How to Handle Persecution, Part 1

Sep 24, 1972 John MacArthur

Okay, Acts, chapter 4. I’ve titled this whole chapter – really through verse 37 – How to Handle Persecution, and we’re going to just begin to dive into a little bit this morning, an initial statement through verse 12. And persecution, of course, is a very, very intrinsic part of the Christian picture, and always has been. And here we have some tremendous truths given to us in the example of the apostles as they handled persecution. Now, persecution was a blessing to the apostolic church, just as it is a blessing to all churches and all believers.

Five times in 11 years, hands were stretched forth to persecute the church in Jerusalem on an organized basis. And this chapter records the first of these persecutions, and really, the beginning of the persecutions of the church that are still going on today, some 2,000 years later. During the first 300 years of the church’s existence, or the first three centuries, really, there were ten persecutions of major proportions brought against the church. Beginning with Stephen and extending nearly to all of the apostles, death became the common way to go, if you were a Christian.

The first persecution, for example, broke out under Nero Domitius, the sixth Emperor of Rome, and about the time A.D. 67, which isn’t too long after the church began. And Nero contrived all kinds of punishments for Christians; he sewed some up in the skins of wild animals, and then turned hungry dogs loose on them. He used others, dressed in wax shirts and attached to trees, to be lit as torches in his garden. The next persecution under Domitian was perhaps even more inventive. Christians were imprisoned. They were put on racks, they were seared, they were broiled, they were burned.

They went through scourging, stoning, and hanging. Many were lacerated with hot irons, others thrown on the horns of wild bulls. In the fourth persecution, beginning in about 162 A.D., some Christians were made to walk with already-wounded feet over thorns, nails, sharp shells; some were scourged until their flesh was gone, others were beheaded, and so it went. Under the eighth persecution at Utica, 300 Christians were placed alive around a lime kiln and told that they were to make offerings to Jupiter or be pushed in. Unanimously they refused, and all 300 of them perished in the lime.

That was only the beginning of what the church has undergone, and Satan’s persecution, as time has progressed, has become all the more subtle than it was then. It’s not nearly as obvious how it is that Satan persecutes today. And incidentally, today, apparently much more successfully, Satan’s techniques are working. Now, our text records for us the first persecution. This is the beginning of the steady stream of persecution that has gone on since the commencement of the church. In one way or another, the Christian church is always under persecution. It is not always political.

It is sometimes personal. It is sometimes religious. It sometimes comes from illegitimate Christianity. That is the greatest persecutor of evangelical Christianity is probably liberal Christianity, at least in the American situation. In one way or another, then, the church has suffered persecution ever since what we’re going to see in Acts, chapter 4, began at all. And as I said, persecution is subtle today. It’s not what it used to be. Satan usually directs the persecution today not at the physical body, but at the ego.

He directs his persecution at pride, or acceptance, or status, et cetera, and it’s really very effective. He doesn’t threaten the Christian by saying, “If you witness, I’ll cut your head off.” He threatens the Christian by planting within his mind the fact that if you witness you might lose your job, or your status, or somebody might think you’re strange. In these days, persecution has a tremendous effect, in a very subtle way. The form of persecution in the early church made heroes out of those who died.

And it came to be such a normal thing for Christians to die that many Christians developed a martyr complex, and just went around trying to put themselves into positions where they could be martyred. I mean, they wanted to belong, you know? But today, the persecution that comes is more effective; it doesn’t make heroes out of anybody. And it’s a sad thing; while the church today is not being killed physically, the church has succumbed to a kind of living spiritual death.

I suppose the perfect illustration would be the church at Sardis, in Revelation, chapter 3, verse 1, which says “‘And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; ‘These things saith He which hath the seven Spirits of God’” – or the Holy Spirit – “‘and the seven stars’ – the ministers of the seven churches – “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.’” Satan has killed the church in terms of its spiritual effect, without ever having to kill the Christians in it.

In fact, by letting them all live in an insipid kind of godless Christianity, he has a greater effect than if he wiped them all out, and had to face the issue again that the seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs. And so, Satan, whose persecution in the past has slaughtered Christians physically, has found it much more effective to kill the church by making it complacent, indolent, fat, rich, socially oriented, and accepted. And insipid, as it’s watered down its theology to accommodate the world; much more effective than if all Christians were boiled in oil.

Now, there are some places in our world where persecution does reign, physical persecution. Even some places here in America. But one way or another, Satan is antagonistic to the church. He persecutes the church. Obviously, and flagrantly, and blatantly physically, or subtly, by the persecution to become involved in the world, to strip off that which offends, in order that you might maintain your prestige, your status, or whatever it is that you desire from your ego. Now, Jesus, in John, chapter 15, warned the church in the statement to His disciples that they might as well expect persecution.

In verse 18 of John 15, we read this: “If the world hate you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own.” You see, that’s why, John says, “Love not the world.” What happens when a Christian falls in love with the system is, the system no longer really is hindered by this guy, they are no longer offended by this guy, and Satan has accomplished a greater persecution than if you had taken that guy and killed him, physically, because he has destroyed his effect. In fact, he has made him a negative.

“If you are of the world, the world would love its own: but you’re not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” And they’ll persecute you. Verse 20: “Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his Lord.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” Verse 2 of chapter 16, “They’ll put you out of their synagogues: the time comes when whosoever kills you will think that he does God service.” Religious persecution. So, there is always persecution. Jesus stated it.

Peter went on a step further, in 1 Peter 2:21, and said this – and this is an important statement. He, in effect, said we should expect it. “For hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” If you confront the world, the world will react violently, one way or another. Now, you may succumb to the persecution of Satan, so that you fiddle out and kind of get laid by the wayside, long before you ever confront the world, because you’re really doing that to save your ego from being persecuted.

But Paul said to Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:12, “You” – pardon me – “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Now, that’s a very clear statement. “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” You say, “Well, you know, I go along, and I don’t suffer persecution.” Read the verse again. “All that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” If you’re not suffering persecution, why aren’t you? Because you’re not living godly in Christ Jesus, just that simple.

If you live the kind of life that God intends you to live in Christ, you will by the very nature of that life butt heads with the world, and when I say world, I mean the system. If you are not suffering some persecution, you have either fallen right into the flow of the system so that they don’t know the difference, or they haven’t discovered yet who it is that you really are; you have hidden it well. But you begin to live openly and godly in the world, and you’re going to bang heads with Satan, and with his establishment.

You begin to confront the world, and the persecution is automatic. Now, we see this in the early church. First of all, it looks so great. You know, we always say, “If you really live a Christian life, the world will be drawn to you.” Sure, they’ll be drawn to the beauty of your person, but as soon as they find out what it is, then, all of sudden, that which draws them to you – unless they come to Christ – turns to be a negative. The early church, for example, in chapter 2 and 3, everything looked real positive.

Chapter 2, the world was amazed at them, and they found favor with all the people, and everything looked great. And all of a sudden, they found out what it was they stood for, and everything shifted gears mighty fast. Now, in chapter 3, you’ll remember that Peter had gone with John to the temple, and there he had healed a lame man. A crowd had gathered together in the courtyard. Peter and John had stood in Solomon’s portico, up off the floor, a little bit, of the courtyard, and he and John had between them the lame man, and Peter began to preach.

And he preached a powerful message regarding Jesus as Messiah, or the Christ, God. And he indicted Israel for executing Christ. He closed with an invitation to them, in verse 19 “repent and be converted.” And he really let them have it. You see, he confronted the world. He stood up in the middle of their thing, right smack in their temple, where they were doing their religious duties, and he said, “This is wrong. You have blown it,” and he confronted them face to face. Now, that’s the kind of confrontation I’m talking about.

That’s the kind of confrontation that brings hostility. But that’s the kind of confrontation that God expects us to be involved in. It is not that kind of a mealy-mouth hiding, in order to protect our ego, our status, and our prestige, and our name among the world. The response to what Peter did was very interesting. Look at verse 4 of chapter 4, and we’ll kind of begin to look at our text. “But many of them who heard the word believed.” Now, that’s what we’re trying to effect. We’re not trying to hide, because if we hide, not only do we not suffer, but nobody gets saved, either; that’s the problem.

Sure, you say, “Well, if I do that, I’m liable to get really messed up.” That’s right. You’re liable to get messed up, and somebody else is liable to get straightened out, and your life is expendable, my friend; so is mine. True? My life is expendable for the sake of somebody else. As soon as I start trying to live to protect my ego, and to protect my status, and to protect my prestige, then my life has become self-centered, and it’s no good to God or to anybody else.

If I’m not willing to confront the world for the sake of the salvation of those in the world, then I don’t have, really, anything to offer God or anybody else, and I’m only kidding myself. Now, it says in verse 4 that “Many of them who heard the Word believed, and the number of the men was about five thousand.” Now, the word was about should be translated came to be five thousand men. That means this is the total of men; at this point, this is the membership roll of the church. This is the male volume, anyway.

And there are two words for men in the Greek, two really most dominant words: anthrōpon or anthrōpos, and that word has to do with man generically, man as a race. Then the other one is andros, or here, ton andrōn, plural. This means man as opposed to female, and it would be best translated males. And so, what it says is this, “And the number of the men came to be,” or “the number of the males came to be five thousand.” That means, in addition to that, they were probably at least another five thousand women, and children.

That’s a large church for such a fast beginning, and you never hear another listing of how many from here on out. It grew so fast from this point, that it got past the possibility of keeping an accurate count. But many believed, and that was the reaction. Now, that was worth the price that Peter paid. It’s always worth the price to confront the world, that God may do His work. If we never confront the world, we’d blow it, because it is to the world that we are sent with the gospel.

You say, “Well, I might lose my job.” Praise the Lord, so lose your job – who cares about your job? I mean, God can handle you. He can provide everything you need, and promises that He will. Now, this doesn’t mean you’re to be a lousy employee, and waste all your time preaching the gospel; you better reread Ephesians. You’re to work like you ought to, and give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s earning. But wherever you are in this world, they ought to know that you stand for Jesus Christ.

Now, let’s look at the text, and see two things: the persecution manifest, first of all, in the first four verses, and then the persecution met. And then we’ll look at the principles for meeting persecution, and just kind of look at a few of them this morning; we don’t have much time to look at all of them. And I’m excited about this, ’cause this is going to give you some practical things, some real tools, that you can use. First of all, persecution is manifest in the first four verses.

Verse 1: “And as they spoke” – while they were speaking – “unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them.” Now, the idea of “came upon them” is with anxiety, anger, to arrest them. I mean, they absolutely grabbed them; this is the point. This crowd had been gathered into the temple courtyard. They had seen the miracle, and the official people of the temple and Israel were really getting uptight about it.

And so in the middle of Peter’s sermon – really, it isn’t fully the middle, because he’s already wrapping up with his conclusion, but while he is yet speaking – they arrive at Solomon’s portico, and they grab them. They “came upon them,” it says. Now, I want you to see who’s involved in this. It doesn’t say, “Oh, the robbers, and thieves, and crooks in town,” and so forth, and so on. It says, number one, the priests, who were to represent God, which immediately shows you where the priesthood had gone; long way from where God intended it.

It’s interesting, too, that there were 24 courses of priests in the Levitical order, and there were so many priests that they divided into 24 courses, and of those courses, only certain priests ministered every week. So, when the priests were ministering in the temple, that meant it was their week, and you waited a long time for your week, and when your week finally came, it was a big deal. And least of all, did you want all of this commotion going on during your week, that you’d waited so long for.

And so here, in the middle of the week of these particular priests, all of this hubbub is going on, and they’re really concerned. This is religious opposition. And remember as I said earlier, persecution of the church often comes from religious groups, still even often from Judaism. All right, second person that we meet is the captain of the temple, the sagan, and this is the head of the temple police. Here is the political opposition. In some parts of the world, there is political opposition against the church.

In China today, there is political opposition against the church. In Russia, there is political opposition. Did you read in the Times the other day about the big hassle in Russia now, because so many of the Russian leaders are getting connected with religious groups. And now Russia is tremendously concerned to untangle these people, who are in important positions in Russia, from various religious groups. There are certain places in the world where there is political opposition, and that we get from the captain of the temple, who was the head of the temple police.

Now, the Roman government was very tolerant, but against disorder publicly, they were merciless. And so, he wasn’t about to get himself in a position where there was a riot, or he would really be in trouble. Then we meet the most important group, and that is the Sadducees. Now, you say, “What are the Sadducees?” Well, within the framework of Israel there were many groups. There were the Pharisees, and there were the Zealots, and so forth, and one interesting group was the Sadducees. Now, we don’t really know where that name comes from; some say from Zadok, but there’s really no way to tell.

But Sadducees were a religious and a political group, so they combined the worst of both in their persecution. They were the power sect in Israel. They were the religious liberals. They were the high priestly family; all the high priests at this point were Sadducees. They were the opposition party to the Pharisees, like the Republicans and the Democrats, with a religious flavor. They were the opposition. Now, the opposition of the Pharisees dominates the gospels, and the opposition of the Sadducees dominates the book of Acts, so both of them get into play.

