The Triumph the Cross
Little Tanya seemed to be a healthy baby. Then one terrifying day the mother found her little girl finger-painting in her play pen. Where did the red paint come from? With horror, the mother discovered that the tip of her daughter's finger was missing. The curly-haired toddler had bitten it off and was smearing her own blood. She felt no pain because leprosy had numbed her nerves.
Tanya was a special patient of Dr. Paul Brand, a renowned surgeon to crippled and forsaken lepers in India. He explains that leprosy (Hansen's Disease) blocks blood flow, causing nerve endings to die. Since lepers can't feel pain, they have little defense against injury.
This "pain-free existence" is no blessing. In the physical realm, it leads to alienation and death. In the spiritual realm, it illustrates the nature of today's world: numb to sin and evil, and in blind pursuit of pleasure rather than God. Jeremiah described it well:
"Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?
No! They were not at all ashamed;
Nor did they know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall..." Jeremiah 6:15
Ancient Israel's quest for self-gratification prompted God to withdraw His protection which, in turn, opened the floodgates to enemy forces. But first He gave His beloved people one more opportunity to repent and find safety. He called them to weep and fast for their sin. But they mocked His love with the famous line: "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we may die" then partied instead. [Isaiah 22:12-13]
Like Israel, we live in a world steeped in evil and numb to sin. Facing an epidemic of moral leprosy, few sense their need for God's cross and cleansing. Drunk on the world's seductions, the masses have learned to silence those pangs of guilt that would sweeten repentance and illumine the triumph of the cross. As in ancient times, they choose "what is right in their own eyes." Judges 21:25
Small wonder the cross is no longer treasured as a gift of love and as the symbol of His victory. Today, this nation, which God so richly nurtured and blessed, has only superficial knowledge of the King who gave His life for us.
But Godís "gift of pain" has drawn many other hearts to the cross. While Americans delight in Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code, Christians in Communist North Korea face imprisonment, torture and death for their Lord. One prison guard kicked a woman mercilessly because she had prayed out loud for a tortured child. She and others who refuse to compromise are considered insane. Yet, this persecuted Church gives thanks to God and chooses to live by these five principles:
Our persecution and suffering are our joy and honor.
We want to accept ridicule, scorn and disadvantages with joy in Jesus' name.
As Christians, we want to wipe others' tears away and comfort the suffering.
We want to be ready to risk our life because of our love for our neighbor, so that they also become Christians.
We want to live our lives according to [God's] standard. 
Humbly, they had come to Jesus, who took their sins to the cross. Now they can confidently say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me." [Galatians 2:20] Joyfully, they have given their lives entirely into His hands. Now they serve a hostile world as ambassadors of His kingdom, courageous witnesses to the triumph of the cross and the love of their Savior.
"...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2
1. Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants at http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/cr9705.htm
2."That is why Paul Brand says with utter sincerity, "Thank God for pain!" By definition, pain is unpleasant, enough so to force us to withdraw our fingers from a stove. Yet that very quality saves us from destruction. Unless the warning signal demands response, we might not heed it." From Suffering: Why is pain necessary?
3. Charts: The Changing Church at http://www.crossroad.to/text/charts/church-statistics.html
4. Christian Prisoners Treated More Harshly Than Are Other Prisoners and Regarded as Insane.