From the Editor’s Notebook: Suffering Saints

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Suffering Saints

According to U.S. News & World Report, many of our Baptist brethren in Russia are being harassed and persecuted. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Russian Baptists have been imprisoned in labor camps. At least seven have been slain or died under mysterious circumstances in the last two years, while others have been tortured or beaten. Some have been confined in insane asylums. Parents who persisted in teaching religion to their children have had those children taken away by the state.

It is presumed that there are between 600,000 and 700,000 Baptists in the Soviet Union, most of whom live within the rigid rules for religion laid down by Communist authorities, and they experience relatively little interference. A minority group, however, thought to number between 100,000 and 200,000, has refused to accept official limitations on its religious activities. It is members of this group, known as the “Reformers,” who have been the victims of official persecution.

The most prominent case is that of Georgi Vins, one of the reform leaders, who is now serving his second long imprisonment — five years in a labor camp, to be followed by another five years of “internal exile” in Siberia. Sentenced in 1974, he is not due to be released until 1984.

The U.S. Congress a year ago adopted a resolution calling for the release of Vins “and all other Christians and other religious believers” imprisoned in Russia. A similar resolution that was circulated worldwide in 1976 had 600,000 signers.

Russian language documents reaching the West relate numerous examples of how the Communists try to suppress the Baptists’ practice of Christianity. For instance, in a report reaching the Centre for the Study of Religion and Communism at England’s Keston College in 1976, a Baptist group charged that the death of a Reform Baptist preacher “was deliberate… a result of torture.”

A group of Ukranian Baptists charged in a 1975 complaint that 12 of their members had been sentenced to prison terms and that the murder of one of them, Ivan Biblenko, had been made to look like an auto accident.

The plight of Russian Baptists assumes special significance lately because President Jimmy Carter, himself a Baptist, is leading a worldwide crusade for human rights. He has, as we know, sharply criticized the Kremlin for its violation of those rights.

Thinking of these Baptist brethren in Russia, as well as countless other members of the body of Christ throughout the world who are suffering persecution, we should remember to pray for them. True, we do not know them by name and we have very few details regarding their precise circumstances and needs. Nevertheless, the Word of God teaches us that we have a responsibility to intercede for them at the throne of grace. And Hebrews 13:3 leaves no doubt as to this sacred responsibility: “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are also in the body” (NASB).

Accent on Alcoholism

The next time you want to take your family out for a leisurely drive, remember the fact that 55 percent of all highway fatalities are caused by drunken drivers. Recalling this statistic might not just save gasoline, it might save lives.

We do not have the statistics for Canada, but did you know that:

1. In five years, over 125,000 Americans were killed in alcohol-related accidents (That’s more than all the U.S. deaths in Korea and Vietnam combined!).

2. Among the United States’ nine million alcoholics, nearly 500,000 are between 10 and 19 years of age.

3. 1.3 million Americans between 12 and 17 years of age have serious drinking problems.

4. One third of the nation’s high school students get drunk at least once a month.

5. Three out of four high school students drink. That’s twice as many as just four years ago!

6. Arrests of boys 18 and younger for intoxication have jumped 250 percent in the same period!

7. Four out of ten teen-agers involved with alcohol are females!

8. In one recent year alone some 35,000 persons were jailed for violent crimes involving alcohol.

Over the years the growing statistics on alcoholism have become to me personally more than just boldface facts printed on paper. My paternal grandfather, returning home from work, was killed by a drunken driver. Further, my closest friend of years past — just 32 — was killed by a driver under the influence of alcohol, that man also having been killed in the same accident.

Who can estimate the sorrow and misery caused by drink and drunkenness, let alone the cost in dollars? During the 16 years I lived in St. Louis, Missouri, I ministered frequently at the downtown rescue mission and witnessed firsthand the ravages of drink in the lives of derelict men who had lost virtually everything but their souls — and were on the brink of that! Nevertheless, numerous men were transformed by the grace of God in Christ, our Lord Jesus being the only One who is able to give full and final deliverance from the bondage of this awful scourge that has impoverished and ruined the lives of so many men and women.

The Bible has a great deal to say about drunkenness, although we acknowledge that total abstinence cannot be substantiated by the Word of God. However, in view of the kind of society in which we live and its burgeoning ills which are liquor-related, it behooves the true believer in Christ to abstain totally from all alcoholic beverages.

Would that our sin-sick society might heed the counsel of King Solomon of old, who wrote: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger over the wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink” (Proverbs 23:29-35, NASB).

Signs of the Times

Of the many crises which face humanity today, not the least of them is drought, and this includes the United States. An article in the May 1977 Reader’s Digest highlighted the serious conditions which prevailed last year in England and on the European continent because of drought. England has had a long history of abundant rain fall, yet received less than 14 inches of rain during the first six months of 1976. Even as these lines are written, the serious drought conditions in California are in the news almost daily, and in northern California drinking water is being sold in plastic gallon jugs.

Who among us will soon forget the unprecedented deep-freeze weather conditions of last winter when the frigid Arctic jetstream coursed hundreds of miles south, making us appreciate the arrival of spring as never before?

Are these climatic changes to be chalked up as freak, one-time happenings? According to the CIA’s World Weather Forecast, no! In a century weather forecast covering the entire planet, and prepared for the CIA, the warning is that no nation on earth can afford to take lightly this ominous forecast. Its authors warn that the consequences in political and economic upheaval and internation violence will be “almost beyond human comprehension.”

In His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25; Mark 13: Luke 21), the Lord Jesus Christ predicted that at the end of this age unparalleled tribulation would overtake the earth. As a beginning to this period He said, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places” (Matthew 24:7). After further details our Lord went on to say, “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).

As the stage is being set right before our eyes for the complete fulfillment of all these things, how gloriously wonderful it is to be the sons and daughters of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

For the Church the midnight hour is near; for the world the beginning of sorrows is almost upon it. Meanwhile, does our knowledge of God’s unfulfilled prophetic program motivate us now to do all we can to share the Gospel of Christ with the lost?