Can We Do All Things?
My Gracious Friend:
Yes, another year, but may this one be blessed, and our Lord grant that it lack the uncertainty, chaos, and fear that were so much a part of last year. True, it is we who need to rise above the paralyzing fear that strangled the very life our nations. Especially, since what was feared was more imagined than real, or what has always been with us throughout history. We exist in a fallen world. The rise of we “Gentiles,” from our idolatrous tribal existence, was one marked by early deaths, frequent plagues and famines, and a lot of bloodshed. It is only in the last several decades that poverty has actually declined, our lifespan and health dramatically increased, and the likelihood of our dying in some reoccurring tribal conflict, or being enslaved by some enemy almost negligible.
Such improvements are fairly new, this has not been the usual human experience. For our civilization has grown only slowly with small advances, followed by setbacks. However, now our Judaic-Christian civilization is being viciously torn at by those that seem to have no conscience. We are party to a famine of virtue, values, and righteousness. Witnessing what could be described as a societal “nervous breakdown.” We are losing all sense of who we are and forgetting the sacrifices of those that preceded in building this society. These nihilists lack any sense of history, are bereft of common sense as they destroy all that is good and beautiful.
They tell us when we can shop, dine, or just go out. In many cases now what we are allowed to say. We who hold to scriptures are called reactionary, unscientific, and superstitious. They seek to close Churches, even tell pastors what they can preach. The leading evangelical Lutheran in Finland is now facing prison, for “hate” speech. Just when have we allowed the “world” to define who we are, how we worship, and what it is to be a Christian?
When the early church faced this same kind of hatred, Peter and John would say, as you will surely remember, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). Those of “The Way” would, as evil will always do, continue to threatened them, imprisoned some, and even the Apostle James would be killed. Still their response was always, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts.5:29).
The Apostle Paul was no different, as he would reluctantly recount his hardships to make a point. “Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods, once I was stoned…danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren, in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my ministry for all the churches.” Paul will continue to share the cost of following Christ, and will conclude with this familiar but clearly amazing statement, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, for when I am weak then I am strong.” (2 Cor.11:24-28;12:10).
Such efforts and sacrifices are what have made this Judaic-Christian civilization possible. All the efforts then as now, God has worked magnificently into His grand mosaic. We don’t as yet see its full beauty, now we only see bits and pieces; the fall of Rome, early expansion, the Reformation, a New World, more missions and then a global church. What we are witnessing now only God knows how it all fits into His purpose. We as yet don’t see how this adds to His mosaic, one day we will. Now we can but rejoice in Nepal’s growing church, new Christians in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, Europe once considered spiritually dead, now with new growing churches, Africa, China, and Latin America with phenomenal Christian growth. And Nigeria keeps rebuilding their burned out churches, and we face the challenge to just keep our churches open. Listen to Paul once more, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:12-13). It’s only with Him that we can!
May we know Him who will strengthen us,
Thomas Randolf Wyatt