It’s also very interesting that they were very wealthy. The Pharisees tended not to be wealthy; they tended to be extremely wealthy. They were also the collaborationist party. They were the ones who were always scratching Rome’s back for the mutual scratch, you know. They really didn’t care that much about the common people; they only cared about maintaining the status quo, and keeping their power and their prestige in Israel.

So they maintained a collaborationist attitude with Rome, kept on friendly terms with Rome, in order to maintain their prestige, power, and their comfort. They were a small group, very minority, but were greatly dominant in the political influence of Israel. They didn’t care for anything about religion, other than the fact that it was social custom, and so they were strict liberals. They were strict social religionists. In fact, I’ll give you just four points of their theology – won’t take more time than that.

We’ll get into it a little later in the book. But number one, they believed that only the written law was binding, and none of the oral tradition; that is, none of the rabbinical laws were binding, all of those things that the Pharisees lived and died by. Secondly, they believed there was no resurrection of the body, there was no future reward, there was no future punishment – a typical liberal line. Thirdly, they believed that the existence of angels, and spirits, and the spirit world, was a myth.

Fourthly, they believed that man was the master of his own destiny; that God was not involved in calling the shots, that there was no such thing as sovereignty or predestination, but man mastered his own fate. So here they are, the religious ranking liberals, the VIPs of Jerusalem, the bluebloods, and they’re the ones that come after Peter and John. And the reasons they did it are very clear in verse 2, and I want you to see them; it’s very clear. “Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

Now, I want you to notice the word grieved. Now, that sounds, in the King James, like “Oh, they were so sorry, they were so sad in their hearts.” But that is not what the word means. It is a very strong word, and it means they were thoroughly pained; they were in terrible mental anguish. It’s not the kind of sorrow that, “Oh, things are getting all distraught. What a sad day for Israel.” It’s the kind of anguish that’s based on indignation and wrath; that’s the word.

In fact, it’s used again, in Acts 16:18, where Paul saw the woman at Philippi under the power of an evil spirit, and he had the same kind of attitude. It’s an angry indignation. It’s not just simple sorrow. Now, they were really angry; this is standard bigotry, you see; they really got uptight. They got very disturbed, very indignant, very angry, and they had three reasons. Number one, let’s look at verse 2: “That they taught the people.” First of all, they were upset that they were teaching, Peter and John.

Now, you see they believed that they had the corner on all truth, that they had all right to teach, and nobody else had a right to open his mouth. I mean, that was all – that was the way it was. Theirs was the prerogative of teaching, and nobody else had the right, and least of all, to walk right in the temple where all of these teachers were, stand up, and teach contrary truth to that truth which they had been teaching. They were really upset because these two were teaching. Who were they to teach? They’re not approved.

And, interestingly enough, look at verse 13: “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled.” They were unlearned and ignorant; now, that’s two interesting words, and you don’t get the total impact by just reading those words. Let me show you what it means. Unlearned means that they didn’t know the sacred writings and the Jewish law. They weren’t versed in Jewish theology. “These guys are not even Jewish theologians,” they said. “They’re ignorant of rabbinic law. They haven’t been to the proper schools. How can they know anything?”

You remember they accused Jesus of the same thing. “Who is He that’s saying all of this? He’s never been to our school. Where’s He getting His information?” And then Jesus answered, “I get it directly from God.” Oh, you know, school is a little extraneous. And secondly, it says not only were they ignorant in terms of Jewish theology, but the second word, ignorant, means that they are commoners; they are not professionals, they are strictly amateurs. “Who are these uneducated amateurs?” That’s exactly what they’re saying.

And to make it even worse, they were from Galilee, which, of course, was the ultimate in despising. And so, they had no right to step into the narrow world of the instructors, and stand up in the very temple, and teach doctrines contrary to their own. And they were mad, because they did not agree with their theology. Now, whenever you stand up in the face of opposition, and you proclaim a truth that they deny, you’re going to get in trouble, and so they were angry. They had every reason to be, from their perspective, because they needed to preserve their own position.

So, it bugged them that they taught, that they even stood up and taught. Secondly, it bugged them what they taught. Look at verse 2. They preached Jesus. They “preached through Jesus the resurrection,” but they were preaching Jesus, and that, they hated. They had determined that Jesus was a blasphemer, and here they were back, announcing all over town that Jesus was Messiah, and you all have killed your Messiah. Now, that is not real popular stuff. And you try announcing that today in the midst of a congregation of Jewish people, and you’re going to find some reaction.

Peter proclaimed, “Jesus is Messiah,” and he indicted the whole nation of Israel for missing the Messiah, and he got a reaction. So, they didn’t like that he taught, and they didn’t like what he taught. And thirdly, they didn’t like the resurrection idea. He “preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” He kept announcing that Jesus was alive. Well, that’s a fearful thought. I mean, if they have executed their Messiah, and He’s back alive again, that’s scary for them, because what would hinder Him from moving right out to bring about the vengeance that they would justly deserve?

And let’s be honest enough to think that they knew they were hypocrites. I don’t think they covered that up very well. I’m sure they knew they were hypocrites in their hearts, and they probably took a second thought, and thought, “Well, maybe we did blow it. Maybe we did execute our Messiah. Boy, if we did and He’s alive again, this is bad news. Better to shut these guys up.” Apart from the fact that the Sadducees’ theology did not permit a resurrection, which irritated them to death. And do they didn’t like the fact that they taught, and they didn’t like the truths that they taught, and so they reacted.

Now, watch what the results were in verse 3. “They laid hands on them” – and as I say, that is not to ordain them. “They laid hands on them, and they put them in custody in jail until the next day, for it was now eventide.” Three hours had gone by – they came here, remember, about three o’clock in the afternoon for the afternoon prayers, and by this time it’s at least six o’clock, which was eventide. So, three hours have gone by in this little incident, and they finally laid hands on them.

And I don’t know how many of those three hours Peter spent preaching, but nevertheless, they came to get them, and they put them in jail overnight. Now, that was the reaction, so the persecution began. But at the same time, I love verse 4: “Many of them who heard the Word believed; and the number of the males came to be five thousand.” Imprisoning the apostles didn’t nullify their effect, and it didn’t prevent the progress of the gospel, you see.

This was the first instance, which since has been so often repeated, in which persecution has only led to the extension and the establishing of the church. Rather than destroy it, it has brought it growth. If trial – watch it – and persecution on a personal level is God’s way of maturing a Christian – and it is, if you read James 1 – then trial and persecution on a whole church-wide level is God’s way of maturing His whole church, and building it up.

Persecution always results in growth – mark that. That has to be the beginning thing, because that’s your commitment to do what’s right, even if persecution is involved. Persecution results in growth for many reasons. Number one, it strips off all of the dead weight. If you’re a part of a group of people that are having to lay their lives on the line for Jesus Christ, then we’re only going to have people in that group who are willing to do that, right?

And part of the problem of the church today are all the tares that’s sown among the wheat, and the easiest way to get rid of the tares is just to make the wheat pay the price, or make the church pay the price of total discipleship. And the tares will just drop off, because they’re not really that committed, and don’t want to get that involved. And so, as a church is persecuted, it is purified. The waste is stripped off, false believers leave, the strong are left, and God works freely through them.

So, we see persecution manifest, and persecution purifies the church, and it greater – increases its effect to a greater degree. Now, let’s see how they met this persecution – just the first couple of points in our outline – and here are seven principles for meeting persecution. As I say, the first thing you’ve got to do is commit yourself to confront the world, or you’ll never have to run into the problem. Now, here are some practical things. These are really practical. In James, chapter 1, you know, he says, “Count it all joy when you fall into trials and temptations.”

That’s a wonderful opportunity to grow. That’s the way you grow, is by going through the test, you see. If we live godly in the world, we will suffer persecution. If we suffer persecution, we ought to be happy, because persecution will make us grow, and it will reach others for Christ, and that’s what we’re all about. True? But somewhere, you’ve got to make the commitment that you’re willing to do that; make your life expendable, rather than to hide and protect yourself. So, we look forward to persecution with great anxiety and great joy, for righteousness’ sake.

Now, watch seven principles in reacting to persecution. Number one, be submissive to it. If persecution comes, be submissive. Verse 5 – well let’s look at verse 3. “And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody.” Does it say, “They laid hands on them, and Peter and John hit back, and a brawl ensued?” Doesn’t say that at all. They laid hands on them, and they just put them in jail overnight. Verse 5, “It came to pass on the next day, that” – this is the morning, after they’ve been in jail all night – “the rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander,” et cetera, et cetera.

“When they had set them in the midst, they asked, ‘By what power, by what name, have you done this?’” Now, you see no resistance in any of this. Now, this is more implied than stated, but it’s there. There is no resistance at all. Now, I’m not talking about a martyr complex that goes in there and says, “Yes, I’ll die.” You know, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about trust in God. They didn’t resist it, because they saw in it God’s great opportunity, you see? This is tremendous. I want you to see this. They knew that their arrest was in God’s hands.

They had been obedient in the proclamation, they would be submissive in the arrest, assuming that since their obedience had brought them to that point, that’s where God wanted them to be; you understand that? If you’re obeying the Lord and you wind up in a mess, you can assume that God ordained the mess, so stick around; there’s something that’s going to happen in that mess. Now, if you get yourself in a mess in disobedience, that’s another – that’s a horse of a different color. That’s a whole different issue.

But if you have been obedient, and you have been confronting the world, and proclaiming Christ, and you get into a hassle, just praise God, and wait to see what it’s all about, and be submissive. Don’t fight back. Now, look at this, this is so interesting. Verse 5, they were – ”It came to pass on the next day, the rulers, and elders, and scribes” – they brought them into this – into a counsel – really the Sanhedrin. The scribes, the elders, and the rulers, along with the high priest, made up the Sanhedrin, and the Sanhedrin was the high ruling counsel of Israel.

This is the Supreme Court of the Jews. And even in the Roman times, they had the right to arrest. It had 70 members, and then the high priest was ex-officio president, so there were 71. And it included the priests and the scribes – you remember the scribes were the ones who were the experts in the law – and the elders, who were from the people. And then it included, in addition, the people from the priestly family, and they were really a motley bunch, to say the least. With this kind of leadership, it’s no wonder they had their problems.

Verse 6 introduces Annas, and you remember Annas, who was the high priest formerly, but had been deposed by the Romans. He was the senior ex-high priest, but he really ran the show. He was the power behind the scenes. In fact, when Jesus was taken in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 18, they immediately took Him to Annas, because Annas was really the power of the whole structure in Israel. He was a Sadducee. Now, he had a son-in-law by the name of Caiaphas, who was Roman- appointed high priest, and he was as bad as Annas was.

Then it says “John, and Alexander.” Now, it’s very difficult to know who they are; there’s no way to know. But it is interesting that Annas did have five sons, one of his sons named Jonathan, and some of the manuscripts read Jonathan instead of John, so it may have been his son. And some say that Alexander is a form of Eleazer, and Eleazer is a known son of Annas. So perhaps they were two sons of Annas, perhaps we’re reading into it; that, we just really don’t know. But anyway, they were of the kindred of the high priest.

They all gathered at Jerusalem. Now, they got together in their council and their Sanhedrin, and they brought in Peter and John. Now, this is a tough pill for them to swallow, because they’re still not rid of Jesus, you see. He’s still the issue. Verse 7 says, “And when they had set them in the midst” – now, that’s interesting, because they usually assembled – in the precincts of the temple, there was an inner place called the hall of hewn stone. And they sat in a semi-circle, and they faced the president, who sat out here, and they always stuck the prisoner in the middle.

So, when it says, “They put them in the midst,” that gives you a good idea, even, of the picture of Peter and John standing here, with a semi-circle of the 70, and the president behind them. Now, this is so exciting. Do you know what God had just done? God had just given them the wonderful opportunity to preach to the Sanhedrin. This is a good case of Satan overdoing it. Satan does this all the time. He gets himself into real trouble. By persecution, he opens avenues that are never opened any other way.

Do you know that there was no way that they could have set up an afternoon to present the gospel to the Sanhedrin? There was no way possible to preach to those men, except this way. That’s why I say in the design of God, to submit is the whole key. They submitted, and God put them right where He wanted them. It’s a fantastic thing. God allows them to carry their testimony to the Sanhedrin itself. What an opportunity. And precisely why we must be submissive in persecution.

In persecution, if you’ve been obeying God, and you’re persecuted for righteousness’ sake, then accept it, because God has a design in it, you see, that maybe could never be realized in any other way. Our resistance can thwart God’s plan if we resist at the point of persecution. There was no other way they could have gotten there. And thus, Satan, in his opposition, overreached himself, and as always, God has a way of taking Satan’s best efforts and turning them to His glory. All right, then it says that once they got them in there, they then asked the right question.

