The phrase “keep your eye on the ball” is very important when you’re out there evangelizing (Ephesians 4:14).
People will take out their cameras, give you the middle finger, shout at you, honk at you, cheer you on, thank you, tell you to go away, walk away from you, get the local authority on you (for doing nothing wrong), and so much more. It reminds me of the list of what the Apostle Paul went through (2 Corinthians 11:24-27), only what we go through these days is so much less than what he went through.
During all that–and through all that–it’s important to remember why you’re out there in the first place.
It’s not to receive applause.
It’s not to jump into debates and win arguments all day either.
It’s to win souls with what Christ did for us (Romans 5:8) (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). His finished work is what we’re to proclaim all day long as his ambassadors, soldiers and workmen. What happens to us is not the issue, nor why we’re supposed to be out there.
There are days when we go out to evangelize, and nobody takes a gospel tract. Nobody.
Our response? We’re there tomorrow.
Other days, we go through stacks and stacks of gospel tracts to the point where we can’t keep up with passing them out.
Our response to that? The same.
We’re there tomorrow, treating both situations equally the same.
Operate in spite of the circumstances, not due to them.
What matters most is Christ and Him Crucified, and making sure people hear about what our Lord did for us. We’re just the messengers and we’re thankful to be just that in a present evil world (Galatians 1:4).
Jon Cooper lives in Belle Isle Florida with his family, evangelizes in the Orlando/Central Florida area as well as many other locations, and is the author/creator of https://www.soulsinthebalance.com
We have all been in seasons where the darkness has overwhelmed us. Understanding fails us and our sense of God is lost in inner anguish. We lament over things that have been long gone but it feels like it just happened. Heaviness and despair can be our companion more often than we would care to admit. But in this place of darkness is where God can do his greatest work!
In the darkness, there is a sense of apprehension and caution. The Lord sees light and darkness as the same, He often dwells in thick darkness in 1 King 8:12. The darkness doesn’t limit the Lord, but we are aware of our limitations in the darkness. In the middle of the night when forgetting our surroundings, we can be reminded quickly and painfully after colliding with stationary objects.
Jesus can calm and muzzle our storm, but His timetable is often very different than ours. Our “noisy soul” with unresolved things can hijack our present reality. He dispels our restlessness, with His peace. His strength is displayed in our weakness and is more powerful than anything coming at us or within us. The work in darkness has an eternal purpose. “God uses darkness so that we can’t rely on anything that we see or know, but we learn to reach out to take hold of Him.”
Here are a few steps to help identify what is happening:
Acknowledge what you understand is going on – be prayerfully transparent.
Confess any known sin
Agree with the promises God has given you and speak them out loud
Reach out for help. Have Godly people aware of what is happening
Profound Things Learned in Darkness
The arena of darkness can allow God to do his best work, we are no longer making a show to anyone, but it is now us and Jesus alone. Maybe pain, failure or sickness led you to a dark place, but Jesus will lead you through. Everything can be different after a dark season because we allowed a deep work of the soul to take place–we are then made different.
Here are a few things learned:
How to engage Christ on an authentic level
To seek Christ with our whole heart.
Christ brings us deeper and closer with a growing sensitivity to the things of God
Understanding and Rhema are added as we abide
Christ handicaps our ability so that we radically reliant on Him, and Him alone.
In these seasons, God’s plan is to promote us in the spiritual world first, then the natural world. We are being transformed from the inside out and being made like Jesus. As a blind person relies on their other senses for navigating, so we lean on the Holy Spirit to be our everything. This doesn’t come naturally; there is a process of trust and a relationship that must be fostered.
Hebrews 5:8 “Even though Jesus was God”s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” As we go positive and mix faith with truth, rather than fight it, Jesus removes obscurity and we begin to live in the reality of what we know. “God wants to teach us not to doubt in the darkness what He has shared with us in the light.” The environment may have changed but Jesus has not.
Darkness has a Purpose
As believers, we are light bearers. In the unseen world, power is determined by the amount of light that we possess. As we are in the Word and walking in faith, we accumulate and absorb light and reflect the power and authority of God. We see this illustrated in Luke 11:34-35 “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is clear, your whole body is also light; but when it is evil, your body is also dark. Therefore, take heed, lest the light that is in you be darkness. If therefore your body is full of light, not having any part dark, it will be all light, as when the lamp shining might light you.” As we fellowship in the light it amplifies and we see more light in Psalms 36:9.
