Tag Archives: persecution

The Limitations to Spiritual Attack

In the Christian life we can expect many trials. It is not a life of cosiness and comfort in the pleasures of wealth, power and prestige. Those who teach that “you only need faith and everything will be okay” are like the false prophets of old who said “peace, peace” when destruction was coming upon Israel: they deceive with promises of comfortableness, blinding their hearers to the truth.

Tank

We are attacked as Christians, but there is a limit to what the devil can do.

Scripture says that: “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence” (Matthew 11:12). Those who belong to Christ can expect attack from both within and without the Church. Oftentimes men of deceitful and violent hearts will enter the Church with the purpose to cause disruption and harm to the true, invisible Church. Jesus warned us to beware the false teachers and false prophets, calling them “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. Like wolves they seek to devour the sheep. Others, openly hostile to God and His Church, will seek to ridicule, perform violence – sometimes literally – and cause other hardships to those who confess Christ.

We should not be arrogant in condemning these people, but rather we ought to “love our enemies, and pray for those who spitefully persecute us”. We need to remember that we also were once enemies of God, and, bar the grace of God, we would still be violently opposed to the purposes of God. No, we should not be arrogant in our salvation but rather humble, knowing that we are also sinners, though thanks be to God that we are now reconciled to God in Christ. We must acknowledge that it is not the people who are our real enemies, but rather we should heed the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Having acknowledged that it is the devil who is behind the attacks that come upon God’s people, we might become discouraged at such hostility. How do we counter this? It is through knowing the position which the devil has and the position that God holds.

God is Sovereign, He is Almighty, and He is Omnipotent. He is not limited by anything other than His own character, and there is no event, however small, which He does not know of and of which He is not the prime director. Every word of God’s mouth is sure, every word in His inspired Word is infallible. His purposes shall be fulfilled and every promise kept.

Soldier on horseIt is not so with the devil. The devil is limited. First, he is limited because by his very nature he is a created being. He is not omnipotent, neither is he omnipresent nor omniscient. Second, he has been defeated by Christ. Just as the devil bruised Christ’s heel, so Christ has crushed his head. The devil is a poor old man in his dying days, having been disarmed and defeated at the Cross.

But the most profound aspect in which the devil is limited is shown in the book of Job. I will let my friend Richard Swartz make this point, for he did it so well (you can follow Richard on Google+):

Satan can do nothing without God’s divine permission. Not one thing! “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away.” (Job 1:21) It comes down to the sovereignty of God, each and every day and each and every way. Not a single purpose of God is ever thwarted. (Job 42:2)

In order for the devil to make an attack on a man he must first gain God’s permission. Then the rules of engagement are laid down by God, and finally the outcome is again determined by God. (see Job 1:6-12, Luke 22:31-32.)

As we have our trials and come under attack, whether physically or spiritually, we would do well to remember that the devil is limited whilst God is without limit, and that if we belong to Christ there is nothing that can happen to us that will ultimately harm us.

And to conclude, these are Jesus’ words on fear:

And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! – Luke 12:4-5.

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Our Brothers and Sisters – #SaveSyria13

I have a friend. She lives in Syria. She gets depressed. Her father has been shot at. She doesn’t know who to trust, as the old certainties under the Assad regime crumble away.

There are many other Syrian Christians who have faced far worse: some Christian women have reportedly been raped as part of the war; leading Christian leaders have been kidnapped. The situation has the international community baffled: some advocate arming the rebels – indeed, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already been flooding arms to the rebels – and some, such as Russia and Iran, have been arming the regime. Others, meanwhile, suggest that the international community should keep arms embargoes and let the efforts concentrate on dialogue and providing humanitarian assistance.  The situation is heartbreaking and solutions do not come easy.

There seems to be no doubt that both the rebels and the regime have committed serious war-crimes. Chemical weapon use now appears to be confirmed. Many within the UN are calling for full investigation and bringing those responsible to the International Criminal Court. The situation is heartbreaking and solutions do not come easy.

Yet there is Light!

There is a light shining in the darkness of the land of Syria: although a large number of Christians have been forced to flee the country there are also many who remain. Many of these do so because they see the land as being a place of ancient Biblical Christianity, and they do not want to see the Church expelled from this land.

Before the conflict Christians made up about 10% of the population. In comparison to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa they experienced much freedom to worship in their churches and to live their lives in peace and relative security. Because of this they had become very supportive of the government of Bashar al-Assad, seeing him as a good man that preserved the freedoms that they enjoyed. In the early days of the uprising against the regime Christians supported the regime and, fed with news from official sources – which were often propagandist in nature – they opposed the uprising as being the work of “terrorists”. The stories that came out of that time were horrific even then. It is now much, much worse.

Because Christians supported Assad they became targets for the rebels. Now, in rebel held areas, Christians have to live under a form a sharia law and face intimidation and persecution from Islamist groups within the rebellion. Despite this, many believers choose to remain, and the Light remains with them.

Jesus is the Light of the World

The Christians that remain choose to remain in order that the Light may remain – they seek to witness to the glorious grace of God shown through Jesus Christ His Son. Many are handing out supplies to their (Muslim) neighbours in order to give assistance in the face of severe food shortages. Many are helping to comfort others, even as they themselves need comfort and encouragement. Although many pastors and leaders have been targeted with intimidation and violence, they continue to encourage their flocks in this dark time.

The Syrian church, which is made up of a number of denominations, has been in Syria since the beginning: Paul was on his way to Damascus (the capital of Syria) when the glory of Jesus stopped him on the road, bringing about the famously profound conversion of the to-be Apostle. The Church is determined to remain in Syria.

You Can Be Light!

This post is very different to my normal postings on this blog. I felt God leading me during my times of prayer to write this post and although the news from Syria is commonplace in the media, it is rarely that a Christian perspective is presented.

Open Doors UK, which helps the persecuted Church, has begun the Save Syria Campaign. There is a plea for practical, prayerful and advocacy work by Christians in the rest of the world to stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ that are in Syria. We all need to stand with our brethren. We cannot ignore this plea. You can lend your voice to this campaign if you live in a country that frees you to do this, and you can cry out to God wherever you are. If you feel so led, you can also give towards practical support.

Please do consider this and stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Syria. Do also consider using the Twitter (and Google+) hashtag #SaveSyria13 to make some noise about the need to help the church in Syria. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post.

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