God set the stage so perfectly. “By what power or by what name have you done this?” What a set up; what a question. In fact, it is indicating in the linear tense that they kept on asking them. They kept asking them. “Come on now. Come on. Come on, tell us.” And it just may be that Peter was saying, “Well, I don’t know if we ought to say anything about it.” And he just waited until they egged him on, and then he said it. That’s possible; not necessarily true. But anyway, they kept on asking him, and they said, first of all, “By what power?”

In other words, they may be a contempt in that question; what magic are you using? But the second question, “By what name?” has to do with by whose authority. A name represented authority; “In whose name do you do that? By whose – who gives you the authority to heal people, and to teach the way you do?” And so, they asked a simple, straightforward question; just exactly the question that set the stage for Peter to preach. Now, I want you to see how their submission at this point is the key to everything.

If we submit in persecution, we’ll find ourselves in the place that God wants us to be. Listen to what Peter says. In 1 Peter – and Peter was there, so he may have been reflecting on some of these things. 1 Peter 4, verse 12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened to you” – I mean, you’re confronting the world, you’re sure to get it. “But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.

“If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, on your part He is glorified.” You see, in this, this kind of thing, God desires to gain glory. And I love verse 19: “Wherefore let him that suffers according to the will of God commit the keeping of his soul to Him in well-doing, as unto to a faithful Creator.” Just say, “Hey Lord You got me into this; here I am. You better take care of me,” and God will be glorified in it.

You see, if you let this happen, submit to it, then the glory of God is a possibility. Second principle – in dealing with persecution, be submissive to it – secondly, be filled with the Spirit, verse 8: “Then Peter” – what’s the next word? – “filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them.” Now, you see, the key to anything in the Christian life is the power of the Holy Spirit, right? And Peter at this point has yielded to the Spirit of God. It’s an aorist passive. It indicates, perhaps, that he was already ready, because he was already filled with the Spirit.

Now, we’ve talked so much about the filling of the Spirit. If you are at all confused about what that doctrine has to say to you, then you can get the tape on Ephesians 5:18, or the one on Acts Chapter 2, the very beginning, and we have an explanation of that in there. But let me just say this. Some have thought that the filling of the Spirit is a kind of a trauma, or a kind of a mourners’ bench experience, or a kind of an emotional thing. It is not. The filling of the Spirit is not the result of lengthy prayer.

It is not the result of an emotional experience. It is not the result of some kind of a highly exciting spiritual activity. The Spirit – the filling of the Spirit is simply when a believer walks in obedience to the Word and the Spirit, you see. Peter had already taken the steps to be Spirit-filled, because he was obedient. He had preached, and he had submitted as God had brought the persecution, and that was under the control of the Spirit, at that point. That’s why it’s an aorist passive; it had already been done. It is simply submission, is all it is.

It’s, “Here I am. What a wonderful opportunity; I submit to you, Spirit. Whatever You want to do through me, do it.” The Spirit-filled life is just that; it is yielding everything to the full power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Every Christian has within him the Holy Spirit. He is there to power us, and as we yield to His power, that power is released, and Peter knew that there is no way he’s going to get victory over this problem unless he was yielded to the Spirit of God. You say, “Well, if I was there, I probably would have fallen over in fear.”

Well, that’s possible. But instead of falling over in fear, Peter just leaned his whole weight on the Holy Spirit. There’s no other way for victory. And folks, at this point, without the other five steps to victory, Peter is already guaranteed victory. Once he had turned this into that kind of thing, he had won the victory. Because what? If this experience had caused him to yield to the Spirit of God, then it’s a plus; would you buy that? Anything in my life that causes me to be filled with the Spirit is a good thing, it’s a victory, is it not?

Step number two, Peter has already got victory, because you know what happened? This persecution came, and it drove him closer to the Spirit of God. That’s victory. He was filled with the Spirit. At this point, the whole thing had drawn him to the Lord, completely yielded to His will. That is victory. And I’ll tell you something, this is what’s missing in the church today. This is why the church isn’t victorious over its persecution, because they’re not really leaning on the Spirit of God.

When somebody comes at you, and persecutes you, you get uptight, you run and hide, instead of standing firm, and yielding to the Spirit, and saying, “What’s your design? I submit to this.” You say – you tend to back off, you know, “Wrr, wrr,” see. Or if we know there’s something offensive about our gospel, or offensive about what we believe, we tend to delete it, and we talk in little innocuous, religious platitudes, so we don’t offend anybody.

Because we’re afraid, instead of boldly saying what we know is right, and then yielding to the Spirit of God and watching Him work, we are defeated, first of all, by the failing to say what we know is the truth, even though it offends. Because if it doesn’t offend, you might as well not say it, because you need to offend people, so you can show them they’ve got a problem. But after that, we fall apart in fear, and we make sure that we avoid the issue from then on.

That’s a backwards thing, but when the church is Spirit-filled, then it is going to be uncomfortable in the world, but it is going to be victorious. Today the church is comfortable; it is not Spirit- filled, it is defeated. Peter and John found themselves out of step with the going pattern of belief. They collided hard with it, and they didn’t run and hide. They stood there, they submitted, they were filled with the Spirit, they were victorious. You better be out of step with the world. You better be marching to the beat of a different drum.

You better be a constant thorn in the side of somebody in the system. You better be violating incessantly the selfish, godless, immoral, materialistic, indulgent society you live in, so that you do collide with it; or you really have no reason to exist. So, they were submissive, and they were Spirit filled. And thirdly – this is good – the third principle of victory is boldly, they used it as an opportunity. This is terrific.

Verse 8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, “You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he has made well; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead” – which, of course, sets them at the opposite ends from God again, and which he does all the time. “Even by Him doth this man stand here before you well.”

Boy, that is powerful stuff; here he goes again. Filled with the Spirit, he uses the persecution as an opportunity for a bolder testimony. Instead of getting persecuted, and then clamming up, or falling apart, he just says, “Well, let me tell you what it was that I was saying, so that you will really clearly understand it. I said Jesus is Messiah, and you crucified Him. And God had to raise Him again from the dead.” Now, apparently in this message, which is only 92 Greek words, it embodies all of the apostolic preaching characteristics.

It’s got it all; the indictment of rejection, the presentation of Jesus as Messiah from an Old Testament text, and then a good note about the resurrection. It’s all there, and it’s even got a closing invitation, in verse 12. And in verse 9, he says – he starts to preach in verse 8. In verse 9, he says, “If we this day be examined of the good deed,” isn’t that interesting? In other words, he establishes to begin with that there’s injustice, because what is the thing that they’ve just done? What does he call it there in verse 9? A good deed.

He just makes sure they understand that they’re doing unjustly. He establishes the injustice of the persecution by stating that all they had done was a good deed. It certainly wouldn’t be evil to heal a lame man, would it? If you want to know what it’s all about, verse 10, “Be it known unto you all” – and then he announces – “to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” – and you could just see them go, uck, you know – “whom ye crucified” – and then the anger begins to seethe – “whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you well.”

Now, that is boldness, friends. I mean, they – he put his head on the block. He put his life on the line. In the very citadel of the enemy, he proclaims the living Christ to them who killed Him. “Your own Messiah did this, Jesus of Nazareth, whom you killed, and God raised.” And he always puts them at odds with God, ’cause they always thought they were plugged into God, see. He constantly does that. And so even in the presence of the Sanhedrin, he doesn’t back off at all on the resurrection.

He doesn’t back off at all on the indictment of Israel for executing Christ. Let me give you a principle. Never, never, never accommodate the gospel by deleting what offends somebody. You need to major on what offends them; that’s the point. And so, Peter doesn’t back off, and they knew they were spiritual hypocrites, and the lingering fear that perhaps He was Messiah must have begun to eat inside. And then, as if to dig a deeper hole for them, he says this. In verse 11, he quotes Psalm 118:22, right out of their own prophecy.

Because their question was, “Well, if this is the Messiah, He wouldn’t be dead and brought back again. We don’t see that.” And so, he quotes, “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which has become the head of the corner.” “You know, your own Psalm 118:22 said there would be a stone to be the cornerstone, but the builders would reject it, but it would be brought back to be the head of the corner. That’s a prophecy of the death, resurrection of Messiah. It’s right there. You’ve got it all.”

Buildings had cornerstones. In fact, they’ve found some from the original temple – or one of the temples, I should say – that measures 38 feet in length. They would run up to the corners. They were tremendous things. And one that wasn’t perfect would be thrown away, because everything else would be imperfect all the way up. They had to have a perfect cornerstone. And so the prophecy simply says Jesus will be the cornerstone, but the builders would reject it, thinking it imperfect, but God would bring it back, and make it the corner.

That’s exactly what happened with Jesus. They threw it away. “That’s not our cornerstone.” God raised Him from the dead, and stuck Him right back in, created a new temple – Ephesians 2:20 – the church. And in Matthew 21:42, our Lord even claimed to be that stone. And in Romans 9:31-33, Paul said He was that stone. And then his invitation comes powerfully in verse 12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

People always say, “Well, you can get saved a lot of ways.” We were in Israel, went up to Haifa, and they’ve got the Bahaism Temple up there, and it has nine doors to God: Muhammadism, Confucianism, Buddhism, every kind of ism there is. And that isn’t true; there aren’t nine doors to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father” – what? – “but by Me.” There is no other name. There is no salvation in any other. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

And Peter is saying, in effect, “People, if you don’t turn to Jesus, you will be damned. There is no other way.” People always accuse Christians of being narrow. We’re not narrow, friends; any more narrow than the word of God. Unfortunately, the word of God is the most narrow book ever written. It’s always right, and never wrong, and anything that contradicts it is wrong. It is only in His name. They said to them – they said to him, “Who healed that man?” And he said, “Jesus did.” And he uses the same word for healing the man that is used when it says it made him well.

How did you make this – the end of verse 9. “What means he is made well,” is the same word as salvation, and so he does a play on words. This man was physically healed by Jesus, and you’ll never be spiritually healed, unless it’s by Him. He’s the only way. There’s no salvation in any other. The word salvation means deliverance from sin. No other name, no other name. I close with this, very quickly. In February 1959, at the South Pole, 17 men in Operation Deep Freeze Number Four, took their spare time and built a 16-foot-square chapel.

And on that chapel they put a sign, called The Chapel of All Faith. The structure contained an altar, over which they had a picture of Jesus, a crucifix, a Star of David, and a lotus leaf representing Buddha. The inscription on the wall read, “Now it can be said that the earth turns on the point of faith.” An all-faiths altar was recently dedicated at a university – it’s called an inter-religious center – at one of the Midwestern universities. The altar, it revolves. One is for Protestant, one for Catholic, one for Jewish, and then there’s one miscellaneous that’s adaptable to any religion.

That’s just exactly what the Bible says is so wrong. It would have been very easy for Peter and John to have mumbled innocuous platitudes about religion, and won the smiles of all, and the early church would have been immediately acquitted from the world’s hatred by a reasonable, broad-minded, downgrading of Jesus Christ. But not so, not so. This is it. Be submissive, be Spirit-filled, and boldly use it as an opportunity to preach the gospel. That’s the first three ways to be victorious over persecution.

Let’s pray. Father, we thank You this morning for teaching us from Your book the truths You want us to learn. Seal them to our hearts, and us to thy use. We’ll give You the glory and the praise for it, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

END

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/1714/how-to-handle-persecution-part-1

VIDEO Persistent Prayer for the Lord’s Return

Intercessory Prayer

By John MacArthur Dec 3, 2006

Let me encourage you to open your Bible to the 18th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Luke chapter 18.  And here is a familiar and wonderful and rich parable told by our Lord Jesus Christ, the master of the story with a spiritual point, the master of the simple story with a profound spiritual message.  Luke chapter 18, we begin at verse 1.

“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart, saying, ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.  And there was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.”  And for a while he was unwilling.  But afterward, he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection lest by continually coming she wear me out.”  And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said.’  Now, shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?  And will He delay long over them?  I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Now the heart of this text is this great story that begins in verse 2, and ends in verse 5.  I want us to direct our attention, first of all, to the story and then we’ll consider the surrounding material.  Let’s call it the Lord’s illustration, the Lord’s illustration.  Verse 2: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.”  This is simply a city that Jesus fabricates in the story.  But we can assume that since He’s talking to people in the land of Israel, it would be typical of a city in Israel.  And what follows would be all too familiar to the people of Israel, for Israel, frankly, had much experience with widows and much experience with unjust judges.  And here we meet such a judge, a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.

And while that seems a rather simple characterization, it is a very well chosen characterization because you find such references to people in literature from ancient times outside the Bible and this kind of description is used to describe the most wicked person, someone who has absolutely no reverence for God and no interest in people, no concerns regarding the law of God, the will of God and completely indifferent to the needs of people and their just causes.  This man is ultimately and finally wicked.  There is no way to penetrate this man’s wickedness either from the viewpoint of the law of God or from the viewpoint of the need of man.  He is not moved by reverence or worship and he is not moved by compassion or sympathy.  He has no interest in the first commandment, loving God; no interest in the second commandment, loving his neighbor.  He is the most wicked man.