Smith Wigglesworth wrote “I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am only moved by what I believe.” Smith’s paradigm had shifted and now he was moved by God and nothing else. God uses darkness to re-calibrate us to a new standard. Jesus leads us to himself and a radical reliance on His word is learned. He weans us off the reliance on familiar feelings and self-orientation and teaches us to trust His Word.
New places of hope create new places of strength and refuge. As we come to the end of ourselves several things come to light:
Preeminence – We learn to become second
Pretense – Our agenda becomes second
Pious platitudes – Knowledge without life is done away with
Christ is our faithful guide, and as He progressively makes known His mysteries, we will discover the eternal weight of glory attached to them and thank Him for the privilege of getting to know Him in darkness. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to move us, and nothing else.
Light Pierces Through
God is the light that shines in our darkness, as we learn to believe, embrace and be persuaded of His promises; they bring precise light and show a way through. We begin to learn deep things from God in Job 12:22; and He adds treasures from darkness to our life in Isaiah 45:3.
God will add deep things so that we learn new dimensions of our faith. What we learn in the secret helps us function in the light. Nothing is in vain as we bring everything to Jesus, and He will expand our hearts with light.
Identification with a personal understanding
Empathy with personal care
Patience with the surrender of natural timetables
Thankfulness is discovering the small things are BIG things
Wisdom is smart truths that are actual and not theoretical
Personal Ministry in ministering life rather than just a solution
Christ may seem hidden in our darkness, but the true reality is, He is near, speaking, and adding more depth in you. This darkness will pass in Psalms 139:11-12 and the dark night of the soul will break with the dawning of a new day. Don’t quit or give up let God hold you through the storm–it will pass! Collapse in the arms of Christ; let Him personally love and expand your heart, while multiplying your faith. He will pierce your darkness!
I happen to live in Africa, the home of most of the world’s lions, but this is not a safari story. It is an important spiritual lesson that comes from the king of the beasts.
The Nature of the Beast
The lion has long been used as a symbol of courage, leadership and royalty. Over the years, different peoples have observed them and admired their boldness. These animals are so brave they will attack virtually any creature regardless of its size or threat. Lions will go after buffaloes, elephants and even crocodiles. For those who have been up close with a lion in the wild, you will attest that there is no animal as confident looking, as fearless and as regal. If you happened to meet its gaze, you would feel vulnerable. There are no traces of fear in the eyes of a lion.
So why is this animal so fearless? Does it come from its great strength and ability to tear most animals to pieces? That surely is important but I believe there’s more to it. I would suggest that the lion’s bravery is not so much in its ability as in the DNA. From birth the lion cub instinctively knows to be fearless: it just knows it is a lion.
If it was up to us, we all would have wanted to be born fearless, to have a certain assuredness about all the problems we encounter in life. To face them head on and not be overwhelmed by anything: to ‘attack’ our challenges and not run from them. I have news for you: if you are Christian, then you are born of a lion—the lion of Judah. That is not some theological statement with little place in the real world; it is a great truth that can set you free.
When you know your true identity, you begin to reflect it. The lion cub does not have to pretend to be brave; it just has to be itself. If it was unsure of its identity, we would see a different animal altogether. The cub’s identity is further developed by the other lions that nurture it. Now let me tell you a true story of a certain “lion” and a not-so-brave little boy.
Why We Fear
I was about four years old and my parents had guests at home. Once night had fallen, they got ready to leave and as we escorted them out of the house, I could see the dark night sky and mysterious shadows lurking in nearby trees. We bade farewell to the guests and they drove off. Before we could go back inside, something interesting happened. Turning and looking at us (myself and some siblings), my dad thought he could have a little laugh. He spread out his fingers like claws and opening his eyes wide, he said, “Can I turn into a lion?” Maybe it was the darkness outside or perhaps the fact that his hair and beard looked much like a mane, but all I can say is I was convinced he was on the verge of transforming into a real lion; I was terrified! I begged him not to and it only made him laugh—and ask the question again. He eventually relented and we went into the house. I was still not too sure about him though!
Well, now that you know how brave I can be, let’s move on to more important things.
