This past Sunday my husband Shane and I visited another church so that we could listen to brother K.P. Yohannan, founder of the ministry Gospel for Asia, speak. We have heard him preach online and I’ve begun to read his book “Revolution in World Missions“, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet him in person. He is a dear friend to our dear friends at Living Waters Ministry and so even though we had never met before we feel great love for him and we love his ministry. During the service he shared several stories of the suffering people in India, in particular. One story at the end though really wrenched my heart because it was about a five year old boy that he had seen on the front cover of a local newspaper who was photographed lying on his side on the street drinking milk from a female dog lying beside him. The title of the article was, “This Dog is his Mother”. It pains me to even write about it especially because I have a five year old son and the thought of it being him in that position makes me want to vomit. The suffering that takes place in this world makes the suffering in my life seem like a luxury vacation in the Bahamas.
Undone by God:
The past two years of our life has been both wonderful and painful, but when I think of that little boy in India or the multitude of persecuted Christians around the world it actually makes me grateful for the trials I have faced and deeply convicted for my lack of prayer for these precious children and brothers and sisters. Two years ago, if you haven’t heard our story before in previous blog posts, is when Shane and I “got” the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time after being church attenders our whole lives. Without retelling the entire story the most important point of it all is that God chose to reveal the truth to us and draw us into relationship with him by his good plan and at his perfect timing. Ever since that night of repentance and life altering faith being placed in Jesus alone to save us (and not our own efforts and hard work) we have been slowly undone by God. What I mean by “undone” is this, he has allowed us to be stripped of our desire for a bigger, more comfortable home (we sold ours), he has caused us to know what it feels like to be nomads on this earth (we were without a home of our own for a year), he has taught us hands on through our children what it feels like for him when we disobey him and are stubborn and strong willed (we went through a desperate time with our oldest child’s behavior that we basically cried our way through), he has humbled us to depend on others at times for our basic needs (our families provided food and a home for us for almost 9 months), he has reduced our income to about a quarter of what it was five years ago, and many other wonderful and painful lessons. Again, these “sufferings” pale in comparison with what is happening elsewhere on this planet, but the devotions that I had last night addressed all our sufferings no matter who we are or what it is we face and it comes from a very unlikely scripture.
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
(Matthew 26:47-56 ESV)
The Mob in the Night:
Here is this great mob that has come at Jesus and the disciples. They are armed with swords and clubs, it’s the middle of the night and Judas is leading them. It must have been a bit terrifying for the disciples, who did not fully understand what was going on, and who were likely shocked and probably confused as to what exactly just went down with Judas. Then Peter pulls out his sword and is ready to fight. It was only hours earlier that he told Jesus, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:35). I think that as Peter faced the mob he was thinking more along the lines of “fight to the death” as opposed to “willingly surrender to the death”. He saw the battle that they were faced with as an earthly one with flesh and blood, and swords and clubs, and he had the adrenaline to fight it as such.
But then Jesus steps in and says, “Put your sword back in its place…“. He then reminds Peter and his disciples of who he is and the power that is at his command, “more than twelve legions of angels” (that’s more than 72,000 angels, by the way!) would come at once at his appeal to the Father. In this he shows them that what he is about to face is not an earthly battle, but a spiritual one, and that if it was not God’s will and plan it would not happen because he could put an end to it in a second, but because it was God’s will he was willingly surrendering.
It’s at this point that the Scriptures say, “Then all the disciples left him and fled.” Once they realized what was about to happen, they got out of there as fast as they could. And can you blame them? It is not natural to us to give ourselves willingly to suffering, even for Jesus. Our human nature tells us to try to save ourselves, look out for Number One, and fight for survival. If we are honest, most of us when we face trials, troubles, and difficulty are ready to put up a good fight in hopes of justice, success, breakthrough, and relief. While these goals are not necessarily wrong fighting a spiritual battle by earthly means (meaning on our own strength and determination) will only lead to defeat, depression, and eventually death. Jesus said in verse 52, “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” If Peter had been allowed to continue whacking away with his sword he would have been killed, and likely quite fast, because he was a lousy shot. He was probably aiming for the guy’s head and he only managed to cut his ear off! The point is, we can’t expect to have a hope when we fight spiritual battles in an earthly way.
How did Jesus face the mob?
Instead of putting our heads down and trying to plow through a closed door when we face trials we should follow Jesus example, and “walk as he walked” (1 John 2:6). First, we should be in prayer, and not a demanding and commanding kind of prayer where we shout out our plans at God, but to pray like Jesus prayed, seeking God’s Sovereign will and laying down our own will to accept his. Then we can face our trial, or “mob”, with the fear of God in our hearts being greater than what we face and knowing that he even sent it with a purpose. As Christians we can have confidence in God’s promises, like these ones,
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5 ESV) (also in Joshua 1:5)
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
(John 14:2-3 ESV)
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
(Isaiah 43:2 ESV)
No matter what we face here on this earth, as Christians we know that God has allowed and even ordained what we face for his glory and for our good. I received an email tonight from an acquaintance with a prayer request for a 17 year old boy who was rushed to the hospital this morning and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I was told that it came as a huge shock to the family as he is a very active and athletic young man. There were no signs or clues before this and it was such a close call that they were told things could have easily been much worse and that he narrowly missed death. As I sat down to pray for him I prayed that this trial in his life would not be without fruit. What I mean by that is, if we go through tough stuff like what this boy is facing, or whatever it is that comes our way, and no eternal fruit comes out of it then it’s pointless suffering and that is the real tragedy. But if through it someone comes to faith in Christ and is added to the Kingdom, or if it causes our faith to grow or our character in God to be strengthened then we can rejoice in it. Jesus’ suffering on the cross produced the greatest fruit there could ever be, to my eternal joy and gratefulness he suffered in my place on my cross and paid for my sins.
When we view suffering and trials through the lens of the gospel and the knowledge and acceptance of God’s Sovereignty and Goodness there is no longer a need to defend ourselves as Peter tried to do because God is our defense, Jesus has finished the work of our salvation on the cross, and we know that God doesn’t just “know” what is going on he “plans” and sometimes he “sends the mob” for his good reasons that we may understand in this life and we may not.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
(Romans 8:31-37 ESV)
In tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword… we are more than conquerors through Jesus. Our hope is in Christ alone. I hope this post will encourage and strengthen you no matter what kind of “mob” you are facing tonight.
“And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace…”
If you are not 100 percent sure that you will spend your eternity with Christ Jesus when you die, please visit Need God and be honest with yourself as you work your way through the questions.
Preparing the Way,