His wickedness is obviously toxic, it is compounded because he is in the role of a judge and he renders his judgments in regard both to the law of God and the needs of people and since he is not moved by either, he is, as Jesus characterizes him, an unrighteous judge.  The word “unrighteous” would mean dishonest, corrupt, unjust.  Not only is he this evil but he knows it and he’s comfortable with it.  In verse 4 he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect men.” This is not simply a definition of the man that has been placed upon him by those that know him, he agrees with it in full.  Here is the worst possible human being in a very, very important position of responsibility whose disregard for God and man has massive implications in regard to all the people who come into his court.

Now the kind of court that a judge like this would be a part of would be a civil court.   In towns and villages, or in large cities, these civil courts were in a lot of locations.  Every little town had to have one and a place like Jerusalem would have many of these civil courts.  This is not a position of national responsibility in a religious court where they were interpreting the religious things, or the traditions, or the law of the Old Testament. This is a civil court, but nonetheless the judge would have a very serious responsibility before God to uphold the law of God and to uphold sympathy and compassion toward people.  Any judge in Israel would be very familiar with Old Testament instruction regarding being a judge.  Second Chronicles chapter 19, Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah.  It says in verse 4, “Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers.  And he appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city.  And he said to the judges, ‘Consider what you are doing for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment.’  “Now then,” verse 7, 2 Chronicles 19:7, “let the fear of the Lord be upon you.  Be very careful what you do for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or injustice, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe.”

Everyone who was ever appointed to any judicial responsibility in Israel would know that passage very, very well.  But even in the Old Testament, in spite of the clear instruction of God, judges were corrupt.  Amos the prophet, chapter 5 verse 10, “They hate him who reproves him in the gate.  They abhor him who speaks with integrity.  Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, you will not live in them.  You have planted pleasant vineyards; you will not drink their wine, for I know your transgressions are many, your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate.”  The gate is normally where the civil law was adjudicated.  These judges that Amos mentions are corrupt and will know the judgment of God.

But this kind of judicial corruption was not limited just to the Old Testament. It was also true in the time of our Lord Jesus.  Alfred Edersheim, who has written the classic Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, the great history of that period of time, describes the judges in Jerusalem as being so corrupt that the people changed their title.  They were known as dayyaney gezeroth. That was the term used to describe a judge and his responsibility to deal with the prohibitions of the law.  The people called them dayyaney gezeloth. They changed one letter in the Hebrew which turned the expression “a judge dealing with the law” to “a judge who is a robber.” “Robber judges” became their title because they were so corrupt.  They did just exactly what the Bible said not to do, what God said not to do.  They showed partiality.  They were unjust and they took bribes.  The Talmud said they were so perverted in some occasions that they would actually pervert justice for one meal, for one meal.  And so, when our Lord says this is an unrighteous judge, adikia, meaning no sense of justice, dishonest and corrupt. He is defining what everybody would know by the description in verse 2, that he didn’t fear God and he didn’t respect man.

Let me look at that word “respect” for just a moment in verse 2, Entrepōmi, interesting verb, it means to be put to shame, to be put to shame.  In other words, this man had no shame.  Now remember the Middle Eastern culture then and even now is a shame-honor culture.  You do what brings you honor at all cost, you avoid all things that produce shame, you avoid shame like the plague.  That was typically the way life was lived.  And so the way to understand that expression “did not respect man” would be to understand it this way: He is not ashamed before people, he has no shame. He cannot be put to shame.  In fact, if you were to study Middle Eastern translations of this verse in Middle Eastern language, New Testament Syriac and Arabic, they never translate it any other way over the centuries than “he was not ashamed before people.”  He had no shame. He could not be shamed no matter what he did.  Good social behavior in those cultures basically was encouraged by an appeal to shame.  I understand that.  As a kid growing up, I remember vividly my mother saying to me on numerous occasions, “Johnnie, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”  My mother made constant appeals to my sense of honor and my sense of shame.  “Shame on you,” I can hear her say, “Shame on you.”  I’m not sure anybody even says that anymore.  I’m not sure that we can appeal to a sense of shame in the culture we live in, but in that culture you could.  And to say about someone that he had absolutely no reverence for God and could never ever do anything that would make him feel shame in his behavior toward people is to say he is impervious to any appeal to justice or righteousness.  This judge was shameless.  He had no spark of honor, no sense of character, no point apparently…no noble point to which he could be appealed. Neither for God’s sake nor for man’s sake would he be moved to do what is right.  This is the worst possible human being and his wickedness has all kinds of tragic implications because he is making decisions that affect people’s lives.

This woman we meet in verse 3 who is the widow.  “There was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’”  Someone has defrauded her.  In fact, someone has so seriously defrauded her that she is destitute.  Not only is she destitute by virtue of the fact that she keeps coming and keeps coming and keeps coming, which is our Lord’s way of pointing out that she really was in a situation where she had to have what was rightfully hers, but we know that her destitution goes beyond the financial, she apparently has no man in her life, no man in her family, not a brother, not a brother-in-law, not a father, not a son, not a cousin, not a nephew, not any man who could come to plead her case, because courts belonged to men. They did not belong to women, they belonged exclusively to men.  Men came to court. Women did not come to court.  The courts belonged to the men.  The only time a woman would come to court was when there was no man to plead her case.  This woman is alone. She represents the destitute, the powerless, the helpless, the deprived, the lowly, the unknown, the unloved, the uncared for, the desperate.  And it’s wonderful to use the illustration of a widow because her case is clear-cut, as far as the Old Testament goes, if not on a legal basis, purely on the basis of mercy that he should have done something to care for her.   Exodus 22 verses 22 to 24 talks about the responsibility to show mercy to a widow.  Deuteronomy 24 verses 17 and 18, Isaiah 1:16 and 17, and many other places, widows were to be cared for. Their needs were to be met.  This judge is utterly indifferent to her on a sympathetic side, on the side of compassion, but apparently she had the law on her side as well because she is asking for legal protection.  She has been defrauded.  Property, money which was life to her has been taken from her.

By the way, as a footnote, there are a number of interesting widows that Luke focuses on both in his gospel and in the book of Acts as well.  They were an important part of the ancient world.  Corrupt judges, there were plenty of them; and there were even more needy widows.

She comes, back to verse 3, and kept coming and kept saying, which means she’s relentless, she’s there every day and she’s saying, “Give me legal protection,” give me what is mine. “Vindicate me,” is a way to translate that verb there.  Vindicate me, justify my complaint, render it a righteous complaint and give me what is mine.

Well consistent with his utter disdain for the commandments of God and any sense of justice and his utter disinterest in showing compassion to anyone, even a lowly widow, verse 4 says, “And for a while he was unwilling.”  He was just outright indifferent.  He is the worst kind of human being who is then the worst judge imaginable.  Just as the prodigal son was the worst possible profligate sinner and the older brother was the worst possible hypocrite.  Jesus is into painting these extreme pictures in his stories with just a minimum of language.  But if you can fill in the gaps, the people would understand that.  But it says in verse 4, “Though he for a while was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself…” Now we get a soliloquy like the soliloquy of the prodigal son who came to his senses and talked to himself. So this man speaks to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man.” He’s a self-confessed wretch, he holds nothing back.  He has no noble motive.  He is first to admit he has no noble motive whatsoever.  But he says, in spite of that, verse 5, “Yet because this woman bothers me.” In the Greek, “She causes me trouble, she is irritating me.”  Every day she’s there.  Every day she’s pleading her case.  It’s becoming very troublesome.  I will give her legal protection “lest by continually coming…” “Continually” is eis telos, sometimes translated in the Bible “forever.”  She will come forever if I don’t get rid of her and “she will wear me out.”

He has no regard for God.  He has no regard for man.  But he has regard for himself.  He cares not for what pleases God.  He cares not for what pleases men.  But he cares a lot for what pleases him and this does not please him.  This is an irritating, troubling harangue that he hears out of this widow every single day that is intrusive and interruptive.  And by the way, I like that little phrase, “She will wear me out.”  But it’s a little more benign than the Greek.  The Greek is a verb hupopiazo, which means it’s a boxing term and it means to strike someone with a full blow in the eye.  She is punching me silly day after day after day. She is beating me up.  Some translations would be, “to blacken the face,” to indicate the severity and the strength of the blows.  She’s giving me a black eye, she’s beating me.  It’s used in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says, “I buffet my body, I punch my body with a fierce blow to beat it into submission.”  This woman is not just troublesome, this woman is painful.  This is more than I can stand and she’s going to do it eis telos, forever, if I don’t get rid of her.  So the powerful and impervious judge is defeated by the weak widow through her persistence.

Now you need to know something else, a little bit more about the Middle Eastern culture.  Women were really powerless.  I guess that’s a good way to say it.  They were powerless in the male-dominated culture; still largely true in Middle Eastern culture today.  But they were respected and they were honored.  And while they had no power, they did have honor and they could get away with things that men couldn’t get away with.  I was reading one Middle Eastern scholar who said, “A woman could scream and complain at the top of her voice relentlessly and get away with it because women are to be honored and respected.  And if a man did the same thing, he would lose his life.”  And so, even today sometimes you see pictures in the Arabic world of women who are pleading their case by screaming and yelling and this would be the crying day and night kind of relentless approach of this woman that is characterized here.  The crying day and night comes in the explanation in verse 7.  So she’s driving this man to destruction in his own mind.  He’s got to get rid of her.  And so he rules in her favor.  Go back to verse 5, “I will give her legal protection.” That simply means I will vindicate her.  I will vindicate her.  It’s got the word dikēo in it, from which we get the word dikaiōs, righteousness, justice.  I will execute justice, righteousness on her behalf.  I will vindicate her.  I will avenge her.  I will do justice to her because I cannot tolerate her…her harangue any longer.  So that’s the story. That’s the illustration.

Now what is the Lord’s intention?  That was the Lord’s illustration. What’s the Lord’s intention?  What’s the intention of this story?  Go back to verse 1.  Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.  So here we find that the key to the parable is hanging on the door.  Before you even get inside to the parable, the key is out there.  This is a parable designed by our Lord to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.  They…them…He was telling them.  Them…Who is that?  Back to verse 22, “He said to His disciples.”  He’s talking to those who are His followers, those who belong to Him at this point, those who have secured their place with Him now at the end of His life and His ministry and He has just been giving them this great discourse on the Second Coming.  He has been talking about the fact that the Son of Man is going to come, that He is going to come in a way that is visible and the whole world will see His coming.  It will flash across the sky like lightning from one end to the other.  And He’s going to come in horrific judgment as it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot.  He’s going to come in a way that’s going to divide marriages and families, one taken, another left.  He’s going to come in a way that’s going to create death and devastation and carcasses all over the earth so that vultures will gather as we see in verse 37 to devour the flesh of those that have been destroyed.  He’s been talking about His Second Coming in judgment.  Yes He’s coming to set up the kingdom.  Yes He’s coming to glorify Himself.  Yes He’s coming to establish His rule of righteousness and peace in the world.  But before that, there’s going to be this great judgment. Then will come the glory of the kingdom, then will come the Son of Man establishing His kingdom.  In verse 22, the days shall come when you shall long to see one of the days of the Son of Man.  We long to see Him come, not only to judge, but we long to see Him come to judge and then to establish His glory and His kingdom.

And so, He’s been talking about the Second Coming.  He’s been talking about the fact that there is a return for the establishment of the kingdom so that you have to understand He’s saying to His disciples there will be two comings. Once He comes to die and pay the penalty for sin, and again He comes later to establish His glorious kingdom, to judge the ungodly as well.  So that’s what He’s talking about.  He’s been talking about the future, eschatology, the Second Coming.  Along that line, nothing changes, you notice in verse 1, no scene change, no audience change. “Now He was telling them” takes you right back to the same people He was talking to in verse 22, “that they” the disciples “ought to pray and not lose heart.”  What do you mean?  In the time between the first and Second Coming, in the time between the first and Second Coming we are not to lose heart but rather we are to pray.  We are living in that period of time now.  Yes there is the invisible kingdom the Lord is building through salvation as He comes to take up His royal throne in the hearts of those who put their trust in Christ.  There is that invisible kingdom being built.  But the visible kingdom, the kingdom of righteousness, the destruction of the ungodly, the binding of Satan, the end of the reign of Satan and sin, the establishment of the glorious kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace and finally the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth are all associated with His Second Coming, which will be triggered by the rapture of the church.  That’s all in the future.  And so He is saying you need to view that event with prayer and not to lose heart.  That’s the key to unlocking the meaning of the story.