That experience as a child was a long time ago. I am grown up now and I know it was silly to think a human being could become a lion. However after so many years, God reminded me of that day and gave me a revelation. He let me know that I was afraid at the time because I didn’t know any better, and that growing up gave me knowledge that showed me the truth. My wrong belief instilled fear in me. My dad was never going to become a lion but I was afraid anyway. So what was the solution? I just needed to grow up and learn the truth.
The truth indeed sets us free.
God’s Remedy for Fear
In life everything that makes us fearful points at our limited knowledge. I am not saying there are no real dangers; do not get me wrong. Nor am I saying we should never feel fear. What I am saying is that our deeper knowledge of God makes us realize we really have nothing to fear.
The righteous are as bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1). Righteous here simply refers to those who have a meaningful relationship with God. And why should they be brave or confident?
The simple answer is that they know the truth.
When you know the truth, it sets you free from fear. How would I describe that truth? Let me keep it simple: God is able to deal with whatever you may face and overcome it for you. That is the truth.
The big question then, is why do Christians struggle with all sorts of fears even though they already know the truth?
I will ask another question: do we really know and believe this truth? Do we act like we should when we have a problem? Are we calm, confident and assured—yes, bold as a lion?
I don’t think so. More often than not we are afraid and pray in desperation and doubt. “I can’t help it,” you say; “I don’t have that faith.” Do not worry; you just need to grow some more. Do you see why God is so interested in our spiritual growth? We want him to keep problems away but he prefers that we stop letting them scare us.
There are over a hundred verses in the Bible that communicate the message “Do not be afraid” and there is a reason for this. God is saying, “I can handle your challenges but you have to believe because what you accept becomes your reality.” This is not something we can learn overnight; we have to grow.
We grow just like a child does; by expanding our knowledge. Our source of truth is the Word of God. If we do not take it in regularly, we can never grow spiritually. Once we’ve learned something new, we do not stop there; we apply that knowledge. We believe what the Word says and stop being afraid of everything. We trust in God and in who we are because of him. God’s Word is meant to remind us of who we are. He has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). That spirit has come because we do not have a revelation of the truth.
Let us strive to learn more of the truth every day. So that it can be said of us, “He lies down like a lion and who will dare to rouse him?” or, “She lies down like a lioness and who will dare to rouse her.”
By studying the Bible for several years, Martin K.M. has gradually attained a deep understanding of the Word of God and its enduring truths. He delights in sharing the Gospel with as many as he can and views writing as a great channel to do so. He has authored a number of books on spiritual growth and devotions. His works are characterized by a strong fidelity to the Scriptures along with the themes of hope and love.
The warning came exactly one week before we were scheduled to leave. It was a text message from Pastor Ronald, our representative in the Philippines. Puzzled by why he would text me since our correspondence was always via email, I opened my message box on my cell phone. What I read shocked me.
Rick, ISIS has kidnapped Pastor Danial of the church in the tribal area of Maasim, the church your team is scheduled to visit next week. We are trying to find him but until we do, we have to assume ISIS now knows about your team and your plans. You may want to postpone your trip.
For almost six months my team of five had been planning to fly to the Philippines to minister in the poor areas of Davao and the jungles of Mindanao. It was a trip I had taken every summer for seven straight years without a single problem although the State Department routinely warns American citizens not to go to this area. But now the danger was real and directed at my team.
I texted Ronald telling him to keep me posted then contacted my team. I knew Bonnie and I would go anyway, not because we were foolhardy, but because we knew God wanted us there. But I had to give each member of my team the opportunity to make a choice.
By that evening, the other three members let me know they were going too. I was proud of my team and the willingness of all of us to put our faith on the line. We were not going to let ISIS stop us from serving the Lord. The rest of the week I followed Ronald’s texts as if they were reports from a war zone which–in many ways–they were. The reports confirmed our decision and demonstrated the power of God. It was a tense week as we counted down the time to departure and monitored Ronald’s bulletins.
Six days before we were to leave, Ronald reported that Pastor Danial had been released but was still somewhere in the jungle. We were to learn later the miraculous means of his deliverance but for the moment we were concerned about his whereabouts.
Five days: Ronald reported that Pastor Danial was still missing but he and several pastors were planning to drive to the area at midnight to evacuate his family and look for him. My team prayed for the mission.
