"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." Revelation 12:11
As I along with many of you are praying for the horror in Afghanistan, my heart turns to my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are a prioritized target for the enemy, because they love God the Father and His Son, Jesus. They are not a threat in any way to anyone for evil, but good. The persecution of good people by evil people is nothing new. It is as old as the beginning of time. Many examples could be listed, but the ultimate example is Christ Himself, God’s only Son. Jesus was the only perfect man who ever walked the face of this earth. He was sinless in every way. Yet no one was esteemed less , or treated more brutally than a totally innocent man who chose to give His life for the very ones who crucified Him. However, we know they were forgiven from the cross as He proclaimed in Luke 23:34:
Then Jesus said,
"Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.
Jesus left His footprints throughout the Bible for us to follow. He perfectly fulfilled the revelation of John in Revelation 12:11. He shares how we as followers of Christ are to overcome in this world that is not our home, but we truly are only passing through as our Savior did. He was about His Father’s business. He never allowed the enemy to distract or rob Him of fulfilling the purpose He came to earth for.
If we will take the time to study Hebrews 11 we will find Biblical wisdom for such a time as this. I have read from Christian leaders attempting to rescue some of the Afghanistan Christians that they have refused to leave, so they might continue to shine the hope of Jesus in an overwhelmingly dark world. Yet, we know darkness cannot ever overcome the slightest light. We can be in a big, totally dark room, and light a tiny birthday candle, and it will be seen in the vast darkness. That is what we are called to be on this earth. We who have Christ reigning in our hearts are to be the Light of the world as He was and is. In Hebrew 11:35 I was reminded of believers before us who had to make that same choice:
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. "
I was just listening to a very well known prophetic pastor this week who quoted Revelation 12:11 multiple times in his sermon, but he never quoted the whole verse. He only quoted a half truth. I am afraid that is very common in all denominations. We overcome by the blood of the lamb first and foremost; then by the word of our testimony, which isn’t worth a lot unless we are willing to live the last part of the verse…and they loved not their lives unto death.
Sadly the new face of Americans doesn’t reflect the value of this truth. Americans have proved they believed in God and this country enough to die for it since America was founded. Many died to live free to worship the one true God throughout our history, and we remained free as a nation. We are the only country in the world where we the people have ruled ourselves successfully as long as we allowed God and His Word to rule us as individuals. It was a given you were willing to die for the freedom that was established in this new nation, because it was rooted in the wisdom of something much bigger than ourselves. We had God’s laws from His word to become our laws. It worked beautifully making us the city upon a hill for the world. That has totally changed in my lifetime. Now for the first time in America it is beginning to cost you something to be a Christian. It is our turn to do what so many before us have done. I can’t say it better than Paul just before his own martyrdom in Hebrews 12 1-3:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Let us learn to fix our eyes and heart on Jesus and His life on this earth , and try to follow Him to the end knowing the reward of looking into His eyes in hopes of hearing the words He taught in Matthew 25:23:
"Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord."
Let us continue to pray for the persecuted church where many are dying daily as they remain faithful to the end as our Savior and the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us in the heavenlies have before us. The reward will be so worth it all!
In His love.
Photos from a kayaking trip on New River this week from Foster Falls to bridge 100.