And it’s understandable.  The Lord knew then that a long time would go by, by our measurement, not by His.  A day with Him is 1,000 years, 1,000 years is a day because He is eternal.  But for us it’s a long time.  It was probably a long time for some of the disciples when it was just years and then when it was centuries and now it’s a couple of millennia, 2,000 years.  And continually Christ is dishonored and Christ is denied His rightful place.  And the Word of God is unappreciated and assaulted and attacked.  And Christians are treated with rejection and persecution and hostility and even martyrdom through these two millennia.  We suffer at the hands of Satan and the world and we suffer the persecution of a hostile environment and we long for Christ to come back and destroy the ungodly and destroy sin and the reign of Satan and set up His kingdom.  We want all that.  We long for all of that.  But in the intervening time the message is very clear from our Lord: Don’t lose heart. Keep praying to that end.  This is instruction for us that it’s unmistakable: at all times, at all times.  That simply means through all the events and all the seasons and all the eras and all the sweeping years that go by, we are to pray and not lose heart.  “Lose heart” comes from a Greek verb egkakeō, which means “to become weary,” “to give in” or “to become a coward,” turn coward.  It’s used only here by Luke but five times by Paul and it always has that…that meaning.  Don’t give up hope that Jesus is coming. Mockers will come, as Peter says. Where is the promise of His coming?  Denying the Second Coming.  We will be a…ridiculed for saying Jesus is coming, but He is coming.  Don’t lose heart.  Don’t become cowardly.  As Matthew 24:13 records, our Lord says “he that endures to the end shall be saved.”  It’s that enduring faith that marks the true believer.  So this is not a call to prayer in general like, “Pray without ceasing.”  That’s a call to unceasing prayer in general.  This is a call to eschatological prayer, pray that the Lord will come and pray for the strength to endure until He arrives, to endure the flesh, the world, the devil, the hostility against the gospel, persecution, rejection, and even martyrdom.  This is eschatological praying.

There’s a similar call by our Lord in the 21st chapter of Luke and verse 36 as well.  “Keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place and stand before the Son of Man.”  You need to pray that Christ will come. You need to pray that you’ll have the strength to endure to the end; the end of your life and the end until the Lord Himself comes, should you live until we are gathered to Him.

Now you say, “How do you know this is a Second Coming section?”  Well verse 8 is the key to that.  It says at the end of verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?”  Will He find this kind of persevering faith?  Will He find this kind of persevering prayer?  Will He find this kind of enduring confidence?  This is definitely eschatological praying.  No one of us knows the time of the rapture.  We don’t know when the events that are the Second Coming will be launched.  We don’t know when the day of the Lord is going to come, but 2,000 years have passed by. Believers have been waiting and waiting, and suffering at the hand of sinners.  Sin escalates. Evil men grow worse and worse and worse.  We see the pollution inside and outside Christendom.  False teachers abound everywhere.  We’re endeavoring to endure true and faithful, trusting in the Word of God.  We have been promised that He will come.  We believe that He will come.  And here He says, “Keep praying for that event.”  He will come but part of the means of His coming is our prayer life.  Prayer moves God to accomplish His work and therefore having accomplished His work, bringing it to its great culmination in His Second Coming.  He will come.  He promises He will come.  He will be faithful to His elect.  He will bring judgment to the ungodly.  He will vindicate the saints.  He will exalt Himself.  He will establish His throne on earth.  He will reign in a kingdom on earth and He will establish the new heaven and the new earth.  And that is what we are to pray for relentlessly.

This takes us back to Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2.  “When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Thy kingdom come.’”  This is kingdom pray…praying.  This is praying for the kingdom to come, for the Lord to punish the ungodly, reclaim the earth, mete out righteous judgment, vindicate His elect, establish His glory on the earth, vanquish Satan, take His throne, and establish the glorious fulfillment of all His promises.  So again I say: The key to the parable hangs at the front door. We know what this story is about.  We are to be living our lives saying, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

I was reading a book this week that is a world view book of great note and a significant and helpful book on the world view.  I couldn’t find one place in the book where it referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  You can’t even begin to have a proper world view unless you understand how it all ends.  That backs up to affect everything.  Just think about it.  Paul writing about the Second Coming to the Thessalonians, about the rapture of the church aspect of it says, “Comfort one another with these words.”  That’s where we find our comfort in the midst of the issues of this life.  It’s just…It’s not just comfort, John says, “He that has this hope in Him purifies himself.”  It’s a purifying hope as well.  Paul says, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” We evangelize because we know the Lord is coming.  We’re comforted because we know He’s coming.  We’re purified because we know He’s coming.  And there are many more.  This has tremendously critical implications.  It has implications about how we view everything we own. Everything we possess, what we do with our time, what we do with our money, what we invest into the lives of our children and our acquaintances, how we live our lives should all be powerfully influenced by a strong and constant prevailing, persistent prayer that Jesus come.  And when you pray that way constantly, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” that defines your life. That defines your life.

So we saw the Lord’s illustration and the Lord’s intention.  Let’s go down to verse 6 and hear the Lord’s interpretation.  Let the Lord explain the story in the context of His return.  “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the righteous judge said.'” That’s kind of a vernacular way to say: Let’s think about the meaning of this story.  Think about the wicked judge in the story.  Think about it.  He was cruelly indifferent to God.  He was cruelly indifferent to people.  But he finally did what was right for purely selfish reasons.  He did what was right for a woman for whom he had no feeling, no emotion, and to whom he had no attachment.  That’s what we’re going to start with as we hear the interpretation of the Lord.  But let’s go to verse 7 and see the contrast.

Now, “Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?  And will He delay long over them?”  Listen, what’s the point?  This is a “much more than” kind of comparison, this is a “lesser and greater” kind of comparison.  This is extreme.  You have the most wicked, impervious, impenetrable, indifferent human being doing what is right for someone about whom he has no feeling or interest.  And if a judge who is like that will do what is right for someone for whom he has no affection, do you think God will not do what is right for those who are His eternal elect, who are loved by Him before the foundation of the world?  And who cry out to Him day and night pleading for His glory to come and for them to be glorified with Him?

The elect are represented by the widow.  We are, in a sense, helpless.  We are, in a sense, at the mercy of our judge.  But this judge is not like God.  This judge is the opposite of God.  He is as unlike God as you can get.  God always does what is right by His own law.  God is always compassionate, merciful, gracious, tender-hearted, and kind.  And God will do what He says He will do to bring about the glorious manifestation of His own children who are loved by Him from before the foundation of the world.  The wicked, unjust, unloving judge will do what is right. What will a righteous, loving, holy God do?

The answer: verse 7, “Now shall not God bring about justice for His elect?”  Literally, “Make the vindication,” make the vindication.”  Again “the vindication” comes from that same verb, dikēo, which is related to the word group “justify.”  Will He not justify?  Will He not vindicate His elect, those whom He has chosen for salvation?  First Peter 2:23 says, “God is the one who judges righteously.”  Romans 12:19 says that, “God has said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’”  Revelation 19:2, “True and righteous are His judgments.”  He will do what He has promised for His elect because His Word is at stake and He’s faithful to His Word, He’s faithful to His law, because He’s merciful, because He’s compassionate, and because He loves those whom He has eternally chosen.

And the key here is this, verse 7: “Who cry to Him day and night.” That’s us.  And that takes us back to verse 22 in chapter 17.  “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man.” That’s us again.  We’re longing for Christ to come.  We’re living with the blessed hope and glorious appearing of that great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We live longingly, we live pleading like those under the altar in Revelation 6, we’ve commented on, “How long, oh Lord?”  How long are You going to allow this evil until You come and establish righteousness and glory?  We are those like the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, who wait for His Son from heaven, who wait for His Son from heaven.  I don’t think you can live your Christian life the way the Lord wants you to live it unless you live it in the light of the Second Coming.  You can’t remove the Second Coming out of the constant discourse of the church, out of your vocabulary or the theology of the Second Coming, out of your life with having…without having massive implications on how you view everything.

Let me give you an illustration of this, and this is really just an add-on, but it’s worth a moment.  Turn to 1 Thessalonians.  If you were to go to a brand new place where the gospel had never been and you were going to teach and preach there, what would your message be?  Let’s say you’re going to go into a place where there’s no knowledge of the gospel at all.  There’s a…There’s a Jewish synagogue there so there’s some knowledge of the Old Testament, but predominantly you’re going to a pagan city.  That’s the case in Thessalonica.  And Acts 17 tells the story about the apostle Paul going there.  What are you going to preach when you go there?  What is the message you’re going to give?

Well if we asked that of a contemporary group of evangelicals today we’d probably get everything but the right answer.  Probably get everything but the right answer.  What did Paul do for these people?  Now we’re told in the book of Acts that He was there three Sabbaths, three Sabbaths, that he was teaching three Sabbaths.  That’s the minimum, three weeks.  Little deeper study and some conclusions drawn from these epistles would say that maybe he actually stayed beyond those initial three Sabbaths. Maybe he stayed a little longer but somewhere between four and six months, absolutely the terminus point, so somewhere in there.  If you only had a few weeks, if you only had a few months with a group of people, what would you teach them?  What would be the theology that you would give them?

Let’s find out what Paul majored on.  Chapter 1 verse 3, “Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.”  Right away in the salutation he introduces the hope that we have: our future hope.  And what is that hope?  He tells you in verse 10, “To wait for His Son from heaven.” Right off the launch pad he instructs them with regard to the Second Coming.  You come in to chapter 2 verse 12, “That you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” And now we know that he’s talking in terms that they understand.  They understand the hope of the return of Christ.  They understand that they’re waiting for Him to come back from heaven.  They understand also that He is going to bring a kingdom and establish His glory.

If you drop down in this same chapter to verse 19, Paul refers again to the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming, the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming.  You see this emphasis throughout this entire letter.  I won’t belabor the point, but look at verse 11 of chapter 3, “May our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you.  May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all men, just as we also do for you, so that,” there’s the reason, “He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God…our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”  You’ve got to live in the light of His coming.  It provides comfort, I said earlier.  It provides purity. First 1 Corinthians 15:58 says it provides stability.  It provides zeal in evangelism.  You have to live in the light of the Second Coming of Christ.

You come into chapter 4 and he gets more detailed.  In verses 13 to 18 he describes the rapture of the church.  He says in verse 15, “We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not precede those that are fallen asleep.”  The people that are alive are going to go first, and then the dead are going to be…I should say, the dead are going to be caught up first and the people who are alive are going to follow.  The Lord is going to descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God.  The dead in Christ rise first.  The rest are caught up, going to meet the Lord in the air, always be with the Lord. Comfort one another with these words.  This is a lot of eschatology for a baby church.

Come in to chapter 5 and he says…Listen to how he begins, “As to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.” Why?  What do you mean we don’t have anything we need to know?  Well you know already about the times and the epochs.  What is he saying?  I’ve told you the history of the ages.  I have already taught you eschatology.  Verse 2: “You yourselves know full well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”  He told them about the suddenness of the Second Coming. When people are saying peace and safety, they won’t find that.  They were also told in verse 5 that they were sons of light and sons of the day and won’t get caught in the night and the darkness.  They were also told in verse 9 that God has not destined them for wrath but for obtaining salvation.  You know because I taught you.

If you go in to 2 Thessalonians, look at verse 5 of chapter 2; 2 Thessalonians 5 chapter 2.  “Do you remember that while I was still with you I was telling you these things?”  If you only had a few weeks or a few months with a brand new congregation, a few Jews and assorted pagans who knew nothing about the Bible, would you give them a full-orbed eschatology?  That’s what he did.  Backing in to chapter 1 of 2 Thessalonians, he told them in verse 5 about God’s righteous judgment, about the kingdom of God that was to come and until which they were suffering.  He told them in verse 7 that the Lord would be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing retribution out to those who don’t know God.  He told them also that after that judgment, verse 10, He would be coming to be glorified in His saints on that day and to be marveled at among all who have believed.  They’ve got a theology of judgment.  They’ve got a theology of the Second Coming glory, the establishment of the kingdom, the judgment of sinners.  You go into chapter 2 and he says this, this is amazing, verse 3, “The apostasy will come first before the Day of the Lord.”  The Day of the Lord is mentioned in verse 2.  Apostasy comes first, the man of lawlessness is revealed.  They also knew about Antichrist, they knew about escalating lawlessness.  They knew about the apostasy and they knew it all.  They knew that he would establish himself, this Antichrist, as a god, as an object of worship.  He would take his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God, verse 4, and that’s when he says in verse 5, you remember all this, I told you all this.  And you know about him — verse 9 — that he’s going to come in the power of Satan with signs and false wonders and deception of wickedness.  That is amazing…amazingly comprehensive eschatology. It encompasses the rapture of the church. It encompasses the suffering of believers until that time.  It encompasses the Kingdom, the establishment of glory, the glory of Christ, the glory of His own, the manifestation of the saints, the judgment of the ungodly.  It’s all here.  It was critical.  It was foundational.  It always is foundational to know the end of the story. It produces stability, as I said. “Be ye,” Paul says, “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Because when He comes He’s going to reward you for it.

