Too often, I think we imagine God’s blessings come only in peace and an absence of conflict. Israel, a tiny sliver of a country that thrives in the midst of opposition, reminds us that almighty God is able to protect us, even when He’s prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies. God can cause His purposes to emerge out of the most adverse circumstances. That’s great news for us today!
We have all noticed our world has changed. Some of us are desperately waiting to go back to where we were before, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. It seems that as a nation, we are plunging headlong down a path of rebellion towards God. Things that were hidden are now being brazenly expressed in the light, for all to see. Meanwhile, Mr. Potato Head, Dr. Seuss, Dumbo, and Monopoly are cancelled, yet violent video games and music that is filled with racist and misogynistic lyrics are celebrated. Peter tells us:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:12-13 [©NIV]
We shouldn’t be surprised. What we’re facing is not new. When we look at the history of the Church, we see it has encountered great opposition since its beginning. Moreover, the spiritual battle believers faced in the first four centuries of the Church was far more intense than what we have yet seen. They had to fight to establish Jesus, and Christianity, as unique. Under intense persecution, and at the risk of their lives, they were unwilling to allow their belief to be considered as just another religious option—and it took hundreds of years. It begs the question: Would we give ourselves to standing for the Truth of God, for advocating for Jesus, while knowing we may not see the victory in our lifetimes?
It was the fearless courage and determination of the early believers that gave us the privilege of being Christ-followers today. We cannot afford to be complacent. If we don’t engage in the battle ourselves, standing together, and encouraging one another, we will strip the opportunity from the generations following us.
Lest we be filled with despair and hopelessness, there is significant historical evidence that cultures can be renewed—even those that have been considered the most corrupt and intractable. If we’re to see restoration come to our nation and our world, we’ll first have to change ourselves. The discipleship journey of submitting our lives to Christ goes beyond reciting the sinner’s prayer and getting dunked in a pool—and I believe those things are immensely important. We must allow the Spirit of God to begin changing how we think, because we desperately need a God-perspective. Isaiah 55:8-9 says:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [©NIV]
Over the past year, God has been awakening us to our assignments and our purposes as never before. I see a spirit of repentance and urgency emerging that brings me great hope for the people of God. I’m quite confident that part of what we’re being walked into, in this season, is a new awareness of the things that have been entrusted to us. God is changing us in so many ways, and I don’t want to miss out on that.
So, the invitation I’m handing to you today is to reflect on what may be shaping your thoughts. They’re questions I am asking myself: Do I treat God’s Word as if it’s important and valuable? Am I willing to let God change the boundaries in my imagination? What am I longing for? What am I dreaming about? What am I sacrificing for? Am I watching, listening, and thinking on behalf of God’s Kingdom? Lastly, how do my answers align with the assignment God has given me?
I’m confident the spiritual battle in our nation is growing, and is going to intensify, in the days ahead. If the Church in those early centuries hadn’t displayed the courage, the determination, and the willingness to stand against the threats, we wouldn’t be here. We have been given the honor of standing in this season so our children and our grandchildren may know the Truth. Each of us must have the discipline and courage to embody and stand firm in our confession, “Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. He is King and Lord of my life.” What a privilege!
Onward in Him,
Pastor Allen Jackson