Four days: Ronald reported the mission was a success. They found Pastor Danial and drove him and his family back to his church to hide them.
Three days: Ronald reported that ISIS had Pastor Danial’s cell phone containing contact information for all of us and notes about our visit. He warned us that ISIS Commander Tokboy had called him several times demanding Pastor Danial be returned or he would hunt us down and in typical ISIS fashion, behead us all. My team talked it over and prayed. We decided to stick by our initial decision. We were going.
Over the next two days we packed, prayed and prepared ourselves. Ronald continued to report daily threats. Knowing that the family had left everything behind we raised funds to help them when we arrived.
After 22 hours in the air and sitting in airports, we arrived in Davao at 6:30 am. Ronald was at the airport to pick us up. It was hot and humid. We were tired. The jeep was small and cramped, but instead of going to our hotel we had Ronald take us to the church so we could meet Pastor Danial and his family.
When we arrived, Pastor Danial, his wife and eight children were sitting in a line on a bench under a canopy. Pastor Danial stood and smiled. He was short and had a weathered look about him. I was surprised at how thin he was. He didn’t look like someone who had just bested ISIS alone. Of course, I knew he hadn’t been alone.
I walked up and hugged him. “I’m so glad you and your family are safe.”
He smiled. After introductions, my team sat down to hear Pastor Danial’s story.
+ + +
He was alone in his church when two men with rifles walked in. They told him if he came with them they wouldn’t hurt him but Pastor Danial had heard enough stories to know that wasn’t true. Yet, he had no choice but to obey.
They drove him on a rut-filled dirt road deep into the jungle. He didn’t ask questions and neither of the men volunteered anything. He didn’t know if these were the New People’s Army or Islamic terrorists.
They stopped at a small clearing and then walked further into the jungle to a small camp. As soon as they arrived he saw the black ISIS flag on a pole. Islamic terrorist. They escorted him over to a hole about nine feet deep and a dozen feet across. Once on the edge they took his phone and pushed him in. He landed on his feet in the soft mud at the bottom. He knew his fate. He’d heard about these holes. No one came out of one alive.
He prayed and waited. He spent several days in the hole. Cold and coated with mud he got very little sleep. Occasionally, someone would drop down a little food and some water. Late on what seemed to be day three, four men, three with rifles and one with a handgun, circled the hole. The one with the pistol identified himself as ISIS Commander Tokboy. From Pastor Danial’s vantage point in the hole it was hard to make out his features but his voice was deep and laced with contempt.
“Are you the one that has been passing out bibles in this area?” Commander Tokboy asked.
Pastor Danial nodded.
“Then you are guilty of counter-Islamic activity. You must die.”
The Commander raised his pistol.
Pastor Danial closed his eyes and prayed for God to save him. At that moment a phone rang. He opened his eyes in time to see the Commander back away holding a cell phone. He couldn’t make out what was being said but it was clearly an argument and the Commander seemed upset.
After a short time, the argument stopped and Commander Tokboy appeared. He glared down at Pastor Danial. “You must have important friends. I’ve been told not to execute you. I’ll let you go but you will stop handing out Bibles. If you report this to the police or military I will kill you and your entire family.”
Pastor Danial only nodded as he looked down at the ground. He didn’t dare smile for fear the commander would change his mind and shoot. But he knew who the important friend was and he silently praised God.
+ + +
When he finished we all were quiet for a moment. It was so surreal, like something out of a movie. Eventually, Bonnie stood up and walked over to hug his wife. It seemed like the best time to give him the money we raised at the last minute to help his family. Both he and his wife began to cry.
Later that day, Ronald pulled me aside and said that Commander Tokboy continues to text him multiple times during the day demanding the return of Pastor Danial and threatening to find all of us and chop our heads off. I told him that though I was concerned I felt safe as long as we stay in or near Davao.
That’s far from the end of this story. It turns out we had nothing to fear but Commander Tokboy did.
Our original plan had been to spend a couple of days with Pastor Danial at his church and host a pastor’s conference. That, of course, had to be scrapped. In it’s place, Ronald found a small hotel on the Philippine Sea with a meeting room not far from our base in Davao. We decided to bring the pastors up from Maasim and have the conference at the hotel.
