As I was reading some Scripture, a thought occurred to me: there is a large portion of Scripture that is dedicated to revealing the horrors of war, oppression, and judgment. The Bible goes into significant detail regarding the disposition of these matters—it is in fact the topic of most of the major and minor prophetic books.
One might think that given the choice between torturous oppression and judgment or freedom and joy that a person—or people—would choose the latter. But time and time again throughout Scripture (and in contemporary times) the latter is chosen. It begs the question as to why, exactly?
In my mind, as I attempted to draw correlations among ancient peoples and contemporary first-world societies, it struck me that the majority of those who live in today’s modern and luxurious domestications simply have no concept of what exactly the terms “horror,” “judgment,” “terror,” “oppression,” or “persecution” actually entail. It is one thing to read about the judgments, oppressions, and terrors of war within the Bible, it is quite another thing entirely to have experienced or lived through any of the hardships described therein. So coming back to the question of why so very few within contemporary, first-world societies take Scripture seriously (aside from the obvious unbelief and disbelief of what Scripture teaches).
I believe a big reason is because we cannot fathom the immensity of what is being discussed. Our society—that is, the individual people who populate the cities and towns of this state and nation (and others), who have names and addresses and families and houses and who we see every day in public—simply have nothing (no experience) with which to conceptualize and comprehend the actual physical and emotional horror of the scenes described in the Bible, both past and future. We have insulated ourselves so far from the reality of destruction that occurs in this world that we (the vast majority of us) just cannot refer back to any point in our lives and think, “Wow, I never, ever want to have to endure or face that again, and I will do absolutely anything to avoid that horror.”
This is one of the major points of distinction that separate us from so many of the so-called “second- and third-world” societies who—from the reports that I have been hearing—are experiencing great receptivity towards the Gospel. Many of them have seen and experienced the horrors and indescribable pain that warfare and oppression result in. They have said, “I know that hopelessness to which this Scripture is referring to, because I have lived it; I will do whatever it takes to never face that again!” So, when those who have experienced these atrocities have the opportunity to taste and see the good news of Jesus Christ, many are responding with reception like there is no tomorrow, because for many of them, there is no tomorrow!
If we could actually experience—even for just a few moments—the emotional and physical turmoil that is generated when armed men burst into our “safe” homes, beat us and our families, rape our mothers, sisters, and daughters, strip us of all earthly wealth (to include the clothes on our back), murder some, and then abduct all the survivors to a place that is so far away from familiarity that recovery is impossible… maybe, just maybe, we would then begin to comprehend the infinite importance of what the Gospel is and what it can do in and for our lives. Those outside of the righteousness of Christ are living an illusion, and one day that illusion is going to vanish and be replaced with a harsh, cold, and cruel reality, whether on this earth because of sin and the curse, or in eternal separation from God after death. For some, this moment is nearer than they can possibly imagine; none of us know when our lives will be shattered or death will take us. For some, they are already living in such horrors; they simply have had no one share the truth of Christ with them. Others will continue to live their facades for many, many years, cognizant of the truth, only to realize far too late the error of their ways when the time comes to give an account of their time spent.
The question then is: what are we—children of the Light, full of the knowledge of the greatest news in the Universe—doing about it? How am I living my life to be an encouragement and shining light to those who have either: (1) never heard or understood a clear Gospel message, or (2) have rejected the Gospel because of (fill-in-the-blank). Do those who observe me on a daily basis see something different? Something attractively positive that draws them to the love of Christ? Am I simply fighting for my own “rights” and comforts, or am I conducting myself as a spiritual warrior in the midst of an active battle? Make no mistake, at this very moment, the battle is raging around us. The evidence is all over the media; it is present in our very lives as neighbor is turned against neighbor. This is the enemy’s doing. Mayhem and Destruction is his favorite game, and the only way to combat such power is to “submit yourselves therefore to God, resist the devil…” and “Put on the whole armor of God… praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”
Christians are commanded to not live our lives in fear of anything on this earth! (Mat. 6:27; 10:28; Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim 1:7). Furthermore, God has blessed us with many promises to focus on, especially during adverse and difficult times:
- God has promised us victory through Jesus Christ! (I Cor. 15:57)
- He promises us access to joy and contentment! (Psalm 94:19; 2 Cor. 12:9-10; Prov. 19:23)
- God promises to strengthen, sustain, and encourage us! (Isaiah 40:29, 31; 43:2; Deut. 31:8)
- He promises us that He is constant, unchanging, and reliable! (James 1:17; 2 Sam 7:28; Psalm 19:7) Everything that our God says is truth, and everything He speaks will be fulfilled exactly as He has stated.
- Jesus Christ himself promises up peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Friends, whatever turmoil or pain we are currently experiencing, none of it compares to the glory and joy that our sufferings are producing for us in heaven with Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Do not forget God’s admonishment to Joshua when he was commissioned to be the new leader of Israel in Joshua 1:6-9. Three times within the span of one minute, as God was instructing Joshua, Joshua is told to “be strong, and of a good courage… only be thou strong and very courageous… be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid…” Three times! Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is positive action in the very face of debilitating fear. Let’s be courageous in the face of loss and uncertainty, so that others may see the difference in those who follow Christ. May our courage and compassion provide a platform on which to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation to all who will listen!