Sometimes, when I’m watching movies, I feel obliged to point out something obvious to the people on the screen. When a giant, unstoppable force (whether a classic monster like King Kong, a sci-fi alien mothership, or a comic-book force like the Hulk) starts to terrorize a city, the camera invariably shows local military forces shooting at the invading force with small arms, but to no avail. (I’d like to think that all of the security forces that I know would figure this out after their bullets bounce off the armor / force field / skin of the enemy for 5 minutes, but apparently people in movies aren’t as smart as regular people!)
Depending on where you live, you are likely to find Christianity under attack. In a few parts of the world, it is thriving and growing, but in others it is not doing as well. It’s not difficult to find information about places where Christians are being persecuted outright, whether they are driven out of their homes, their possessions are taken, or they are executed for their beliefs. More insidious, in other places, the practice of Christianity has become so commonplace that it has begun to atrophy into a religious exercise, or a ritual, rather than the rewarding relationship with Jesus Christ that it was meant to be.
However, I’m not here to try and place guilt on others. As long as you are doing your part for Jesus’ body (the church) wherever you are, and following God’s leading, that’s what you are called to do. We empathize and help where we can, but Jesus ultimately carries His followers through the tough times. (Having said that, God does call some of us to reach out and help those being persecuted – we each have to figure that out with Him.)
Instead, I want to remind us of a message of hope: Regardless of what the enemies of Jesus’ followers have thrown at them – from banning their message to exterminating those who follow it – the message of Jesus has remained strong. It changes lives today, just as miraculously and effectively today as it did at Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2). Like small-arms fire against an unstoppable opponent, Christianity – experienced by followers of Jesus who accept His Lordship and seek to obey His commands – continues forward, making a positive impact on the world around it (even its enemies).
Don’t get me wrong: messages of the decline or persecution of Christianity in various parts of the world should inspire us to pray, act, and share the good news about Jesus. But, they must never take away our hope.
The point is that the Kingdom of God is guaranteed – by the Creator and God of the Universe – to persist until the end of days. Despite attacks from people, or from the forces talked about in Romans 8:37-39, followers of Jesus don’t just survive (whether here on earth, or rewarded in their eternal home), they “overwhelmingly conquer”!
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39 NASB
So, if the challenges of being a Christian weigh heavily upon you, be strong: not because you’re somehow super-human, nor because you just pick yourself up by your own bootstraps, but because you are on the winning team.
If you don’t believe me, read what Jesus promised to Peter, in Matthew 16:16-19, “upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Or, read what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”. (Click on the links above to read the entire passages, with even more encouraging context.)
Don’t get me wrong, despite knowing that I am on the winning team, I’m still a little fearful of the opposition. However, I hope that you – like me – can find strength and courage from promises like the following:
So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”
Hebrews 13:6 NLT
Prepare to be victorious!