We often find it difficult to see the hand of God in a culture and a world where humanistic thinking and mankind’s self-focus seem to be the majority worldview. We think we live for and follow Jesus in a terrible time and in the midst of insurmountable obstacles. Believers are ridiculed, mocked, scorned, called haters, labeled as bigots, and generally considered to be intolerant and non-compassionate. Critics constantly try to silence us and render us impotent and, at times, out-of-our-ever-loving-mind freaks. We feel isolated and alone most of the time. Often, I hear believers speak as if no other era in Christian history has been as hopeless as the one we now live in.
Add to the mix the fact that the church has grown eerily silent concerning sin and seems more concerned with what the world thinks of them than what God’s Word says about our role as being ambassadors for Christ and we wind up with a church culture that appears very similar to that of the world. Again, we think there has been no other such era in our history when such things were going on…but we would be wrong to think like that.
The world has always been at war with the enemy. The liar uses the wisdom of man to divide the church and to make us feel ‘less than’ if we disagree with a man-centric worldview. I can think of many other times when all of these things could be said…and I can think of others who stood alone during intense persecution…and I can tell you this: the same God that got them through their trying times and persecutions is the very same God that is with us in the present era of church history! Here are just a few examples off the top of my head:
Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem and took many of its people captive and forced them into slavery. Daniel was one such person…a young man, just stepping into the prime of his life. Because of Daniel’s god-centered wisdom, he quickly rose in ranks to a high position in the kingdom. Because of Daniel’s gifts and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, he was given a place of honor and asked to interpret dreams and visions. After one such interpretation, Daniel informed king Nebuchadnezzar that he would be defeated and replaced by the Medes and Persians…and was slain that same night.
Darius then ruled over the land and again appointed Daniel to a high position in the land. Due to leaders jealous of Daniel, these leaders persuaded Darius to decree that he was a god and that no one should bow before any other god than Darius. Of course, Daniel was willing to stand alone and was brought before Darius accused of worshiping someone besides Darius. Darius loved Daniel and did not want to punish him…but the leaders who had devised the plan held Darius to his word…and Darius had Daniel cast into a pit full of hungry lions. The king left sorrowfully and had a fitful night of sleep…yet somehow hoped Daniel’s God would deliver him. Daniel 6:19-23 tells us what happened next:
19 Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions' den. 20 When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?" 21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, "O king, live forever! 22 "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime." 23 Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
The same God that was with Daniel is the same God we serve in the here and now!
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego
You may recall that these three young men were captured by the Babylonians along with Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar built a huge golden image and commanded all in the land to bow before it in worship. Daniel’s co-captives - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow down to the king’s idol and responded to his command in Daniel 3:16-18:
16 "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 "If it be [so,] our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 "But [even] if [He does] not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
Needless to say, they were summarily cast into a furnace of fire…only to be met in the midst of that fire by the Son of God…all walking out unscathed! When the king saw this, he said this in Daniel 3:28, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.”
The same God that was with these three young men of God is the same God we serve in the here and now!
Jospeh, a young man of visions and dreams, was the son of Jacob. Jospeh had many older brothers who were jealous of him. To make a long story short, Jospeh’s brothers sold him into slavery to the Midianites who then turned around an sold him to an Egyptian named Potiphar who happened to be the captain of the Pharaoh’s body guard. Again, because of his faithfulness to God, Jospeh rose in rank in the land of Egypt…only to be accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife and summarily sent to prison. While in prison, Jospeh became quite known for his ability to interpret dreams…and long story made short (again), interpreted a dream for Pharaoh and was appointed to one of the highest ranks in the land due to the accuracy of his interpretation! In fact, God used what Jospeh’s brothers had meant for evil to rescue those very brothers and his entire family from starvation.
The same God that was with Joseph is the same God we serve in the here and now!
The giant, Goliath, held the army of Israel at bay in the valley of Elah. David, a young teenager at the time, came to deliver supplies to his brothers who served in that army and was appalled at the fear the army of God showed against the giant Philistine. In 1 Samuel 17 we find the account of David daring to face the giant alone:
37 And David said, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and may the LORD be with you." ... 48 Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung [it,] and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. 50 Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David's hand. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
The same God that was with David is the same God we serve in the here and now!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have no need to fear the world or fear standing alone in the midst of persecution. The same God that was with so many throughout history - much of it as bleak or bleaker than what we face right now - is the same God that is with us! Think about that today…and let your heart be encouraged! We are not alone!
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