Focused on the Task
Keeping the right perspective
The latest crisis in the Middle East between Israel and Hezbollah has been one of the many conflicts affecting this volatile area of the world. Other international crises include Sudan, North Korea, the war in Iraq, Iran’s uranium enrichment program, etc.
The media has given massive coverage to these events and scores of politicians, war experts, economists, journalists, religious leaders and others have been sharing their analyses of these situations. Many of us have our own theological, historical, political, and even ethnological views that affect the way we interpret these situations.
But in the midst of our reasoning, let us not forget that God wants to save people from every tongue, tribe and nation… Israelis and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, Shiites and Sunnis, Atheists and Animists. 1 Timothy 2:4 states that the Lord "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." Our Lord Jesus Christ is in business of saving souls, and we should be too. I believe that we as Christians must keep in mind a few simple things.
God is in control
In the history of mankind, world events have always been pieces of God’s larger plan. The Roman Empire, for example, constructed one of the largest networks of roads ever built. This magnificent work was not only pivotal to the spread of the gospel, but also to the future destruction of the empire itself. Ironically, the invaders used the very same roads the Romans had built to destroy the Empire that persecuted believers. This was another event in God’s unfolding plan to bring about a witness of our Lord Jesus to all nations, which must precede His second coming (Matthew 24:14).
God’s plan continues to move forward through world events and His will is going to be accomplished regardless of our analysis or interpretation. However, we can certainly get involved in more strategic, powerful and Biblical ways.
Prayer... have we mentioned this before?
Effective prayer begins with seeking God’s will, and we can know how to pray according to His will by reading the Scriptures.
Our Lord Jesus not only instructed His disciples to pray so that the will of His Father "be done on earth", but the Bible also tells us that it is the Father’s will for us to intercede for people in authority. "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." (1 Tim.2:1-2) We should keep in mind that "The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Prov. 21:1) The Apostle Paul said, "There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." (Rom.13:1)
I believe that sometimes we simply underestimate the power of praying for the things He commands us to in the Scriptures.
Not only does God want us to pray for people in authority, but He also says: "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:10)
On one of my many trips overseas, I met a group of young Arab believers who worked as native missionaries with a ministry that Christian Aid supports. They asked me to pray because they wanted to get married to their Christian girlfriends. Finding their request a bit too simplistic, I asked them to be more specific.
It is typical in this particular Arab city for two to three families to live together in one apartment, sharing the same kitchen and bathroom because they cannot afford their own. These missionaries explained to me that they could not even afford to rent a room in one of these apartments with other families so that they could get married.
None of these missionaries asked me for financial help. In fact, if I had not asked them to be more specific, they would not have told me their need. We did pray, believing that the Lord heard our request and would provide for this situation.
Supplying their needs
When we see international conflicts in the headlines, we should not forget that thousands of native missionaries are fighting the real battle—the spiritual battle—on the frontlines. These faithful workers are sharing the gospel message inside of their own countries. Many are working among one of the largest religious strongholds in the world: Islam. They are risking their relationships with their families, their freedom and, in many cases, their lives.
Indigenous ministries in Islamic regions receive very little support from Christians in the West. Meanwhile, Muslim countries are investing billions of dollars in Islamic work throughout the world. We know that Muslims bring people to their faith by supplying the needs of the common people through other Muslims inside of those countries. They invest in missionary training, literature, mosques, schools, housing, clinics and other development projects in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.
With these projects, they gain the favor of the population. Eventually they become part of the law-making entities within the countries, in the hope of establishing Sharia law and creating Islamic states. Just look at Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Many regions within the country have already been Islamized…and the investment continues.
Most Christians from the West are investing the majority of their resources in areas that already have a strong presence of the gospel. Although it costs tens of thousands of dollars, we still think that sending a group of 20 to 30 people on a short-term trip to a country that already has thousands of evangelical churches equals effective missions.
I have visited many indigenous ministries in countries where the leaders have to rent old cars to do ministry work because they cannot afford their own vehicles. I have also gotten stuck in the middle of jungles and deserts with these leaders when the vehicles broke down. With the cost of one of these short-term trips, five 4x4 vehicles could be purchased, and more than 50 indigenous full-time church planters could be supported for an entire year. Dozens more churches could then be planted.
As I have previously stated, I am a believer in strategic short-term trips taken by small groups of people, when those participating have a pre-commitment to contribute to the indigenous ministries they are visiting. Considering the number of people in these areas who are dying each day without an opportunity to hear about Christ, I believe some of these expensive short-term trips should be seriously reevaluated.
Christian Aid is in contact with hundreds of indigenous ministries worldwide. These gospel workers do not have the resources that many times are wasted in our part of the world. But they have the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and the Word of God. They also know their culture and language. I am convinced they could do a lot more if we would get behind them financially and pray to the Lord, believing that He will bring about major breakthroughs for them.
Years ago, I visited a ministry supported by Christian Aid in a Muslim country. The believers told me the story behind the construction of their church building. Before a roof was constructed, hostile Muslim neighbors would throw rocks over the top of the walls in an attempt to stone the builders. The builders pressed themselves against the walls and waited until the Muslims were tired and left. Then they would get back to work. Almost every day, for the next few months until the construction was finished, their persecutors harassed them.
Today, a vibrant church of more than 300 former Muslims, as well as a Bible Institute, which trains dozens of workers, exists because of the persistence of those church builders to finish the task. When I asked one of the leaders how they managed to finish the construction under those circumstances, he said, "It caused us some delays, but the Lord helped us. We put all those rocks they threw at us into the construction itself."
Those believers went through all of that to reach the very same people who were attacking them...and they are now reaching them.
I believe that they are focused on the task. Are we?