God And Country: Our Own Tough ChoicesErwin W. Lutzer | November 20, 1994
Selected highlights from this sermon
Throughout history, governments have almost always been hostile toward true Christianity. So we shouldn’t be surprised that our society’s time of religious peace is in decline. The apostle Peter has a message for us as persecution comes nearer.
We should be a people of purity and unity, drawing courage from one another’s testimony. We need to remember that our triumph is to come and may we be faithful in the meantime.
When you study church history, you learn that a powerful state is almost always hostile toward the church. In fact, during the best of times in church history, the relationship between church and state has always been one that is uneasy and almost always one of great conflict.
One of the things we’ve learned in this series of messages is that Hitler’s Nazi party swallowed up the church. He reinterpreted Christianity in such a way that Christianity lost its power. There are other things that happened in the German church, and much of the power had already been drained, but Hitler tended to squeeze out the last drop of the Gospel because he saw it to be a threat to his regime.
In our own day and age, I need to remind you that we are living at a time when there are powerful forces that would like to basically neutralize the church, to put it on the sidelines, to drain it of its influence in society. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That line, which all of us have memorized, means number one, that Congress was saying that the power of the state should be limited. It should not interfere with the free exercise of religion; and number two, there should be no state church before which all people must submit. But apart from that, Congress was to allow freedom of religion. And, of course, you and I know that today this amendment is being reinterpreted in ways that would make the Founding Fathers wince. They could not believe that it could be so set upon its head. And freedom of religion is being interpreted as freedom from religion. And so the agenda is to take the state, to take all of our public institutions, and exterminate all references to religion and all practices of religion in such a way that the church is marginalized, that Christianity is shoved off to the sidelines as a very, very private religion.
One of the problems Hitler had when he, of course took over, was he was confronted with a state that was largely Christian, at least nominally so. So the question is what do you do? What do you do, particularly with holidays such as Christmas and Easter? That was a great concern to him. Consequently, Christmas was totally paganized. Children were not allowed to sing Christmas carols in schools. In fact, for the SS troops Christmas was actually celebrated on December 21st rather than the 25th just so they could recognize that this isn’t Christmas the way it used to be. Easter was turned into nothing more than a spring holiday.
In our own day, the very same thing is being done not under a dictatorship but by laws that are trying to take the state and state property and state institutions, and in such a way, scrub them clean of every bit of religious influence. For example, in Vienna, Virginia, the town council put up two Christmas displays, one a secular one, and one the nativity. And then the ACLU filed and the nativity scene had to go. In fact, in the very same town the chorus, the Vienna Chorus, was asked to sing only secular Christmas songs, and when they didn’t want to do that and wouldn’t, the whole idea of the Christmas chorus was abandoned.
In Fairfax, Virginia, there was a child who painted Christmas scenes on a window. They were supposed to do this in school. She painted the nativity and it had to be rubbed off because that was too religious, and even the words Merry Christmas had to go because, you know, that word Christmas has that terrible word Christ and that’s religion, and that also had to be rubbed off.
The great agenda of the liberals, my friend, is to take Christmas and to change it. Silent Night must be replaced by Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Christmas itself, since it has that word Christ in it, must be changed to Winter Solstice, and Christ must be replaced with Santa Claus. That is the idea of keeping the state from religion, banishing it from the public square.
Now, of course, you say, “Well, we know that groups like the ACLU are interested in freedom for all religions, and all that they are trying to say is keep religion private. In fact, I saw an interview by one of their leaders, and that is what he said. Keep religion private. Well, do you think that they are willing to allow us in our churches to practice freedom of religion? Don’t ever think so. Remember that case in California where a church was going to fire somebody for homosexuality, and the courts got involved because, after all, that’s discrimination? And even though the church eventually won, don’t forget the implications of the court case. Who would have ever dreamed that the day would come when courts would tell churches whom they can hire and whom they can fire?
And we could give many illustrations of the woman who was disciplined for adultery, and eventually the church had to pay a fine because, in the words of the court, the church has no business condemning her for her own private lifestyle. It’s very interesting because the church was doing exactly what the New Testament churches and the New Testament teachings say that churches should do, so don’t ever be naïve and think to yourself that we too shall be exempt. There are powerful movements that would like to say that churches who do not recognize homosexual marriages will no longer be able to receive their tax exemption.
