of the Martyrs Canada