“…and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” ~ Philippians 1:14
Following Jesus takes guts. It is dangerous. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
We live in a war zone called earth. There are two kingdoms in conflict. You are in one or the other. If you are in the kingdom of God, you will be hated and killed for His name. If you are in the kingdom of darkness, you are serving the interests of the ruler of this world. He is a liar and a murderer. He comes to steal and destroy.
You can lock your doors, but that won’t stop him. You can call on your government to protect you, but that won’t stop him. You can hide, but he will find you. How can you stop the evil one?
A final generation of Christians is coming… and this is what we learn from them about victory: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” ~ Revelation 12:11
Notice how they defeated the enemy…
- The blood of Jesus covered their sin.
- They spoke the truth to the world.
- They were ready to die for His sake.
Clearly we are to be different. We don’t fight to survive, but to conquer! To win! And we don’t win by living, but by dying. When we carry a cross we know there’s only one way this is going to end.
Our weapons are nothing like Satan’s… we love our enemies, we bless those who persecute and curse us, we feed those who are determined to destroy us, and we overcome evil with good. We are not here to merely survive, but to plunder the strong man’s house, to release the captives, and to let our light shine in such a way that His name is made great by our words and actions.
We will do whatever it takes and give up whatever it costs to carry the message of the cross to every man, woman, boy, and girl on the planet.
Following Jesus is not for wimps or fair weather fans. Pray for a powerful witness, a tender heart, and an unblinking obedience. Stop making excuses and play hard. Love indiscriminately. Laugh in the face of intimidation and hostility. Long for heaven.
Too many times we make little gods out of “the odds” associated with the twists and turns of our life’s journey. We bow down to the odds, allowing them to shape and govern our hearts, giving the idols of chance the first hearing as we process major decisions.
But there is a sovereign God who rules over the odds. He has a plan for your life that is most affected — not by chance — but by your love and devotion to Him. Listen to this verse from Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God is at work extracting good from everything that happens to the ones who love Him. No matter the odds, the outcome is assured by a God who always wins. This same one true God sent His Son on a rescue mission to save us from the enemies of our souls.
Dying on the cross in our place, He removed the penalty for our sins by paying the ultimate price. (John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:24) That’s His love for me and you… and He requires nothing less in return than complete surrender of our lives into His hands. (Romans 10:9-10) In this way, the odds are dethroned and you are guaranteed ultimate joy no matter the outcome of your present contest. It’s not chance that determines your destiny… it’s you deciding whether to place the directional control of your life in His hands.
It’s not about the odds. It’s about the one true God.
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. Matthew 27:45
I thought I was dying. Over four days, I had grown increasingly weak and light-headed. The day before I saw a doctor, I rose at 4 a.m. to drive 400 miles to pray with a friend having surgery and to attend a board meeting in our state… and I did it, barely. Our family doctor sent me to a specialist. On Friday, June 1, 2001, he explained that I had been bleeding internally for some time, losing nearly a fourth of my blood volume. After multiple tests and scopes, it was determined that I had a pre-cancerous condition that required continued surveillance.
Throughout the summer, the repeated biopsies were inconclusive. Did I have a deadly form of cancer, or not? No doctor knew for certain. In addition, it took months to regain my strength and rebuild the iron content in my bloodstream. I struggled to get ready for work, often completely exhausted by the time I left the house. I was always tired, always sleepy, and always weak.
In my heart, I wrestled with dark questions: Am I truly ready to die? My family needs me, what will happen to Gail and the children? I feel like I have work that is undone… is this my time? I wept. I cried out. I prayed. I waited. It was my time for Tenebrae (pronounced TEN-uh-brey).
Tenebrae is an ancient tradition within the Christian church that captures the emotional turmoil, anxiety, and despair that the disciples felt following Jesus’ death on the cross. From a Latin word describing “shadows” or “darkness,” Tenebrae is perhaps best symbolized by a collection of candles that are slowly extinguished during the service… one by one they are snuffed out following a reading or a hymn, until only one remains. Sometimes hidden, plunging the entire room in darkness, the final candle represents the last shred of hope in the human heart.
On that very first “Good” Friday, Tenebrae was not a symbolic darkness, but a tangible reality in human history. The disciples had wrapped their future and their dreams around the man Jesus. They had accepted His invitation, rejoiced in His miracles, and marveled at His teaching. But following His crucifixion, they scattered and ran. They were terrified. Almost no one remembered what He had said:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Matthew 16:21
That dreadful moment of darkness was only a relatively brief stop along the way to something unspeakably wonderful. He said He would be raised, and His resurrection can set us free in a thousand ways: from fear, from failure, from sin’s tyranny, from the devil’s kingdom, and from death itself (Colossians 1:13-14, 2:11-15; Hebrews 2:14-15).
There are times when no light remains. Moments when darkness seems to overwhelm everything you ever thought you knew or believed about God. When that happens, please listen to me: there is only one light left for you… His Word. What He says to you becomes that single, flickering candle of hope when every other “light” in your life has been darkened.
The words you need most will be found in the Scriptures… the Bible… God’s written word. How did He speak to me during my Tenebrae?
- June 1 – Tests indicated I’d lost 2 pints of blood… the human body holds 8-10 pints of blood.
- June 4 – Biopsies were taken.
- June 5 – Much time alone with God, praying, reading, and seeking to settle my heart in Him. Journal entry: “Reminded that death is an entrance into His joy – Matthew 25:21, 23.”
- June 6 (morning) – Reading Numbers 13-14, I noted: “the Israelites did not believe His Word – they said, ‘did you bring us out here to DIE?’” Rejecting His Word (that they were not there to die, but to enter the land), an entire generation of God’s people missed out on what He had for them. I determined to know what the Lord wanted to accomplish in me through this experience. Began asking Him, “Lord, what is this about? How do you want me to respond to this?”
- June 6 (afternoon) – God speaks truth to my heart… a promise that I am still living off of today. Although I cannot write the details here, it is a promise that came true (I’m still here), but is still being worked out (there’s more to come). In response, I recorded a verse from Psalm 94:19 in my journal: “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.”
- June 9 – The nurse called with the pathology results. No cancer.
In the months that followed, I had successive biopsies that were “indeterminate” and had to be repeated to assure no cancer was present. During each of those moments, I was emotionally grounded for two reasons: (1) I had accepted the truth that physical death for the believer is a release into His presence, where real life happens, and (2) He had told me that my time was not yet.
Every vocational move and daily agenda since that summer has been tied to a driving desire to be certain that what I am giving my life to, matters – I want my life to count for Him. God also used my condition to cure me of my preoccupation with survival. I have nothing to survive anymore… just a life to live. The darkness on that Friday gave way to an eternal dance in the Presence of God… the resurrection destroyed death… only life remains!
But when it’s dark… and you are experiencing your own Tenebrae… run from the shadows and into the light He has given! Throw yourself into His Word and hang on. Let Him tell you the truth about what is happening. Your story is not over.
There is a light for you in the midst of your moment of darkness.
[Author’s Note: This post was originally published March 29, 2013 at DonPucik.com and migrated to EquippingSaints.com]