by Roland W. Keith
Jackie and I are unexpectedly on the road, but I wanted to get this post on the board. In October 2016 Pastor Andrew Brunson was arrested in Turkey for having a Christian Church meeting in his home. The charge was for the action of terrorism. Last week after two years of trials and imprisonment Andrew Brunson was set free and allowed to return to the U.S., thanks to the efforts of President Trump and Jay Sekulow. Considering his ordeal, endured in the name of God, it seems appropriate to repost a blog originally published on 25 September 2017. I t deals with the need for all of us to have courage when faced with persecution in the name of God, just as Mr. Brunson did, and as Joshua did centuries before. So here it is.
“Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).
When the time came for the Jews to go in and possess the Promised Land only two of the original generation were allowed to enter in— Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:29-30; 26:65). Due to the nation’s unbelief (failure to trust God), the Jews who came out of Egypt were not allowed to take possession of the land promised to them; even Moses and Aaron faltered in their belief, and were excluded from the land (Numbers 20:6-13, 24). Certainly, after all they had been through, the Jews, and their two leaders, knew that God existed. Their unbelief, then, was of another nature. They did not trust God because they had given into, or developed, a lack of moral (or mental) strength. In Aaron’s and Moses’ case they failed to obey God’s explicit instructions and sanctify Him before the people, demonstrating a failure in moral courage in obeying the Lord and leading His people. As for the people themselves, when faced with the prospect of defeating the nations in the land, their courage left them altogether and they rebelled against God (Numbers 14). Later, when told of God’s judgment against them, they sought to enter the land only to be defeated (Numbers 14:39-45).
When Moses passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:1-8) he admonished him to have courage, saying “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” He repeated his need for courage (as quoted above), in the very next verse. With that courage Joshua was able to lead the Israelites into the land promised them, and to take possession of it. As Christians, we too need to heed Moses words of encouragement given to Joshua. We should not dread the world or its dark ruler, knowing that God is with us, and because of His presence and protection we are fully capable of defeating our enemy. We also know that in times of trial we can call on the Lord for instruction and strength, as the Psalmist wrote, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries… Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:11-12, 14)!
Many years later David would offer the same advice to His son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished” (I Chronicles 28:20).
Again, as Christians, we are wise to heed these words. God has given us a work to do in His house, His kingdom, and we will not fail, if we take our strength and courage from Him. As Paul told the Corinthians, we must “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (I Corinthians 16:13). In defining that courage, we must use it to emulate our Lord in all our actions, as Paul wrote the Philippians, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
If we want to avoid being excluded from the heavenly Promised Land awaiting us we must have the courage to enter in and take possession of it. This means we must be willing to stand up for Christ against His enemies without concern for the consequences in this life. We find a prime example of what our behavior should be in the account of the apostles before the Sanhedrin, recorded in Acts 5:27-33, 41:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them… Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Another great example of perseverance is that of Paul, in Acts 20:22-27:
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Even in the face of imprisonment, persecution, and ultimately death, Paul refused to shrink back from the name of the Lord. How many of us will stand firm when persecution comes? We must if we want to please our King. We must stand firm, always willing to step in, shoulder-to-shoulder, to share in the burden, strengthening one another. When Paul was in chains, enroute to Rome, He was able to take courage from those who came to see him along the way (Acts 28:15-16).
In considering these examples we must understand that a day may be approaching when we will be called upon to suffer for the name of the Lord. As Jesus informed His apostles:
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (Matthew 10:16-27).
Here in the U.S. we may often read these accounts in the Bible as historically remote examples, but even today Christians around the world are being persecuted, and the tide is turning against us in this country. The day may be fast approaching when Paul’s words to Timothy come home to us: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” (II Timothy 3:12-14). If such days do in fact come upon us let us take comfort in Peter’s words:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:3-9).
I pray that all Christians everywhere will stand tall and persevere in the face of persecution and that we will all share in the inexpressible joy that Peter wrote of on the day that our salvation is made sure.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.