ISIS. Torture. Beheadings. Martyrs. Burned at the stake. Crucified.
Persecution is not a new thing. More than twenty years ago, as brand new believers, Chuck and I worked closely with the Voice of the Martyrs organization. We heard stories that turn your stomach turn and test your faith. But that’s not all. I have read many history books. And, I have read the New Testament. Often.
Remember? It is the stories of people who experienced overwhelming love and utter sacrifice. Persecution is not a new thing.
So as we face the current onslaught, the alarm sounds for us to move deeper into the heart of God. Just as tornado warnings blare out for us to “seek shelter,” so we seek the shelter of the Almighty.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
These are the days that separate true faith from religion. The sheep from the goats. Religion would make cowards of us all. Social comfort zones, or playing church, do not provide a foundation worth dying for. But “the love of God compels us” to stand against the evil of every generation.
I tell you in the Spirit, the days we are living in must produce three things in every believer’s heart—love, power, and a sound mind.
Love will help you discern that the battle we are in is not against “flesh and blood but principalities and powers.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Love— and I mean God’s real, relevant and consuming affection— will help you abandon your life into His heart. That though you lose your life, you know you will save your soul. These are chilling questions but ones you must examine.
“Am I willing to die for Jesus?” “Am I willing to lose all that I have, including my family, for Jesus?”
You can be sure that our brothers and sisters in the middle East live—and die— by their answers every day. We are not exempt from these spiritual siftings.
Jesus himself spoke of days just as these and declared that these things “must happen.” But his warning? He was concerned about our love. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24: 12-13 What is your love temperature?
It a sincere love for Jesus that motivates us to follow in His sufferings should that day come. You can’t fake Christianity for long when someone is a holding a gun to your head. Be diligent then in these days. Cultivate, nurture, prioritize your relationship with God now.
Power will equip you to wage war with “divine weapons” and demolish strongholds regardless of where the enemies are located. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Power comes when we understand that Jesus reigns. He is the King of all the earth. Period. When we see evil on the rise, we must respond with even greater confidence and faith. And we must respond. In prayer, in action, in faith. The great Light of God has come into the world, and the darkness cannot put it out. Not ISIS, not anyone.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1: 3-5
We don’t wring our hands, or fret about our way of life. We speak the kingdom of God into the darkest places. We declare the goodness of God to be manifested to those being tormented but also to the tormentors. We release the Scriptures like arrows. We stand in the Spirit against our enemy, we intercede for the suffering. Just this morning I prayed that the name of Jesus would “pour forth like ointment.” (Song of Songs 1:3)
We must rise up into the power and authority that Jesus gave us to advance His Kingdom. It is time for the church to stop its petty territory games and “follow the leader” paradigms and instead start equipping the saints for the Holy War of Love.
A sound mind has a peace that “will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
It is in the mind that your greatest victory is won. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” ( 2 Timothy 1:7 ) A sound mind has already been given to you. Are you accessing it? We know that in Him we are more than conquerors. But so many of us live in a daily panic or state of “what if this happens.”
I challenge you that God knows your days. He knows the hairs on your head. His job is to be God. Your job is to trust and obey. Trust His goodness, even in the darkest of circumstances, and obey His commands: Love God and love your neighbor.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Which takes more faith? To freak out over every news report or Facebook post? Or, to love your enemies and to bless those who persecute you? ( Matthew 5:44) Our sound mind and steadfast faith releases the power of God into our lives and the world.
Perhaps, the greatest challenge we face as Christians is to finally learn the secret: “Perfect Love casts out fear.”
Today. Tomorrow. Middle East. USA. War. Peace. Famine. Abundance. It is Christ alone.
I exhort you to examine your life. To purposely raise your spiritual expectations so that you live in the realm of Love, Power and a Sound Mind. Then we might truly see “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.”