So look at this time and remember there’s a reason for it.  One of the reasons is so that you can labor to earn an eternal reward.  But there’s another reason.  Let’s go back to the text of verse 8.  And this is the one to which our Lord points us…verse 7, rather.  “Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him night and day?”  Of course He will.  Of course the true elect are going to continue to believe, continue to hope, continue to pray that Jesus will come soon.  And will He delay long over them?  That probably could be better translated.  It should say, “and be patient over them.”  Yes, “Is not God exercising patience?” is what this means.  How do you know that?  Makrothumeō is the word. It means to be patient.  Do not we expect a delay because God is being patient over His people?  What does that mean?  It’s really a profoundly important word.  The long interval between the first and the Second Coming of Jesus is a period in which God is exercising patience, “patience over them,” it says, patience over them. “Them” is in this text, back to verse 22 of 17, the disciples, His own, being patient over them.

Now there are three New Testament words for patience that are used in reference to God.  One is anecho. It means “tolerance.”  One is hupomone. It’s the patience of the sufferer, as Christ patiently suffered.  But this is makrothumeō or makrothumia. It’s from two Greek words. Makros; we know what “macro” means as opposed to “micro.”  The technical meaning of “macro” in the Greek, makros, is “far distant.”  It means “long” with regard to space, or “long” with regard to distance, remote.  And that’s makro, makrothumos.  Thumos is anger.  The word makrothumia means remote anger, anger removed far, far away.  And our Lord is saying He is coming, He will come, He will vindicate His own, He will glorify Himself, He will judge sinners.  But He has removed to a far distance His wrath for a long, long time.  This describes what Exodus 34 says about God, that He is slow to anger.

God has a right to judge, but He also has a right to be merciful.  God will judge in His own time.  But Peter tells us the answer to this little dilemma, 2 Peter 3:9, “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  So in 2 Peter 3:15 Peter says this, “The makrothumia of God is salvation.”  What’s He waiting for?  He’s waiting for the salvation of His elect.  He’s waiting until they’re all gathered in.  You don’t want Him here any sooner than that.  And when the last of the elect are gathered in, then the end will come.  Yes, He will satisfy his wrath, but not until He has satisfied His grace.  This, by the way, is the meaning of makrothumia every time it is used with reference to God.  It is used with reference to God in Romans 2:4Romans 9:221 Peter 3:202 Peter 3:9 and 151 Timothy 1:16.  In each of those cases it means that God withholds His wrath at a distance.

T.W. Manson told a story that came from the old rabbis and this is the story.  There was a king who was a very compassionate king.  He wanted to rule his people with compassion and so he determined that his army would be stationed many miles from the city.  And when he was asked by the wise men of the city why he would station his army many miles from the city, because they would be so far removed from civil disobedience that people would get away with things and they wouldn’t be able to get there in time, he said this, according to the rabbis.  That on any occasion of such rebellion in the city, it will take a long time to bring the soldiers here and this will be time for the rebels to come to their senses.  And so said the rabbis, it is argued that God keeps His wrath at a distance in order for Israel to have time to repent.  And not just Israel, but Gentiles as well.  That’s again 2 Peter 3:15, “Consider the makrothumia of the Lord as salvation.”  God will send Christ to judge and set up His kingdom and vindicate His elect, but not until His mercy in salvation is satisfied in full and all the elect are in.

So verse 8, “I tell you that He will bring about justice, He will vindicate,” literally, make the vindication of the elect.  He will make the vindication of the elect speedily, en tachei, quickly, suddenly.  When it happens it will happen suddenly.  And he will do it, but you keep praying and praying and persisting in prayer and don’t lose heart because He’s waiting to gather in all His elect.

So, the Lord’s illustration, intention, and interpretation; a final thought: the Lord’s inquisition.  He closes with a question, verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  What does that mean?  Jesus is just pensively asking the question that when He does come, given that it’s going to be a long time, will there be anybody left persistent like this widow?  When He does come, and He will, will He find people praying for His return?  I kind of think that if He were to come now He would find a whole lot of people who call themselves Christians with very little interest in that.  Genuine Christianity never loses its grip on God, never loses its trust in Christ, never loses its hope.  But we get easily distracted, don’t we?  And the Lord is trying to nail this down in a practical way.  When He comes, will He find His people still crying day and night eagerly waiting for His return?  Will we love His appearing?  Will we be crying out “Maranatha”? First Corinthians 16:22, even come, Lord, come, Lord.  Or will it be like in Noah’s day with just a few, or Lot today with just a few?

We live in hope, beloved, we live in hope.  We…We are true Christians and we have been given a tremendous promise.  This is how it’s all going to end.  In the meantime we suffer and we’re rejected and persecuted and alienated and the gospel is resisted and Christ is dishonored and sometimes maybe we think it’s going on too long and too long.  We continue to pray and plead for the glory of Christ, the honor of Christ.  And when you live that way and pray that way and plead that way, it changes everything about your life.  How you view every part of your life.  Yes it’s been 2,000. But our hope burns shining bright, and our love for Christ is still true and pure and our confidence that He keeps His Word is fast and firm.  And so we pray persistently calling on Him to come, to glorify Himself, to vindicate Himself, to punish sinners, dethrone Satan, establish a righteous kingdom and peace on the earth, reign as King of kings and Lord of lords and create the eternal new heaven and the new earth. We say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and it ought to be on our lips day after day after day, says our Lord.  Live in that kind of anticipation until He comes.  And watch how it changes your life.  Let’s pray together.

We know You keep Your Word. You’ve kept it perfectly throughout all history and You will keep Your word in the future, oh God.  Give us this shining, bright hope, this blazing hope to live our lives knowing how it’s all going to end, to invest in what is eternal, to treat lightly the things that perish and to treat seriously the things that are forever.  And that’s the difference between how we treat material things and how we treat people.  People are forever.  May we, knowing the terror of the Lord, persuade men! May we do our part to engage in the accomplishment of the patience of God leading to salvation that Peter talks about!  Even so, Lord Jesus, we wait and we will wait until You determine You want to come and the time is right.  But we plead with You to come, Lord Jesus, come soon, come suddenly as You have said.  Take us to be with You, establish Your glory, and bring us all that You have promised that we might give you unfading and unhindered praise and worship throughout all eternity.  That is our prayer.  May You be glorified in the glory of Christ when He comes.  And until then, may we be known as those who cry day and night and never lose heart that the Lord Jesus will come sooner than ever, even this moment.  And we’re ready and eager.  We thank You, Lord, for that eagerness that comes by a grace gift through the Spirit to us in salvation.  We give You all the praise.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-227

4 things every Christian should be doing Now!

December 14, 2020 Author: hephzibahgarden

Every Christian needs to keep in mind 4 important things during these days. Well, what does the Scripture point to?

The year 2020 has reached the month of December and its sourness still exists very much in the hearts of the people! However, there is still hope!

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬

4 things which we need to do mentioned here:

  • Humble themselves
  • Pray
  • Seek my face
  • Turn from their wicked ways

Humble themselves

The first aspect of God healing the land begins with believers humbling themselves before God. The Lord grants grace to those who humble themselves. But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. ‭‭James‬ ‭4:6‬. Jesus humbled Himself till the death on the Cross, FOR US, so that we could be reconciled back to God.

Every Christian Prays

St.Paul urges the believers to pray without ceasing.For forgiveness of our sins and wickedness, we must repent and pray. Pray without ceasing. ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:17‬. Why is he saying so? … that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Luke‬ ‭21:36‬.

Every christian seeks God’s face in crisis

To seek my(God’s) face means to seek His character. To seek His character means to seek His heart. How is His heart? The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. Psalms‬ ‭145:8‬. He is plenteous in mercy. Psalms 103:8. He is righteous. Psalms 116:5. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:5‬.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah‬ ‭55:6-7‬

Turn from their wicked ways

Wicked way refers to every sinful way that takes us away from the Lord. The devil is referred to the Wicked One in the Word of God. There is no fear of God in those who do wickedly and therefore the Lord desires that we depart from every wicked way. Moreover, when a child of God isn’t able to enjoy the Presence of God nor rejoice in the Lord, it means that that person, in the sight of God has been living wickedly. God does not want us to be in such a state.

Well..! When we do these 4 things daily, the Lord will do His part of hearing our prayers from heaven, forgiving our sins and healing our land. May the Lord help us.

Be blessed! 

VIDEO Fasting For Spiritual Breakthrough in 2021

December 26, 2020  by Shane Idleman

You choose: Will it be the pain of discipline or the pain of regret? One yields a sense of extreme fulfillment; the other, a lingering sense of defeat. Ironically, we pray for God to heal when we should also pray for the self-discipline to change harmful habits. Fasting is hard because self-denial is hard (discipline), and overindulging is not rewarding (regret). It becomes a never-ending cycle of defeat unless we break the cycle by choosing discipline over regret as we seek the will of God.

God teaches us through discipline because He loves us. We are also encouraged to discipline our bodies to experience breakthrough. We cannot effectively be filled with the Spirit and lack discipline. Our faith is not passive; it’s active faith. Romans 6:16 (NASB) sheds much-needed light: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” Either way, we are slaves—we are either God’s servant or a slave to our passions and desires. Self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit, according to 2 Timothy 1:7.

Those who say that discipline is legalism are dead wrong. We are called to yield to the Spirit and quench sin—but when we yield to sin, we quench the Spirit. Fleshly appetites are subdued when fasting. Fasting is challenging because the flesh always wants to negotiate with us. It says, “Can’t we meet in the middle? Don’t completely remove food—that’s too extreme!”

Self-control is also required for leadership. In Titus 1:8 (NIV), Paul adds that a leader “must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” John Wesley required fasting so that his leaders disciplined their appetites rather than allow their appetites to rule them. It’s been said for centuries that no man who cannot command himself is fit to command another. Paul told the Corinthians that he strikes a blow to his body and makes it his slave so that he will not be disqualified for service (1 Cor. 9:27). An undisciplined leader is an oxymoron.

We also see the power of fasting in Joel 1:14: “Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” The magnitude of the situation determined the response. God’s people had departed from Him. The call was to return through fasting, prayer, and broken-ness. Fasting is depriving the flesh of its appetite as we pray and seek God’s will and mercy. We are saying, “The flesh got me into this predicament, now it’s time to seek God’s mercy and humble myself before Him.”

Obviously, people have overcome challenges without fasting, but fasting adds extra strength, especially when overcoming addictions. One addiction may end, but others can continue. The alcoholic switches to caffeine, the nicotine addict switches to sugar, and the opioid user switches to food. It’s a never-ending cycle, but fasting can break the cycle. However, fasting is not a cure-all or a magic wand; it’s a spiritual discipline designed to aid in victory. Again, choose the pain of discipline over the pain of regret.

Fasting—The Physical Affects the Spiritual

Through fasting, our body becomes a servant instead of a master. When Jesus directs us, the outcome is always beneficial, spiritually and physically. Notice He said, “When you fast” (Matt. 6:16). Scripture doesn’t say, “When you sin, and if you fast,” but rather, “If you sin” and “When you fast.” The obvious goal and benefit of fasting is spiritual, but there are physical benefits as well. Can we pray and seek God with all our heart with a headache, tight pants, and a sluggish, lethargic body strung out on our favorite addictive substance? Of course not. Does the way you feel affect your productivity and the quality of your life? Absolutely. Our diet affects key hormones such as serotonin for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure, glutamate for healthy thinking, and noradrenaline for handling stress. If we allow junk food and addictions to control our attitude and productivity, it will hinder what we do for God. When we’re always dealing with stress, anxiety, and sickness, can we do much for God? No, we will be limited. Granted, there are those who, through no fault of their own, have a debilitating illness. I’m assuming the reader understands that I’m talking to those who can make changes.

What you put in the mouth (body) and the mind (soul) affects the spirit—and when you feed the spirit, it affects the body and the soul. I’m often asked to pray for panic attacks, angry outbursts, and anxiety. That can be done, and God honors prayer, but are we opening the door to these things by not halting highly addictive caffeine, sugar, opioid, or nicotine habits? Or are we renewing our mind by meditating on the Word and spending time in prayer? The physical affects the spiritual, and the spiritual affects the physical. Much of the healing that I have witnessed over the years was the result of renewed stewardship of the body. You can do this … it’s all about falling forward.

Now that you’re motivated to fast, I want to offer two helpful resources. First, here is a recent message on fasting that will help answer many questions. I also want to recommend my book, Feasting and Fasting – what works, what doesn’t, and why. This link has free download options. While there, download my brand new book, HELP! I’m Addicted. 

