Last Wednesday my husband was attending a morning Bible study when it was interrupted by an urgent prayer request. A member of a local church had a connection to missionaries in the Middle East. Two separate messages were given. The following are portions of these messages:“ISIS has taken over the town . . . systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus . . . so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents.” “We lost the city . . . they are beheading children systematically . . . within 10 minutes of where our team is working. Thousands more fled last night . . . Our team is unmoved and will stay.”
Where can I begin . . .
Chapter 11 of Hebrews pays honor to those who lived their lives by faith. The list is long and it brings to remembrance those who dared to declare the word of the Lord, who stepped out in whole-hearted obedience, those who experienced miraculous deliverances, God-glorifying victories and more . . . then there were others.
“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:35-38).
I sense an urgent nudging to wake up. The nudge is for the American church. My ears are burning with the latest message from one of our nation’s largest churches. Supposedly Christianity isn’t really about Christ after all. It has become about us, because we need to know that “God only wants us to be happy.” When did we limit our perspective to this world? When did we reduce His riches to earthen handiworks? Many have taken His promises and used them as reasons for promiscuity, desiring ever more of this world and calling it His favor. Much of our Christianity is about gaining the world, when the world should not be worthy of us.
Oh, America, what god have you worshipped? Could it be that our god has too often been ourselves? Let’s quickly wake up! I will worship the One who sweat drops of blood in a garden, preparing to plant His very life and make the Way for fruits of a righteous church. No more can we afford to belittle His grace with licentiousness.
While we as His bride should have had our eyes uplifted and our voices raised in unison with that of Revelations 22:17 – “Come, Lord Jesus, Come!” – we now find a very different visitor at our doorstep. The threats are already here. What kind of church has our enemy come to see?
Before John the Baptist’s beheading, he sent a question to Jesus: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Within Jesus’ reply was this declaration, that “blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” He then addressed the crowd concerning John, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in king’s palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you'” (see Matthew 11).
Like John, I do not want to be a reed swayed by the winds of persecution. Like John, I want to be worthy of carrying the message of Christ, acting as His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20) and preparing the way for His second coming. And only by His grace, I will not fall away on account of Him. Lord, help us all! What will the world see if – or when – that day of trial comes upon us?
Church, let’s wake up to see the worldly entanglements all around us. We have been too preoccupied with the pleasures of this life that we forget we are only sojourners. May we finally see this world for what it is – passing away (1 John 2:17 and 1 Corinthians 7:31) and remember where our true citizenship lies (Philippians 3:20). Our real prize is not of this world and cannot be taken from us. Only then can we face trials and be about His work with not only boldness, but with great joy. It is this joy that will be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
In doing this we may finally honor Christ. We will honor those who risked their lives forwarding the message of our salvation. We will honor the martyrs of our own generation, those who join their father in the faith, Abraham, who looked “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God . . . They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth . . . Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:10,16).
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