I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.
I have just returned from a trip to my native land; Puerto Rico. Every time I visit the island, I get nostalgic, especially when I look at the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea. I’m not sure why but staring at the waves hit the rocks and swiftly turn to foam on the beach shore; I begin to reminisce about my childhood there. I grew up playing on those shores; swimming, building sand castles and hunting for crabs with my sisters.
Another memory I have is of our Pentecostal church in our little town in Vega Baja. When our family became members of that church our lives changed dramatically. The church met regularly to intercede and cry out to God for souls’ salvation and God’s protection over the island. There were many meetings for fasting and intercessory prayer. I heard some of the most terrifying, and powerful messages being preached during that time and to this day, I remember the imprint they left in my young heart.
While I was in Puerto Rico this past week, I noticed that churches today continue to survive through constant fasting and prayer. There is still a lot of emphasis in soul winning, but something seemed different…to quote a church leader from the island: “the problem is the church is constantly in the defensive, we are stagnate because we are shifting our focus and sacrificing many of our values in order to fit in; we are in survival mode.” This saddened me, because we are not supposed to conform to this world; we are supposed to be different. The church cannot survive if we only work on our defense strategy.
In any sport, you have to have defense and offense strategy. When a team’s defense is strong, they keep the other team from scoring, however, is they are not aggressive in their attack strategy, they won’t score. The whole point of winning a game is to score or at the least score higher than the other team. It’s taken me a while but I finally understand the importance of being a team who is strong in its defensive and offensive tactics.
The word of the Lord says in Isaiah 54:17: 17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD. (NIV) When I read that verse, it speaks to me about God’s protection from real weapons our enemy is forging. One powerful weapon against us today is fear. We are living in fear of how things will turn out with the economy, about the increase of violence all aorund the world and the lack of good role models for future generations. Many church leaders today question heaven and hell and integrate other beliefs into their value system, meanwhile, their congregations are gowing anemic and confused. I see a world that continues to break and souls who are being lost. Make no mistake, the world is broken and in need of a savior; Jesus is still the only answer!
It is time we get our focus where it needs to be in order to defend the glorious gospel we have been entrusted with. We already know that prayer and fasting are a given strategy, but beyond that, how are we to be effective in order to win? In the book of Nehemiah we find a tremendous strategy led by the king’s cup bearer.
1. Don’t quit your day job. Be a person of influence where you are and God will expand your territory.
1During the month of Nisan [a] in the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was king, I served him his wine, as I had done before… 2So the king said, “Why do you look so sad? You’re not sick. Something must be bothering you.” Even though I was frightened, 3I answered, “Your Majesty, I hope you live forever! I feel sad because the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and its gates have been burned down.” ” 6…The king agreed to let me go, and I told him when I would return.-Nehemiah 1:1-3,6 (CEV)
2. Lead with confidence. You don’t need to be afraid of the enemy, remember that God has given you divine authority.
19When Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard about our plans, they started insulting us and saying, “Just look at you! Do you plan to rebuild the walls of the city and rebel against the king?” 20I answered, “We are servants of the God who rules from heaven, and he will make our work succeed. So we will start rebuilding Jerusalem, but you have no right to any of its property, because you have had no part in its history.” –Nehemiah 2:19-20 (CEV)
3. Have a strategy. Don’t just focus on one area only, look at the big picture and then formulate a plan of action. (Make sure everyone involved understands the plan and is onboard.)
9But we kept on praying to our God, and we also stationed guards day and night…19I told the people and their officials and leaders, “Our work is so spread out, that we are a long way from one another…21Every day from dawn to dark, half of the workers rebuilt the walls, while the rest stood guard with their spears…22I asked the men in charge and their workers to stay inside Jerusalem and stand guard at night. So they guarded the city at night and worked during the day. 23I even slept in my work clothes at night; my children, the workers, and the guards slept in theirs as well. And we always kept our weapons close by. [b] -Nehemiah 4:9,19,21-23 (CEV)
4. Know your enemy. Don’t undeestimate your adversary, plan for the unexpected.
1When Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, heard that we were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he became angry and started insulting our people…11Our enemies were saying, “Before those Jews know what has happened, we will sneak up and kill them and put an end to their work.” -Nehemiah 4:1, 11 (CEV)
5. Befriend those around you. Honor them and they will become your greatest allies.
12On at least ten different occasions, the Jews living near our enemies warned us against attacks from every side, [a] 13and so I sent people to guard the wall at its lowest places and where there were still holes in it. I placed them according to families, and they stood guard with swords and spears and with bows and arrows…16From then on, I let half of the young men work while the other half stood guard. They wore armor and had spears and shields, as well as bows and arrows. The leaders helped the workers 17who were rebuilding the wall. Everyone who hauled building materials kept one hand free to carry a weapon. 18Even the workers who were rebuilding the wall strapped on a sword… –Nehemiah 4:12-13, 16-18 (CEV)
6. Love and encourage your team. Understand you cannot win alone; you need a strong team and they need a humble leader.
15Each governor before me had been a burden to the people by making them pay for his food and wine and by demanding forty silver coins a day. Even their officials had been a burden to the people. But I respected God, and I didn’t think it was right to be so hard on them. 16I spent all my time getting the wall rebuilt and did not buy any property. Everyone working for me did the same thing. 17I usually fed a hundred fifty of our own Jewish people and their leaders, as well as foreign visitors from surrounding lands. 18…I knew what a heavy burden this would have been for the people, and so I did not ask for my food allowance as governor. 19I pray that God will bless me for everything I have done for my people. – Nehemiah 5:15-19
Dear God, give us a passion to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ with wisdom and boldness. When all we believe is challenged, help us to stand our ground and be the people you have called us to be.