10 Things It’s Tough to Confess (and, in Fact, to Recognize in Some Cases)

By Chuck Lawless -November 12, 2020

confess

We are to confess our sin to God and trust Him to forgive us (1 John 4:9). My experience as a pastor and professor, though, has shown that some sins are tougher to recognize and confess. In fact, my personal experience suggests the same. Here are some of those things:

  1. Idolatry. We know how strongly the Bible condemns idolatry, and we don’t want any part of that problem. It’s just that we still sometimes put people, things, choices, and actions above God.
  2. Ego. I’ve met very few egotistical people who admit their ego. I have met some who “brag” about their humility, however—which is just another sign of their pride. Many of us don’t quickly recognize our ego.
  3. Selfishness. The natural inclination of selfishness is to “bow up” and defend our choices—to protect our turf, to claim our “rightness” and our privilege. Whenever you put yourself on top, it’s tough to confess that issue.
  4. Lukewarmness. Few of us want to admit that we’re not as on fire for God as we once were. In fact, lukewarmness is so much the norm now that we think it’s okay.
  5. Apathy. I’m thinking particularly about our overall commitment to walk with God. Sometimes we’re just not committed to ongoing, continual, intentional spiritual growth.
  6. Greed. After all, it’s the American dream to get as much stuff as we can—and then compare what we have to what others have. We’re hard-working and blessed, we assume—not greedy.
  7. Laziness. Again, I don’t think I’ve ever met a lazy person who admitted it or who didn’t quickly run to an excuse for his or her inactivity. Other people are lazy; not us.
  8. Gluttony. We might see habitual overeating as not good for us, but we don’t always see it from a spiritual perspective. Recognizing there might be other issues involved, apparent gluttony is often idolatry.
  9. Ingratitude. We’re coming up on a week of thanksgiving, but we do that because November comes around again. Too often, we’re like the healed lepers who received God’s blessing but never returned to thank Jesus (Luke 17:12-19).
  10. Unconcern. We have neighbors, co-workers, family members, friends, classmates, etc., who don’t know Jesus. Billions have never heard His name. Our lack to attention to getting the gospel to them is a sign of our unconcern—and it’s tough to admit.

Please pray for me – and let me know how we might pray for you.

This article originally appeared here.

UPS supervisor ‘harassed’ drivers who prayed before work

‘Pattern and practice of retaliation by a vindictive manager’

Only days after Liberty Counsel wrote to the United Parcel Service explaining its drivers have a right to “voluntarily gather for prayer in the parking lot before they clock in for work,” it is calling on the delivery service to rein in a “vindictive manager.”

“Employees at UPS and elsewhere are allowed by law to voluntarily read the Bible, pray together, or discuss spiritual matters before their shifts begin for the day, during their lunch breaks or during any other off-the-clock time when they may otherwise read or discuss secular topics,” Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement Thursday.

Managers are forbidden from harassing their employees for exercising their religious freedom rights. UPS should take action upon these reports of what appear to be a pattern and practice of retaliation by a vindictive manager,” he said.

Liberty Counsel cited Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in asking the company to halt a ban on prayer at its Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, facility and reinstate drivers who were fired for praying.

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The legal team sent a demand letter to the company explaining it must allow drivers’ prayer meetings and reinstate those dismissed on pretextual reasons.

The letter to Senior Vice President Norman M. Brothers Jr. said the ban on prayer was from Steve Keller, a manager at the facility in Myrtle Beach.

Keller first ordered drivers to cease voluntarily meeting on UPS property for prayer prior to their shifts.

The letter said “several senior drivers with many years’ experience who participated in the prayer meetings have been fired for what appear to be pretextual reasons.”

The meetings began last summer, and most recently 50 or 60 drivers were meeting shortly before their 9:15 a.m. start time to pray.

Keller “observed the meeting” and told two union shop stewards that he was banning prayer “on company property.”

The Liberty Counsel letter explained: “As you know, employees of private companies, including UPS, retain religious free exercise rights, and may engage in religious expression while not on the clock, so long as it is voluntary and nondisruptive. Employees may voluntarily read the Bible, pray together, or discuss spiritual matters before their shifts being for the day; during their lunch breaks; or during any other off-the-clock time.”

The letter pointed out it’s unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

The company then issued a statement: “We have investigated the claims made by Liberty Counsel in their letter to UPS. We believe there is a misunderstanding and we have reached out to them to clarify the situation regarding employees at our site. UPS employees are permitted to assemble before they start work as long as they follow truck yard safety and conduct rules. No employees have been disciplined in connection with assembly to pray prior to their shift. We look forward to clarifying this situation with Liberty Counsel and our employees at the site.”

But on Thursday, Liberty Counsel explained a manager in Myrtle Beach “is now retaliating against employees who sought to voluntarily pray together before work, in the form of strict application of work ‘rules’ and harassment, in response to attention over the prayer meetings.”

The organization reported Keller held a “Prework Communication Meeting” at which he declared UPS “does not discriminate against people’s religious freedom off the clock.”

However, Liberty Counsel said Keller continued “to harass the employees for complaining about his mistreatment of them for exercising their right to pray before work.”

Liberty Counsel also said it obtained testimony from a former UPS driver that Keller similarly created issues for workers at a center in Monroe, North Carolina.

Former driver Randy Lankford, now a pastor, said he was part of that effort to gather for prayer. Lankford said that was when “the harassment and bullying by Steve Keller started.”

He reported to Liberty Counsel: “Steve Keller would tell us (or me, because I was running the devotional every morning) that we could not have prayer time and a devotion or our own meeting before work. So I went to the center manager and he told Keller that we could meet. Then Keller decided to start bullying and harassing drivers and especially where we could meet to have devotion. He moved it four times.”

Eventually, while Keller was grilling Lankford during a ride-along inspection, Lankford believed he was having a heart attack from the stress and went to a hospital. It was his last day with UPS, he said.

Staver said the company needs to ensure the rights of employees.

A statement from the company said, “All UPS employees are provided the opportunity to gather and exercise their religious freedom before their work shift. No employee has been punished or disciplined due to prayer or gathering to pray. UPS explained to Liberty Counsel’s staff that they had been provided erroneous information regarding employee discipline and that there was a misunderstanding of the company’s policy, which allows employees to pray before work. Unfortunately, Liberty Counsel is continuing to receive misinformation which is leading to the unfounded and incorrect statements they are currently publicizing. We take our company’s reputation and the good name of our personnel very seriously and reject these baseless allegations.”

 

Original here

William Wilberforce Antislavery politician

William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce was an English politician who became the voice of the abolition movement in Parliament. He was a slightly built man, about five foot three in height, and suffered from bouts of bad health.

He was born in Hull, into a rich merchant family. As a child, whilst living with his uncle in London, he was taken to hear John Newton preach. It made a great impression on him but he returned home and soon became part of fashionable society, attending the theatre and races, where he watched his own horse run.

He enrolled at Cambridge University and became friends with William Pitt. At the age of 21, Wilberforce was elected to Parliament.  He was well suited to politics, as he was an extremely eloquent speaker and very witty. In 1783, he met James Ramsay and, for the first time, discussed slavery. Around 1784-86, he underwent a gradual but ‘intense religious conversion’ whilst travelling with a friend. He considered leaving Parliament but his friend and mentor, John Newton, advised him againt this; so, instead, he decided to serve God in public life.

After his conversion to evangelical Christianity, he gave up his racehorse, gambling and attendance at clubs. Although a serious young man, he was still fun to be with and, despite some of his friends thinking his new found belief was a madness, a childhood friend remarked, “If this be madness, I hope that it will bite us all!”

His new beliefs affected his public life. Before, he had usually voted with Pitt but now he was guided by his conscience. He and his evangelical friends were nicknamed “the Saints” by upper class circles but he won widespread respect. He championed many causes but it was the fight against the Slave Trade and slavery that he worked most tirelessly for. His interest was rekindled by a letter from Sir Charles Middleton, suggesting he should represent the cause in Parliament. William Pitt also encouraged him to take up the cause.

In early 1787, Thomas Clarkson called upon Wilberforce with a copy of his Essay on Slavery. This was the first time the two men had met, and a collaboration was formed which lasted over fifty years. The skills of the two men complemented each other. Wilberforce was able to turn the vague sentiment amongst the more privileged in society, into real opposition and rise above party politics to obtain support from many in Parliament.

From 1789, Wilberforce regularly introduced bills in Parliament to ban the Slave Trade. He was fiercely opposed by those making fortunes from the trade, who used all kinds of delaying tactics. The first time a bill was introduced, Wilberforce lost the debate by 163 votes to 88 but he never gave up. A bill to cease the trade was passed by the House of Commons in 1792 – but with the amendment that the ban should be ‘gradual’, which those with an interest in the trade interpreted as ‘never’.

In his late 30’s, Wilberforce married Barbara Spooner (also an evangelical Christian). He remained devoted to her throughout his life.  Finally on 25th March, 1807, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished the Slave Trade in the British colonies. It was carried by 267 votes. The house rose to its feet and cheered wildly. (see Letter from Clarkson) 

However, this was not a vote to abolish slavery as a whole throughout the Empire, just the trade in enslaved people. William Wilberforce continued to work for the abolition of all slavery within the British Colonies. He joined the ‘Society for Gradual Abolition’ and, when the campaign intensified again in the 1820’s and 30′, he did as much as his failing health would allow. In 1821 he requested that Thomas Fowell Buxton take over the leadership of the campaign in the Commons and resigned his parliamentary seat in 1824, after a serious illness. By May, 1830, when two thousand people met in London at Freemasons’ Hall, Wilberforce was stooped with age and wearing a metal girdle to prevent him slumping.

Despite the groundswell of public opinion, Parliament still refused to ban slavery, until parliamentary reform removed many of its supporters. Despite this, it was still not clear that Parliament would act. Wilberforce wrote a last petition. The Parliamentary debate lasted three months. On the 26th July, 1833, the Abolition of Slavery bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. A messenger rushed to Wilberforce’s house. They told him that slavery in British colonies would finally be abolished. Just three days later, on 29th July, William Wilberforce died.

Hear extract  1 from Wilberforce 1789 speech to the house
Hear extract  2 from Wilberforce 1789 speech to the house
Hear extract  3 from Wilberforce 1789 speech to the house

VIDEO The Rest of the Story: The Life of Louis Zamperini After ‘Unbroken’

The story of Louis Zamperini captured the attention of Americans in the 1940’s and again in recent years thanks to the biography by Laura Hillenbrand Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption and the hit movie Unbroken.

Those familiar with either the movie or the book will recall that after his days as a troubled youth Louis took up running and became a star athlete. Louis went on to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. After WW2 broke out, he became a bombardier on a B-24 bomber.

Louis and his fellow crewmen cheated death multiple times, but none more harrowing than after his plane went down in the Pacific Ocean. While most died in the crash, Zamperini and another airman survived a total of 47 days adrift in the ocean on a life raft (a third survived the crash but died at sea).

Mutsuhiro_Watanabe

Sergeant Mutsuhiro Watanabe abused prisoners at POW camps in Omori, Naoetsu and Mitsushima.

After being rescued from the water by enemy forces, both men became prisoners of war and were eventually sent to Japanese POW camps.

Louis endured constant brutality at the hands of a man the prisoners referred to as The Bird. His real name was Mutsuhiro Watanabe, and he was by all accounts a sadistically cruel and abusive Japanese soldier who terrorized the prisoners. He especially had it out for the Olympic athlete, whom he had regarded as his ‘number one prisoner.’ As such, Louis experienced even worse treatment than the other prisoners.

Watanabe was so notorious in his abusiveness, he was listed as number 23 on General MacArthur’s list of the 40 most wanted war criminals in Japan after the war. However, after years of hiding from the authorities (and being thought to have killed himself) he would never face trial for his actions. He died in 2003.

The movie Unbroken does an excellent job chronicling the trials that Zamperini experienced as a downed airman adrift at sea. It vividly depicts his time in a hellish POW camp. It is an inspiring tale of how with courage and determination he persevered through it all.

But the story doesn’t end there.

A Life Unraveling

Unlike the book, the film does not depict the great struggle that followed Zamperini’s return to the United States after the war ended and his prison camp was liberated.

Louis was now married and was rather famous–he was after all, a renowned athlete who came back to life after being declared dead by the War Department. In his words, “after being declared dead and finding that we’d crashed and survived the 47 day drift and nearly 2,000 miles, you get quite a bit of publicity.” 1

He went on speaking tours and was treated as a war hero. But despite outward appearances, Zamperini’s life was falling apart.

Louis was struggling to cope with his horrific experiences during his two years as a POW. Watanabe was a constant figure in his nightmares. Zamperini found that he was in many ways still under the control and power of The Bird.

Filled with anger, anxiety, and hatred, Zamperini found solace in alcohol and in concocting plans to return to Japan to murder The Bird. This was the only way Louis felt he could finally be free of him.

As he continued to withdraw into depression and alcoholism, he would also lash out unpredictably. Louis was on the verge of losing his family. “I got married, I had a little girl and I continued to drink and continued to party, and my wife refused to go with me,” Louis said. “Pretty soon I found myself fading away, to the point where I realized that I was in serious need of help.” 2

From Brokenness to Redemption

In 1949 Louis Zamperini grudgingly attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles at the urging of his wife. It was the first extended Crusade event that Graham ever held, and it was the one which propelled him to become a nationally-known figure.

