This is the story of a Christian by the name of Richard Wurmbrand. He was born into a Jewish family in Romania in 1909 but in the decade before WWII he had converted to Christianity and became a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. During WWII, he would often be found preaching in bomb shelters and he became involved in efforts to save Jews from the Nazis. At the end of WWII, the country of Romania came under communist rule as part of the Soviet Union. It was ruled by a particularly cruel dictator by the name of Nicolae Ceausescu. In 1948, Wurmbrand was arrested and imprisoned under the communist policies of state atheism. He would remain imprisoned for more than 14 years. While there he experienced unspeakable torture regularly because of his steadfast adherence to his Christian faith.
After 14 years he was ransomed from prison for a sum of $10,000. He was urged by friends to leave Romania and to take up the cause of religious freedom somewhere where his words might find a hearing and support. He and his wife, who had also been imprisoned, ended up in the United States and he dedicated the rest of his life to helping Christians around the world who were being persecuted for their faith. He wrote 18 books, the most widely known of which was his Tortured for Christ. His books have been translated into 65 languages.
In one of his books, he wrote these simple, yet very challenging words: “There are two kinds of Christians: those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe. You can tell them apart by their actions in decisive moments.” These simple words express a difficult truth. The terrible thing about the truth is that it confronts us with reality and reality is sometimes very painful. It challenges our most sincere beliefs and our response to these challenges reveals who we are to ourselves and to the world.
You may have noticed that the pivotal word in Pastor Wurmbrand’s quote is, “sincerely”. That word is key to understanding the power of his quote. One may sincerely believe in God and one may sincerely believe that one believes in God, but what reveals the difference is one’s response when one’s faith is confronted with the most challenging, difficult, and even dangerous challenges that can come our way for believing in Jesus Christ. We can look at Pastor Wurmbrand’s faith in God and see that it is truly sincere. For like Christ, like the Apostles, and like the martyrs, he was willing to suffer and even to die for his belief in Jesus Christ. His life was shaped by his sincere faith. His courage was nourished by it. He showed the Communist regime of Romania and the world that his faith in God was truly real and truly sincere.
Christianity is being challenged no less today, by the world, by relativism, and by ideologies of every kind. We are all being challenged to ask the question, “Is my faith sincere?” How we conduct ourselves in these times will reveal whether our answer is positive or negative. And, in reality, everything depends on our response. Will we have the courage of Richard Wurmbrand, or will we abandon, or deny the faith when we are suddenly confronted with challenges, whether those challenges be the false and immediate promises of comfort, pleasure, or security, or those kinds of challenges that might even threaten our lives? Let us pray sincerely that God will increase in us the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, that we may have the courage to know, to love, and to serve him first, in all situations.SKM: below-content placeholder