We have been following the story of and praying for the son of our former pastor, Sam Shaw, who was brutally attacked in India a few weeks ago. Here is the testimony of a young man with spiritual maturity way beyond his physical years. Read and be blessed!
On November 8, 2009 in South Asia, I and two other pastors from The Austin Stone, were robbed and attacked by a small gang of South Asian youth. Unexpectedly, one of these youth sliced my left cheek with a straight razor. The wound was 5 inches long and an inch deep. It spanned from about my left sideburn to the left corner of my mouth. Fortunately, the two other men with me were physically unharmed. We ran for safety in the middle of the city, pleaded with locals for help, and finally ended up in the emergency room at a local hospital where a doctor stitched up my face with three layers of stitches.
After arriving back home, I realized that this attack was a catalyst to great spiritual and emotional growth. After a week long of reflection, I have outlined below the lessons that I have learned. I hope my story and these lessons will encourage others to radical obedience to Jesus and mobilize them to the mission of God.
* The straight razor that scarred my face has become an altar of intercession for those South Asian youth who attacked us. My face is the sacrifice that was put on this alter. I doubt if any prayers have ever been lifted to the Father for those youth, that is, until they attacked us. Almost immediately, we began praying for them. Since then, thousands of people have interceded for them, for their joy. In this way, therefore, God turned their sin of unjustly attackingus into a great blessing for them.
*The Lord brought me to Psalm 97:11 a few days after the attack: “Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” I realized that the straight razor was not only an altar of intercession for those youth, but it was also a plow, tilling the soil of my body and prepping it for sowing. The straight razor plow opened the way for The straight razor plow opened the way for the seeds of joy and compassion for those youth to be sown in the soil of my heart. My wound, therefore, is now a memorial repository of joy in God and passion for the joy of unreached peoples.
* The sowing of my soil - my face -also meant uprooting some of my weeds. On the car ride to the emergency room, I distinctly remember feeling sick about my sin. I was horrified that even in amoment of intense suffering, the weeds of pride grew. For a moment, I saw that the nasty roots of my sin ran deeper than I could fathom.
*This past week, I was blown away when I realized the sowing of seed and the sprouting of the plant have onething in common: the breaking of the soil. That is amazing! The breaking of the soil is twice the key moment in the process of harvesting a plant. In a garden, the soil is broken with hope! In my situation, the breaking of my face at the plow of those South Asian youth was outwardly quite grotesque, but spiritually it was a natural and good gift from Above, opening the way for future fruit bearing!
*Suffering is a natural part of being sent on mission. The Lord revealed this to me a few days after the attack. When Jesus sent out his followers on their first mission, he told them that they were going out as "sheep in the midst of wolves" (Mt. 10:16). For Jesus, suffering at the hands of the wolves was part of the sending! The apostle Peter says that we have been "called" to unjustly suffer (1 Peter 2:21). Therefore, trials such as ours in South Asia are not abnormal to our lives as Christians; rather, they are a very normal and very necessary part of our calling as Christians. Unjust suffering is not "strange" when you walk the Calvary Road, so let's not treat it as such (1 Peter 4:12).
*God kept all of His promises to us, even while we were attacked. Immediately after our attack, while still seeking help from local authorities, Psalm 34:19 came to mind and comforted me in prayer: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." A few days later, the Lord led me to Ps. 97:10, "He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked."
*Yes, the Lord preserved our lives and delivered us from further affliction. If the straight razor hit me a few inches lower, it would have sliced open my neck, leaving me near death. If ithit me a few inches higher, it would have taken out my left eye. The wound missed my major facial nerve by probable millimeters. If this nerve was severed, I would have been paralyzed on the left side of my face. The path ofthe straight razor was perfectly guided by my heavenly Father to thwart away these afflictions.
*Sometimes the Lord might keep us from feelings so that we will rely on simple faith in His written promises. Immediately after the attack, as we ran for safety and sought medical care, I wanted to feel the Lord's presence with us. Our hearts were racing, our emotions were barely steady as blood gushed from my wound onto my shirt and pants. I wanted the physical comfort of the Lord's presence. But I did not feel it; rather, I had to believe it. Where my feelings failed, my mind thrived. I remembered Scripture and believed it. My heart followed the leadership of my head and believed in the Lord's comfort and presence even when I did not feel it. This experience encourages me to memorize more Scripture, so that in my next trial, my head will be fully armed to lead my heart.
*I am so deeply grateful for the gift of our suffering in South Asia because I think it has led me one step further to obeying my life verse, given my by parents when I was an infant: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Josh. 1:9). I feel bolder in my proclamation of the Gospel. What can someone do to me now? Knife me? Been there, done that.
*I learned the irreplaceable worth of comfort from Christian brothers and sisters. The two other pastors with me were by my side in support throughout my immediate physical recovery. I cannot thank them enough for their sacrificial care for me. They are true comrades. The prayers and encouragement of many all over the world have been deeply comforting and encouraging.
Our suffering in South Asia was a "gracious thing" inthe sight of God! It was a gift of grace! Listen to the profound message of 1 Peter 2:19-21: "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps."
*I don't want to waste a good moment of suffering. The legacy that I want to leave on this earth and to my family is a heap of stories of radical, simple devotion to Jesus! I am learning that the Calvary Road is not a path merely to endure; rather, the Calvary Road is to be embraced with joy and hope! The Calvary Road is a "gracious" road! That straight razor may be the greatest blessing of the year for my family and I as it leads me one step further on the Calvary Road - the Road that my Lord embraced on his way to die for thugs like me and the South Asian man who knifed me.
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