The pastors agreed. In fact, they were excited to leave the area. Even though they hadn’t been passing out Bibles and had not been harassed by ISIS they were understandably nervous.
The conference ran smoothly and the way it ended was nothing short of a miracle. It was clear to me that the pastors were unsure about returning home. So, I asked them to gather in the middle of the room. My team surrounded them and started at just a few minutes after 5 pm to pray that God would keep them safe.
At the end of the prayer they went to their rooms to pack so they could return first thing in the morning. Ronald took my team back to the hotel. We had settled in our rooms when the phone rang at a little past 9 pm. It was Ronald.
“Rick, I have great news. The pastors are in their rooms singing praises to God. They just got word that at 5 pm today the Philippine army raided Commander Tokboy’s camp. The commander was wounded in a shoot out and captured.”
And that is how God protects His people.
Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (The Passion of Job and Do What Jesus Did, both available on Amazon) as well as a Christian blog (https://spillmanrichard.com). His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, The Awakened, is waiting for a publisher to pick it up. He is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog he is active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/awakenedtrilogy) and Instagram (http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-3176880720/spillmanrichard/photos) where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life . . .” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19
“We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these life . . .” ~ Declaration of Independence
“Thou shall not kill.” ~ God
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein
“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
~ Blessed Mother Teresa
“Nothing we do to defend the human person, no matter how small, is ever unfruitful or forgotten. Our actions touch other lives and move other hearts in ways we can never fully understand in this world. Don’t ever underestimate the beauty and power of the witness you give in your pro-life work.”
~ Archbishop Charles Chaput
“Pro-choice and pro-life activists live in different worlds, and the scope of their lives, as both adults and children, fortifies them in their belief that their own views on abortion are the more correct, the more moral, and more reasonable. When added to this is the fact that should ‘the other side’ win, one group of women will see the very real devaluation of their lives and life resources, it is not surprising that the abortion debate has generated so much heat and so little light.”
~ Kristin Luker
“An abortion kills the life of the baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health.”
~ Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 1952 (see the pamphlet)
Capital Punishment Quotes
“We oppose the death penalty not just for what it does to those guilty of heinous crimes, but for what it does to all of us, it offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.”
~ Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza
“You can’t save a man if he’s dead.” ~ Unknown
“That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.”
~ William J. H. Boetcker
“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
~ Jackie Robinson
“Men are respectable only as they respect.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Here in the bathroom with me are razor blades. Here is iodine to drink. Here are sleeping pills to swallow. You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be. Every time you don’t throw yourself down the stairs, that’s a choice. Every time you don’t crash your car, you reenlist.”
~ Chuck Palahniuk
“Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it; since as many live because they are afraid to die, as die because they are afraid to live.”
~ Charles Caleb Colton
“Settle down, precious. I know what you’re going through. Ten minutes before you got here, I was gonna jump too.”
“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”
~ Ben Okri
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
~ Phil Donahue
“Anyone desperate enough for suicide…should be desperate enough to go to creative extremes to solve problems: elope at midnight, stow away on the boat to New Zealand and start over, do what they always wanted to do but were afraid to try.”
~ Richard Bach
“To make yourself something less than you can be – that too is a form of suicide.”
~ Benjamin Lichtenberg
“All healthy men have thought of their own suicide.”
~ Albert Camus
“The only reason I don’t end it all is because I keep waiting for it to get better, to make friends, and be prettier.”
“No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide.”
~ Cesare Pavese
“Nine men in ten are would-be suicides.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.”
~ Bertrand Russell
“The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.”
~ David Friedman
“There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”
~ Sun Tzu
“There is nothing that war has ever achieved that we could not better achieve without it.”
~ Henry Ellis
“There was never a good war, or a bad peace.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”
~ John F. Kennedy
“What is the use of physicians like myself trying to help parents to bring up children healthy and happy, to have them killed in such numbers for a cause that is ignoble?”
~ Benjamin Spock
“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”
~ Jeannette Rankin
“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”
~ John F. Kennedy
“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.”
~ Francois Fenelon
“An unjust peace is better than a just war.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”
~ George McGovern
“If it’s natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?”
~ Joan Baez
“If we don’t end war, war will end us.”
~ H. G. Wells
“In modern war… you will die like a dog for no good reason.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower