About 33 years ago, my best friend’s sister and brother-in-law planted a seed in my heart. It wasn’t planted through preaching or religious discussion. It was planted by simply sharing the love of God through a generosity of spirit I had never experienced before. I wasn’t family. I was Catholic, and they were Baptist. I wasn’t theirs – but they shared a Jesus love that made me feel like I was.
This young couple made a life out of showing others the love of Jesus through their words and actions as missionaries in Africa. If they’d just written their own story, it would be an inspiring read of God’s love poured out, of heart-stopping challenges faced, and of God’s sweet grace redeeming that story. But it’s not just their story they tell.
For years, Ripkin delivered aid in Somaliland, a country that persecuted Christians to extinction. Persecution, though, doesn’t always come in the form of government sanctioned faith intolerance. Cancer, an automobile accident, heart disease, drug and alcohol addiction, peanut allergies, a hapless accient? A life taken too soon? Aren’t those satan’s tools of persecution? Persecution is always designed to separate you from God. For the Ripkins, their 16-year-old son died of an asthma attack one Easter Sunday.
“You can only grow in persecution what you go into persecution with” ~The Insanity of God.
After this grievous loss, they return to Kentucky to regroup. In the regrouping, they didn’t lose faith. Rather, they wondered how Christians in persecution can thrive. What could they do to better help Christians in persecution? The quest for these answers leads them to Russia, the Ukraine, and China where he meets Christians who have lived through persecution for their faith.
Nik Ripkin’s book The Insanity of God, a True Story of Faith Resurrected isn’t just an autobiography. Their story is the vehicle that brings us some very powerful stories of faith not just sustained but growing and overflowing through suffering. After they returned from Africa to regroup, Ripkin goes first to Russia, then the Ukraine, then to China listening to stories of Christians whose faith not only thrived in persecution, but planted seed into others.
Billy Graham once said, “If you want to change someone’s life, tell a story.” In the movie – and more in the book, are stories upon stories of Christian fathers who risked much for God. Some started reading the bible to their family because their fathers did. They would read and sing praise songs to God behind the locked doors and windows of their houses. Inevitably, a neighbor would hear and ask if they could come listen to the stories and praise God, too. One neighbor would grow to a house full – standing room only – often 75 people. That’s when the father who started out reading would be arrested and jailed – maybe 3 years maybe 20, maybe killed.
I couldn’t put down Ripkin’s book. When the movie came out in September, I took as many of my sons as I could gather to watch. They went, not because they wanted to. As a matter of fact, they would probably tell you I dragged them there. They didn’t want to go.
I explained to them that these people, Ripkin and his wife, over 33 years ago changed how I loved others – they planted a God-seed that showed me how to love others beyond my family, beyond my best friends, beyond those easy to love. I was a better parent, friend, neighbor, person because of that seed they planted and that others watered. So they piled into the theater seats to watch The Insanity of God because I asked and asked and asked. Really, I felt God telling me not to back down from the asking.
The Insanity of God was meaningful – no gimmicks, no games – just real life stories of fathers who suffered persecution because one day, they simply started reading bible stories to their sons around their kitchen table. Or maybe they smuggled bibles, a death sentence in some countries.
Real men who were just ordinary fathers, like one who told his sons he would rather they die declaring their faith under persecution than to live denying Christ.
Real, ordinary men who went to prison for three years or decades because they wouldn’t recant – real men, ordinary men suffering in heinous circumstances because their love of God was stronger than their hate for their circumstances.
Could you say to your son, “It is better to die than to deny Christ?”
Would you risk your children and wife being killed in order to let others know about Christ?
Ripkin says, “Before we can grasp the full meaning of the Resurrection, we first have to witness or experience crucifixion. If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus.”
For years, I’ve heard, “Where are the men in the church today?” Where?
I’ve wondered what happened to the young men who came to youth for gimmicks and games?
The Insanity of God doesn’t directly address these questions, but the answer, I believe, is there – in each story Ripkin shares with us. Gimmicks and games didn’t entice individuals to knock on their neighbor’s door to hear about God.
It was simply the word of God, praise and prayer that brought one person, then another and another, until one day there were 75 – and then they were imprisoned because a house bursting with God couldn’t hide itself.
“Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution! That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ” ~ The Insanity of God.
Maybe it’s the growing intolerance of Christian faith and values in our own country that caused these collected stories to resonate. These stories stoked hope, faith and courage within me because persecution didn’t stamp out God – it multiplied God to overflowing.
The crew that went with me to the theater to watch the movie? Each was deeply moved. The 24 year old, the 21 year old, the 18 year old – each one called it, “Amazing.”
The 18 year old, he explained it to his brother who hadn’t gone like this: “I didn’t want to go – but, honestly, Christian, it was amazing.”
“It was amazing” – said the boy, who just like his brothers, eschew youth groups of today that use gimmicks and games to entertain youth into hearing the word of God.
“It was amazing” – said the boy, who just like his brothers, want real, meaningful conversation, real, meaningful bible study.
Thirty-three years after that short basement seed-planting meeting, that night in the theater, that couple planted God-seeds again – this time into two of my sons’ and this sweet daughter-in-law’s life.
“We desperately want our western brothers and sisters in Christ to realize that the greatest enemy of our faith today is not communism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, or even Islam. Our greatest enemy is lostness. Lostness is the terrible enemy that Jesus commissioned His followers to vanquish with the battle strategy that He spelled out for them in Matthew 28:18–20. He was addressing this same enemy when He plainly clarified His purpose in coming: ‘I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.’ ” ~Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected
For more information on The Insanity of God Simulcast, click here.