After the first night he went, Louis was upset and did not want to attend any similar events in the future. He recalled in an interview:

I got under conviction and got mad because of the Scriptures he read, grabbed my wife and said, “Let’s get out of here. Don’t ever bring me back to a place like this again.” But the next day she persuaded me in going back. I said, “Okay, I’ll go under one condition. When this fellow says, ‘Every head bowed and every eye closed,’ I’m getting out.” She said, “Fine.” 3

Louis Zamperini and Billy Graham at the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade where Zamperini made a life-changing decision for Christ

Louis Zamperini and Billy Graham at the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade where Zamperini made a life-changing decision for Christ

However, he was talked into going to hear Graham preach the next night also.

After again hearing of the forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ, Louis Zamperini gave his life to the Lord and was saved. This time, salvation was not from shark-infested waters or from the horrors of a POW camp.

In Christ, Zamperini found eternal, life-changing salvation that would save his soul and rescue him from his downward spiral.

The nightmares–which had been so frequent and so intense that Louis came to fear going to bed–stopped.

He poured all his alcohol down the drain the night he was saved.

Louis Zamperini was a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Listen to the message that Billy Graham preached to Louis and thousands of others in Los Angeles:

Newspapers across the country were reporting on the Crusade, and many ran articles on Zamperini’s conversion. When he returned a week later to speak to the crowd, he was quoted as declaring “I have accepted Christ and from now on I am going to be an honest-to-God Christian.” 4

Just as he had promised when he was desperate and adrift at sea, Zamperini dedicated his life to God. “Now, as God leads, I am leaving my business work and planning to work with young people…I’d rather build character–and win boys for Christ–than build a fortune,” Louis said.

He eventually started a camp for troubled youth–the Victory Boys Camp. Here he poured his life into serving God by helping boys and young men who were not unlike himself in his younger years.

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Sugamo Prison

Louis Zamperini at Sugamo Prison in Japan

Amazingly, after his conversion Zamperini’s desire for vengeance left him completely.

Louis forgave his former captors and later met with many of them. He greeted them warmly and shared the Gospel with them and many accepted Christ.

During a speaking tour in Tokyo in 1952, Louis had the opportunity to meet with prisoners at Sugamo prison, which was filled with 850 Japanese war criminals.

After speaking to the prisoners,  Louis had requested to meet with his former guards personally.

“I looked out and saw them coming down the aisle and, of course, I recognized each one of them  vividly. I didn’t even think of my reaction—I jumped off the stage, ran down and threw my arm around them, and they withdrew from me. They couldn’t understand the forgiveness. We went in the room and there, of course, I continued to press the issue of Christianity, you see. And all but one made a decision for Christ.”

One former Japanese soldier wondered how he could forgive these men who treated him so badly. Louis responded,

I said, “Well, Mr. Sasaki, the greatest story of forgiveness the world’s ever known was the Cross. When Christ was crucified He said, ‘Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.’ And I said, ‘It is only through the Cross that I can come back here and say this, but I do forgive you.” Then he responded to the invitation to become a Christian. 5

This is a tremendously powerful image of loving your enemies and forgiving others as we have been forgiven in Christ.

Louis even attempted to meet with Watanabe when he returned to Japan as part of the Olympic ceremonies in 1998. His former tormentor refused. Instead, Louis sent him a letter which expressed his forgiveness.

Here are the words that he wrote to The Bird, the man that tortured and dehumanized him as a POW for so many months:

To Mutsuhiro Watanabe,

As a result of my prisoner war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare. It was not so much due to the pain and suffering as it was the tension of stress and humiliation that caused me to hate with a vengeance.

Under your discipline, my rights, not only as a prisoner of war but also as a human being, were stripped from me. It was a struggle to maintain enough dignity and hope to live until the war’s end.

The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love has replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, “Forgive your enemies and pray for them.”

As you probably know, I returned to Japan in 1952 and was graciously allowed to address all the Japanese war criminals at Sugamo Prison… I asked then about you, and was told that you probably had committed Hara Kiri, which I was sad to hear. At that moment, like the others, I also forgave you and now would hope that you would also become a Christian. 6

Such radical forgiveness is made possibly by an overwhelming sense of Christ’s love and forgiveness for us.

More than just a tale of courage and resilience, Louis Zamperini’s life is a powerful look at the transforming grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17


1 Taken from an interview conducted in June 1988 titled An Olympian’s Oral History, page 82.

2 An Olympian’s Oral History, page 83.
3 Interview with Louis Zamperini by Dr. Lois Ferm on May 16, 1976. Audio and transcript available here.
4 This quote and a story about Louis’ conversion can be viewed in this newspaper clipping from November 1, 1949.
5 An Olympian’s Oral History, page 89.
6 Watch Louis read his letter to Watanabe in this video.

Learn More:

This short documentary put together by the Billy Graham foundation recounts some of Louis’ incredible story in his own words and sheds light on the part of Zamperini’s life not covered in the film: Louis Zamperini – Captured by Grace.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Biography)

Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II (Autobiography written by Louis Zamperini)

Archive Video of Louis Zamperini Testimony at 1958 San Francisco Billy Graham Crusade (YouTube)

Interview with Louis Zamperini by Dr. Lois Ferm on May 16, 1976 (Audio)

“Unbroken’s” Louis Zamperini: The Rest of the Story (YouTube)

https://reasonabletheology.org/the-rest-of-the-story-louis-zamperini-after-unbroken/


Unbroken | A True World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption


Simple things you Should do for your Marriage to Work

Tips That Make A Marriage Last A Lifetime

We all know that after the honeymoon, reality begins to sink in and things can easily take a wrong turn if not well handled. Marriage does require hard work and patience. It requires team work and intention to get things moving towards the right direction. The intentions to make the marriage work for the rest of your lives should be unanimous. Let’s take a look at some of the simple things you should do for your marriage to work:

Don’t Try to Change your Partner:

Most couples get smitten by what they see at the beginning of a relationship that they miss out on the important things that can actually ruin their relationship later on. They get caught up on the positive things about their partner and totally ignore the negative side. The truth is, when those negative traits begin to emerge more often, it becomes unbearable. You might think that you will change your partner and get rid of the things you dislike about them. That’s where problems begin because you cannot change the other person. You can encourage them into changing, but the decision to actually change lies entirely in an individual.

I’ve heard women complaining about their husbands habits, I’m sure they had noticed those habits when they dated. Sadly, they choose to ignore them and hoped for some changes once they live together and start a family.  They come and remain as is, unless they decide to change. Those imperfections become part of your life forever once you get married, Don’t start nagging your partner because of imperfections you clearly noticed before you got married. Besides, we all have imperfections, your partner may not tell you but nobody is perfect. If you want to see your partner changed, get down on your knees and pray.

Photo by Sarandy Westfall on unsplash

Know your Spouse:

Once you get married and start living under the same roof with a new housemate. You start to realize that your time and self no longer belongs to you alone which is challenging.  Some people think that going out on a date is not a priority anymore because you see each other everyday. But for a person whose love language is spending quality time together, not being in able to do that outside of the home will make them feel unloved.

People show and feel loved through words of affirmation, giving and receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch and spending quality time together. You should be familiar with your spouse’s love language. I have a friend who complained about his wife. He said that he took her on a vacation for her birthday, but all she did for his birthday was cook a special dinner. Well, she’s my friend too and had bragged about making him some exotic dishes. She gave her all because that’s her love language, but her husband missed the whole point.

Learn how to Stop an Argument:

I always say that two people living together as one must agree to disagree. Arguments will start and that’s normal, but never go to bed mad at your spouse. At the very beginning of our marriage, my husband and l would  get into heated argument, he likes to hold his peace and doesn’t say much when this happens. He would rather take all the blame just to end the fight. I was never very good at staying calm. Although I’m petite, my adrenaline levels are exaggerated. I guess I’m such a woman {smile}.

I used to go on and on about it until l get a hug, “it took a long time for that to happen”. Not until my husband noticed that when he hugs me everything evaporates. He mastered how to turn off my flares and end an argument. To balance things up, I’ve also learned that he dislikes being nagged so l stay off this female specialty. It is advisable to calmly discuss and solve the issue that started your argument. Don’t just swipe it under the rug because it will resurface. Issues don’t go away by ignoring them, it builds up and becomes significant over time. you can’t make something better unless you get clarification and find resolution.

Work on your Communication Skills:

Compliment your partner as much as you can, communication is not only for sharing problems and negative feelings. Avoiding sharing your issues with others , this includes family members. Sharing your issues might cause more harm than good in your marriage. Don’t vent on social media, the goal is to communicate with your spouse and not build a block. When you start sharing your marital issues with the world, some will laugh behind your back and others will throw you into a deeper hole with their advice.

Make God the Centre of your Marriage:

There’s nothing as peaceful as letting God take full control of your marriage.  Make a point of praying together and for one another. I noticed the tremendous changes that took place in my own marriage, when l quit trying to control things and put everything into the hands of God. If God is in your life, both of you will become better. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control will reflect in your lives. All the best in your marriage.

 

Original here

VIDEO Fox News Anchor Opens Up About Life, Faith: ‘I Just Try to be Open to What the Lord May Have’

12-26-2019 by Jenna Browder

Shannon Bream to anchor new Fox News show at 11pm

WASHINGTON – She’s a bright and shining star on Fox News and in her first book, Finding the Bright Side, Shannon Bream opens up about her life, faith, and some of the ups and downs she’s experienced along the way.

Just like many of her guests on Fox News @ Night, Shannon is consistently in the middle of the action with what many would call a dream job.

“I love what I do,” she told CBN News. “It feels like a huge blessing and a gift.”

Shannon sat down with CBN’s Jenna Browder at the Museum of the Bible to talk about her book and how she got to where she is today.

She grew up in Florida going to church and Christian school, eventually choosing Liberty University for college. That’s where she met her husband, Sheldon Bream.

“We had friends who kept trying to put us together,” Shannon explained. “We were always dating other people and we had a friend in common who finally came to me one day and she said, ‘You’re here at this football game. He’s here at this football game. You’re going to meet right now.'”

Beauty Pageants and Law School

While at Liberty, Shannon took the crown as Miss Virginia. She went on to law school at Florida State University and more pageantry, winning the Miss Florida title.

It was around this time Sheldon proposed but not long after their engagement, Shannon writes about what she calls, “The Darkest Cloud,” when doctors diagnosed Sheldon with a brain tumor.

 A Shocking Diagnosis

“To be 24 – and we were engaged and planning our life together – and to get those words, to get that news, it’s totally out of left field and so unexpected,” said Shannon.

The church was a huge support, from diagnosis and surgery to Sheldon’s difficult recovery.

“We would get letters and notes or calls from people, from churches we’d never heard of, never visited, didn’t know anyone there but they said, ‘We heard about your story and we just wanted to let you know that we’re praying for you,'” Shannon tearfully recalled. “As a Christian, it was just so overwhelming to know that there were people who were just the body of Christ that we would never meet.”

Newly married and out of school, Shannon learned quickly law wasn’t for her and started interning at a local news station.

“I eventually decided a few months into that I loved it so much – the police scanners and the breaking news and just the unpredictability of live television – that I decided to kind of take the leap.”

The Road to Fox News

She eventually got hired at the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. After a short stint there, NBC in Washington, DC picked her up. It was at a speaking conference where she met Fox News’ Britt Hume who offered her a job when he learned about her legal background.

It didn’t take long for Shannon to begin moving up at Fox, filling in on the anchor desk and eventually getting her own show.

Another Medical Challenge

One major trial she’s had to deal with is her eyesight.

“Around my 40th birthday, I started to have extraordinary pain in my eyes and it was only happening overnight and I couldn’t figure out what the source was of this but it would literally shoot me out of bed in enormous pain, doubled over,” Shannon explained.

The excruciating pain went on for almost two years before a doctor was able to diagnose her, though he told her there would be no cure.

“I just sat there crying in my car and just saying to the Lord, ‘This is it. This is the end for me. There’s nothing else I can do,'” Shannon said. “And I explain in the book how I’m not someone whoever feels like I’ve audibly heard the voice of God but I felt in my spirit and I heard Him say to me in that moment, ‘I will be with you.’ Not, ‘I’m going to heal you. I’m going to take this away. You’re never going to have this pain again.’ Just, ‘I will be with you.’ And I felt like that promise sustained me and I knew it was true. I knew His presence would be with me despite the fact that there was no cure.”

With that same doctor, Shannon was able to manage the pain and eventually underwent surgery. Today she says her eyes aren’t perfect but they’re about “95 percent better.”

The Decision to Remain Childless

One reoccurring question Shannon says she gets, especially in Christian circles, is about her decision to not have kids. She says she knew early on she didn’t have what she calls “Mom Genes.”

“The Lord creates us all in different ways and gives us all different passions and different paths,” she said, adding that she has many young people in her life but feels her true calling is her career.

As for what’s next, she’s not sure but is keeping an open mind and heart.

“I try to say to myself, this is the season that the Lord has you here. Don’t hold too tightly to it because you don’t know what other adventures or things are coming down the line and I just try to be open to what the Lord may have next.”

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2019/may/fox-news-anchor-opens-up-about-life-faith-i-just-try-to-be-open-to-what-the-lord-may-have-nbsp/