We rejoice in the good things God provides, but we do not measure his love or respond to it according to the earthly pleasures he gives or withholds from us.
I have recently been prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak out about the “perfect storm” that is about break out on the Christian Church in Britain and Europe. Opposition to the Christian faith is definitely intensifying. Different influences seem to be coming together that could soon combine to produce a perfect storm of difficulty for followers of Christ in our region of the world.
Militant atheism, secularism and false religion seem to be working together in an unprecedented way with one ultimate aim – to weaken the influence of Christian churches and push the Christian faith to the margins of our society. The aim of militant Islam is to become the dominant religious force in the nation and it will not rest until Britain becomes an Islamic state.
We love the Muslims, and it is wonderful to see so many of them finding the joy and freedom of salvation in Christ through our ministry in London and further afield. But we must never forget that the Quran teaches the supremacy of Islam. To be a good Muslim you must believe that there is only one true religion – Islam. All others must be overthrown or subjugated. This is the clear teaching of the founder of Islam and of all its major religious texts.
On the positive side, the historic decline of church attendance in the mainline Christian denominations has bottomed out. Pentecostal churches continue to grow, even faster than in the past 30 years. According to a 2011 survey, 68.5% of people living in Britain still claim to be Christian. The situation is patchy but, by and large, Christianity is still an important force in our nation.
However, we cannot be complacent and, if God is warning us about a coming storm, we must get ready. The spiritual dimension cannot be overlooked. We have an adversary who roams about as a roaring lion, seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan’s one aim is to oppose God and his followers. That makes Christians a prime target for his evil scheming.
My motive in sharing these things at this stage is not merely to make prophetic proclamations but to minister pastorally to God’s people. I want to help you face the storms in your personal life so that, when the time comes, we can face the bigger storm together and come through it all triumphantly.
The book of Hebrews is written to a group of believers who had passed through extremely difficult times. As yet, no one had been killed for their faith, but they had experienced persecution to the point of confiscation of their property. What God said to these struggling believers, many of whom were at the point of giving up, is exactly what he is saying to us today.
The Race of Faith
Living in the 2012 Olympic City, we can relate to the common biblical comparison of the Christian faith to an athletic track event. The author of the letter to the Hebrew believers encouraged his readers to strip away every impediment of sin so that they could run their race freely and successfully right to very end.
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).
As in athletics, the secrets of success in the race of faith are discipline and endurance. We must keep pushing forward no matter how hard or tough it gets. The prize is none other than Jesus himself, who is urging us forward, step by step, ever closer to the finish line where he is waiting for us.
Jesus, as our forerunner has gone before us, enduring everything we have to endure – and so much more. His race meant embracing the pain and the shame of the cross, and his prize was us, the redeemed people of God. He totally triumphed in his quest and has accomplished for us eternal salvation. As both the author and finisher of our faith, he guarantees us an entry into the grandstand of his glory – heaven itself.
That should encourage us never to give in, fall back or disqualify ourselves from the race. We can draw from him the grace to help us in time of need and the assurance of faith that is solid evidence of the reality of the things we hold dear. This race of life is real; it puts us in touch with the truth of who Jesus is – Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The Anchor of our Soul
Our certain hope, is Christ and he is the anchor of our soul, the safe haven in a time of storm and the rewarder of those who set their heart steadfast in the direction of God. Don’t throw away your confidence just because you pass through stormy times. As the people of God, we do not lose hope just because life gets tough. We are not immune from suffering and pain. Rather we triumph in it, because we know what the real deal is.
We love God for who he is, not for what we can get out of him. The comforts, pleasures and accomplishments of this world can never compete with the joy of knowing him and the promise of the life he offers.
Christianity is not a way out; it is a way through. Satan accused Job before God, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (Job 1:9). Job’s life was peaceful, prosperous and successful. To prove Job’s loyalty, God allowed the worst imaginable negative circumstances to hit his life. He lost his property, his family, and even his health. But Job’s faith withstood the storm. He said, “Though God slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). This defiance in the time of trial was to God more precious than gold: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and not turned aside” (Job 23:10-11).
We love God for who he is, not for what we can get out of him. The comforts, pleasures and accomplishments of this world can never compete with the joy of knowing him and the promise of the life he offers. Make up your mind that you will travel light on this earth, not clutching at any and every passing comfort, but choosing the reproach of Christ rather than the pleasures of sin for a season. We rejoice in the good things God provides (and he is an extremely generous Father!), but we do not measure his love or respond to it according to the earthly pleasures he provides or withholds from us.
Exhort one another daily
One of the other great secrets of Christian endurance is the strength we derive from other believers. Knowing the deceitful nature of sin – that it promises the earth, but delivers misery – the writer to the Hebrews gives this stern warning.
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13).
This is both a realistic appraisal of what can happen to our faith when we pass through personal trial, and an immediate answer to the problem. We know that many people grow cold to God when suffering, but that is why we need each other. The root of the problem is our deceitful hearts that are so willing to listen to the enemy’s slanderous accusations against God, “God doesn’t care; he is punishing you; he is against you; he wants to see you suffer.” Our hard hearts are so easily drawn astray by the alluring promises of the pleasure, comfort and power that sin so glibly offers us.
But when we are in meaningful connected relationships with fellow believers, we can pull each other back into reality. We must constantly watch one another’s backs spiritually-speaking, and challenge the state of one another’s hearts.
I have recently said publically, and repeat myself here: unless we are part of a tight-knit fellowship such as an effective small group, I seriously doubt the ability of the majority of members of the church to overcome the pressures the coming storm will bring.
Perhaps the best response you can make to the challenge of this article is to ensure that you are a committed, active and participating member of a small group as organised by your local church. That way, you can both watch out for the welfare of your brothers or sisters in Christ and get the spiritual support you need as you face the storms that lie ahead.