This book had been recommended to me by several mature believers either in full-time ministry or strongly supporting missions endeavors around the world. When I finally caught a copy, I dug in, not sure of what I’d find. The efforts paid off, for this book has done more to invigorate me spiritually with regards to my ministry than any other book has in a long time.
The author, Nik Ripken (apparently not his real name), spends the first 135 pages introducing himself and his background; so at the outset it seems like you’re in for a long autobiography of a person still in the midst of serving—a genre of book that I think should be outlawed. At Chapter 17, however, a major and unexpected shift comes into play. A new theme evidences itself, a theme that controls the remainder of the book and that captivates the reader entirely. In fact, on page 128, I noted: “I get a real sense finally that this guy has the right to write. He only spent 6 years in Somaliland, but then again, he spent 6 years in Somaliland! He was there before everyone else came, and he stayed after everyone else left!” And it is Nik Ripken’s right to write that makes him the perfect servant to author a book like this.
The striking theme that carries the remainder of the book can be found succinctly in this passage: “Surely, wherever believers have suffered, and still suffer, for their faith, we could find wise and faithful people who would be willing to share their spiritual survival strategies and other faith lessons learned from the hardship they have faced. Perhaps their personal, practiced, tested, biblically-based counsel could help us. And maybe their wisdom could help other believers like us to minister more effectively in impossible places such as Somaliland. Is it possible that faith might thrive in such places?” (p. 142). And so, a missions-minded research team sends Nik out to some of the currently (and formerly) most dangerous and hostile nations to the Christian faith with the mission to meet with and interview strong and faithful believers who have survived and thrived through persecution for decades. In the end, the team got more than they bargained for, as Nik concludes: “Instead of developing a curriculum, we were being taught by believers in persecution how to follow Jesus, how to love Jesus, and how to walk with Him day by day” (p. 292).
While I could recount a myriad of excellent quotes and lessons drawn from Nik’s experiences, I will list only a few in order to save you, the reader, the pleasure of finding the rest yourself. In relation to missions, he writes: “God may have to give instructions about the location—the where. But there is nothing to negotiate about the command to go” (p. 70). “Serving God is not a matter of location but a matter of obedience” (p. 75).
In relation to persecution, he writes: “If our goal is reducing persecution, that task is easily achieved. First, just leave Jesus alone. Second, if you do happen to find Him, just keep Him to yourself. Persecution stops immediately where there is no faith and where there is no witness” (p. 307). “Believers who do not share their faith aid and abet Satan’s ultimate goal of denying others access to Jesus. Our silence makes us accomplices.”
And from the testimonies of those he interviews, he writes: a Ukranian Pastor told his family shortly before he was dragged off to prison, “If I am in prison and I hear that my wife and my children have been hung to death rather than deny Jesus, I will be the most proud man in that prison!” (p. 177). “Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution” (p. 196). And for a call to prepare for persecution by memorizing God’s Word, a former prisoner says: “You can only grow in jail what you take with you. You can only grow in persecution what you take into it” (p. 252).
Just as I could recount fifty more great quotations from the book, I could also go into a lengthy discussion of the of the many examples in this book of people “hearing God’s voice,” seeing visions, or dreaming dreams (i.e. on pages 31, 135, and 271). Some would disagree with these events (i.e. the “Strange Fire” conference at Master’s Seminary), considering them instead to be either figments of overactive imaginations or spiritual influences from the Dark Side. To such skeptics, I’d have to ask: Can we limit God’s power? Need these wonders have involved new revelation? Would the Dark Side ever tell a lost soul to “Find Jesus. Find the Gospel”? I certainly don’t have the answers to settle the issue, and I can fully understand the hesitancy of full-blown cessationists who are “closed and cautious.” But I also realize that the world is bigger than the U.S. and that the same God who desires that all souls should come to repentance can work in unique ways in locations where the Gospel has not yet reached.
One final point I’d like to make about The Insanity of God, a critique actually, is that while Nik writes with a biblical flare that has its roots deeply planted in Scripture, he rarely references the Word to prove it. More Scripture passages (or at least references) would have gone a long way in helping people develop their own study of these important issues from the Text. Perhaps in any follow-up books that Ripken hinted at writing, he’ll fit them in somehow. Either way, I look forward to the next installment and highly recommend The Insanity of God to anyone with a heart for missions and to any American believer who feels that his church could use a healthy shot of spiritual Red Bull in order to wake up and see reality.
© 2013 E.T.