Right now in Iraq, the United States of America and its coalition partners, along with Iraqis desiring a brighter future, are combating a multipronged insurgency designed to weaken their resolve and cause them to pull up stakes and go home. Place names like Fallujah, Ramadi and Najaf have become synonymous with thoughts of despair, massacre and quagmire.
All of us have seen the shocking pictures of charred bodies hanging from bridges, mug shots of the bewildered faces of civilian hostages and the pictures of lifeless little innocent ones, caught in the crossfire of urban warfare. It’s been a tough few weeks for everyone, especially the residents of Iraq and the troops on the ground. Terrorism is designed to make you shake in your boots, because your heart is wobbly and you don’t know what or who will be next. In fact, it could be you! The bottom-line equation is simply this: “Kill one and paralyze one thousand.”
The numbing effects of terrorism on some coalition member nations, both in Iraq and for some on their domestic soil, have served their intended purpose and caused some coalition partners to say, “We’re packing our bags and going home where we belong!” Spain has already withdrawn its troops, and little Honduras is not too far behind. Only time will tell if this is the beginning of “a stampede of the unwilling” or a time for a retooled “exit strategy” that can be declared a victory for both the Iraqis and the coalition partners.
An adversary that nips at our hearts
But, we might be asking, “What does this have to do with me?” Everything! The recent calamities that have befallen the coalition troops in Iraq have some powerful parallels for Christians. Let’s never forget that we, too, battle against a nemesis that “hits and runs” and continually nips at more than our heels, but at our hearts. And, yes, sometimes the momentary pain or sorrow can shake us up emotionally and spiritually and make us wish ourselves at home again.
The Bible clearly lays out our adversary’s intentions toward us. To put it bluntly, Christians are in Satan’s crosshairs. But unlike a typical assassination, he would like us to turn our gun barrel around and pull the trigger on ourselves.
Satan rejoices in hurling at us the emotional mortar rounds of doubt, discontentment, discouragement and despair. His goal is to destroy any vestige of hope regarding our divine commission, so that, ultimately, we get to the point of exhaustion, and say, “What am I doing here anyway? I don’t need this grief!”
In Ephesians 6:12-13 Ephesians 6:12-13 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Why take to you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
American King James Version×, the apostle Paul jolts us into a broader reality by stating: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
As in every war, the spiritual war is ultimately a contest for “hearts and minds.” In this war, our heart and mind is the goal—both for God and our adversary. But let’s remember a simple, yet profound key: The door to our heart opens from the inside, not the outside. Never underestimate our responsibility to act.
“Of whom the world was not worthy”
For some, Iraq is just one big geopolitical migraine headache that won’t go away. Reasoned optimism may be the only cure, along with 130,000 troops to keep the place from blowing up into all-out civil war. It all can seem too big. U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair try to stir their nations by stating the historic nature of this quest to bring democracy to an Arab state. The march of time and future historians will make their judgments on these men, who at times seem to stand alone on the world stage.
But what about us? When our own challenges of life seem bigger than the moment, let’s remember that we truly are on a historic or, better stated, “divine” mission. As Christians, whose citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20 Philippians 3:20For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×), we are the frontline forces of the Kingdom of God that have been called to set up a beachhead for those yet to follow. It isn’t the physical metal of modern weapons, but rather our spirit that is being tested down here below.
Jesus Christ said in John 15:18 John 15:18If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.
American King James Version×, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
It is clearly indicated through Christ’s own words that His followers would take physical casualties along the way between His first and second comings. He states it plainly up front, because God is always honest in telling us what to expect. But He also adds a value to such sacrifices in the here and now. He says of such devoted “soldiers of Christ” in Revelation 12:11 Revelation 12:11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death.
American King James Version×, “They did not love their lives to the death.” He inspired Hebrews 11:38 Hebrews 11:38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
American King James Version×to add that those who make such a sacrifice are people “of whom the world [is] not worthy.”
Long ago the Pilgrims who would found Plymouth Plantation in the New World had advertised themselves in this manner as they searched for a sponsor: “It is not with us as with other men, whom small things can discourage, or small discontentments cause to wish themselves at home again.”
Nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to cause them to waver and go back before the job was completed. In fact, in their case, there was no going home. This was it! They were intent on founding a new society in the New World and experiencing freedom. When it came to matters of importance, these same individuals would weather the storms of life, because they had convictions, not simply opinions. They weren’t going to waver in the heat of the moment.
Opinions or convictions
But we’re not in the Iraq of today or the Plymouth of yesteryear. Still, the big question for us regarding whatever might be coming at us in our own lives is, do we simply have opinions or do we have convictions?
Allow me to share a story to make the case for being a person filled with proper convictions. In the operating room of a great hospital a young nurse had her first day of full responsibility. “You’ve removed 11 sponges, doctor, but we used 12,” she said to the surgeon.
The surgeon replied, “I’ve removed them all; we’ll close the incision now.”
“No,” the nurse objected. “We used 12.”
“I’ll take the responsibility,” the surgeon said grimly. “Suture.”
“You can’t do that!” blazed the nurse. “Think of the patient.”
The doctor smiled, lifted his foot, and showed the nurse the 12th sponge. “You’ll do,” he said. He had been testing her for her integrity—and she had it.
It’s plain to see that the nurse had more than an opinion. She was convicted and she stood her ground. She didn’t melt under pressure, but rather she rose to the occasion. She was thinking beyond herself. Under the barrage of notable irritation by her superior, she had only one thought—”the patient.”
God is also looking for such resolve in His followers, because the times, now and ahead, are going to demand it. God speaks of a time ahead in Hebrews 12:26-28 Hebrews 12:26-28 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
27 And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Why we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
American King James Version×in which He declares, “ ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
A prayer that comes with a price
Yes, a new world order is coming. The pages of The Good News and World News and Prophecy strive to clearly and truthfully depict a world that is going to be shaken to its core by the triumphant return to this earth of Jesus Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Along with Christians everywhere, we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done…” But it’s a prayer that comes with a price at the human level. It will not be a time for the faint of heart, but rather for people who are steadfast in their resolve and convictions to follow and serve Jesus Christ, wherever He might lead.
And just like the soldiers in Iraq, Christian soldiers can’t “hightail it out of here” at the first sign of things not going our way in the battlegrounds of our life—be it in marriage, parenting, in the extended family, at work, in the neighborhood or even in church. Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation, is testing and training us now, just as much as the surgeon did with the nurse. He wants to know what’s inside of us, whether we’re in it for others or simply for ourselves.
Perhaps the thrust of Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×, which says, “This is the way, walk in it,” is best given voice this month by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
American King James Version×. In one stroke of the stylus, he transforms that which would seem to be a human nightmare run amok into the divine will for us in full formation.
He says: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
Let’s hold our ground, hold on to God’s truth and stand in Him! —WNP