July 19, 2016

The Lord Shall Fight for You

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Inside of Turkish church.
One of Matta's growing churches, overflowing with people on Easter 2016

A former Muslim, Matta started a ministry in his native country of Turkey, which Christian Aid Mission supports, in 2003. It hasn't been easy. The country's Muslim population is 96.5%, so it's no wonder that Matta's evangelical outreach is the only one in his region.

He's received plenty of threats and hate mail. His photo, along with derogatory descriptions of him, have been published in newspapers and plastered on buses—leading some to avoid him and provoking others to violence against him.

He's established two growing churches, which meet in rented buildings. One of the churches has been the site of numerous attacks.

In 2015, a man with a club showed up yelling profanity and threatening congregants. In February 2016, four Muslim men arrived after dark and started kicking and banging on the door. They damaged the door, several windows, and the security camera before finally leaving.

Several weeks ago, Matta attended the attackers' trial, during which the judge asked him if he wanted to press charges. "I'm not pressing charges because the Lord asked me to forgive," Matta said.

"Not even asking for the damages they caused with the broken windows and the camera?" the judge asked.

"No, I don't want to; the only thing I want is to be known that we are not bad people," Matta responded.

Attackers caught on camera.
The February 2016 attack on one of the churches

"Well you may not want to but I shall nonetheless try them for causing harm to a place of worship," the judge said.

Place of worship. For a judge in the staunchly Islamic country of Turkey to give that kind of recognition to a church is extraordinary.

"I then remembered the verse from Exodus 14:14, 'The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace,'" Matta wrote to us. "We praise God because after this attack good reports for us were published in many papers and some officials came to visit us."

You're probably familiar with the Old Testament Israelites, whose king, for a good long time was none other than God Himself. He performed miracle after miracle for them, but they still pushed for a human king. They went to their prophet and judge, Samuel, and demanded one. God told him to warn the people exactly what they were getting themselves into.

"He [king] will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots," states 1 Samuel 8:11 (NASB). "And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots."

Years earlier, under Joshua's leadership, Israel was prohibited from developing a cavalry because God wanted them to depend on Him, not the strength of horses.

Painting of King Saul by Rembrandt.
Rembrandt's version of King Saul

"He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys, and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants" (1 Samuel 8:13-17 NASB).

Wow. Sounds pretty oppressive to me. They were willing to give up so much for the empty façade of security. Other nations had kings, so they figured they needed one, too.

Suddenly, they had to organize a military. They had to turn over their sons and daughters to the king's service.

They must've forgotten how God used Gideon and a paltry 300 men to defeat a mighty army camped against them. Or how Joshua defeated Jericho by marching around its wall seven times. The Israelites had crossed the Jordan into the land of promise and all that remained was for them to conquer the land. Joshua stood before the impressive city of Jericho and wondered how they were going to win the battle they were about to initiate.

That's when a man with a sword appeared.

"Are you for us or for our enemies?" Joshua asked him.

Drawing of Israelites walking around Jericho.
Under the Lord's leadership, the Israelites conquered Jericho

"'Neither,' he replied, 'but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come'" (Joshua 5:13-14 NIV).

This man was none other than Jesus Christ, one of several times He appeared to people in the Old Testament. Here, He is described as the captain of the Lord's host.

I'm guessing Joshua's fears and concerns about conquering Jericho were put to rest by the thought of a vast celestial army whose commander was God Himself.

Do you know that God will fight our battles for us, too, if we'll get out of the way and let Him?

The reason we get defensive and think we need to strive and struggle to protect ourselves is nothing other than a lack of trust in God to protect us.

"Faith will give you comfort in the midst of fears, unbelief will bring fears in the midst of comfort," wrote Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel. "Faith makes great burdens light, unbelief makes light burdens unbearably heavy. Faith lifts us up when we are down, unbelief casts us down when we are up."

Writes Tim Keller: "Do you know where constant worry comes from? It's rooted in an arrogance that assumes, I know the way my life has to go, and God's not getting it right. Real humility means to relax."

We received a report from Bangladesh that, after several poor villagers became Christians, their neighbors shunned them and forbade them from getting water from their local wells.

Oh no! What are those poor people supposed to do now?! Maybe they should join up, perhaps carry a few weapons, and all go to the well together. There's strength in numbers. They'll look formidable that way. After all, it's their village, too. They don't have to put up with this kind of injustice.

Woman drawing water from well pump in Bangladesh.
God used Christian Aid Mission supporters to provide water to Bangladeshi Christians

Thankfully, they did no such thing. They trusted God, the commander of the hosts of heaven. And God used you, precious supporters of Christian Aid Mission, to accomplish His good purposes. Because you gave, we provided the means for an indigenous ministry in Bangladesh to dig nine wells in nine different villages where Christians were being denied water.

The report read, "When a well is dug, our church members invite all their neighbors, saying, 'You are welcome to get drinking water, we have no problem. We love you because our Lord Jesus Christ is a loving God to all people, He is the Living Water.'"

Each of those wells represents an opportunity to share the grace, forgiveness, and love of our Lord and Savior.

If we can only trust our God and His unlimited resources, we'll be free to respond like those Bangladeshi believers did—to wait on God when things turn ugly instead of taking matters into our own hands, and to love the very people who cause us trouble.

"The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace," (Exodus 14:14).