I think it is a credit to the power of the media to think that over half of Americans really believe that it is the religious right who want to impose their values on society, and do not recognize that it is the radical left that has been doing so for years and continues to want to do it with vicious intolerance.
What I’d like to do is to give you a couple of propositions that you can take home and think about if you write them down. And then later on we’re going to turn to the Scriptures where, of course, all the answers are found for us, and we will be expounding a passage from the New Testament. That’s the agenda. We’ve got lots to do. I’m so glad that you had no plans for this afternoon. Enjoy the ride!
Number one, I’d like to propose that we as a church must recognize that we have a responsibility beyond the walls of our churches. We have a responsibility beyond the walls of our churches. You know, it’s interesting that Christianity was always involved in the forefront of law of justice, of child labor laws that would prevent these kinds of injustices, but after the Scopes Trial in America [The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes], the church largely withdrew and now its re-entry has been very, very bumpy.
But there are some people who say, “Well, you know, we shouldn’t be involved at all. Let’s just sing our songs and have our Bible studies, and let them do what they want to do, and let us do what we want to do.” Well, I want you to know today it is not quite that simple.
Let us suppose that you are crossing a lake in a boat and there are some folks that you don’t agree with but they, nevertheless, are into this business of drilling holes in the bottom of the boat and letting water come in. It’s a little difficult to say, “Well, let them do what they want to do, and we’ll do what we want to do,” if we are in the same boat. And we are in the same boat.
A nation is affected by everyone within that nation, and we are a group. We are not unto ourselves. We live in a network of society, and it cannot be a matter of indifference regarding what happens in the world. And the Christian is opposed to injustice no matter where it is found. We have a responsibility that goes well beyond the walls of our church, responsibilities in politics, in the arts, in the media, and in all levels of society.
Secondly, we can join with non-Christians for common goals. Now this does not mean that we in any, in any way, compromise the Gospel. It simply means that in moral areas, God has given to people common grace. There are people who are not specifically Christian who agree with us on many different issues. If a politician were to run and to say, “Well, I want only the Christians to vote for me,” he’d understand that he would lose. He must appeal to a broader consensus regarding moral issues, even though we recognize that that does not mean that we join with groups who have another gospel to do evangelism.
Thirdly, as Christians we must support our government, and at the same time, feel free to criticize it. Both support and criticism are necessary. We learned that in Nazi Germany the people, in effect, said, “Our government, right or wrong,” and they went ahead and they gave their allegiance to their Führer and they even swore their allegiance to him (ost of the pastors did) and they simply bought into that humanistic godless agenda and that was all. And oftentimes the pastors justified what they were doing on the basis of Romans 13 where it says, “Powers that are be are ordained of God, and we should submit ourselves to those powers, and if we are disobedient to those powers, we are disobedient to God.” Well, that has to be balanced with other passages of Scripture that say with unmistakable clarity that we ought to obey God rather than man. The idea of “my country right or wrong no matter what the government does because I am patriotic” is unscriptural and devastating to the future of this nation and to other nations like it.
Number four, we have to recognize the limits of political and social reform. There are limits. Oh people get so excited when we have some conservatives that are elected. It’s as if, you know, they are going to bring in a new day. Well, as we shall be seeing in a few moments, the problems in America are much deeper than can be solved in Washington, much deeper than can even be solved in Washington by conservatives or, if we had them, very religious, God-fearing people. And as we shall see in a moment, that’s where we come into the picture. Let us not be naïve and think that really we can solve America’s problems with a ballot box. We can help, or we can hinder, but ultimately we are involved in a spiritual battle that transcends all party lines and all such distinctions.
And number five, our public effectiveness (our effectiveness) basically boils down to individual responsibility, and every one of us living as Christ would have us live right where we have been planted. You see, the truth is that each of us can stand for truth.
Now some of you know that at some point you have to draw the line. I feel so sorry for Christians who have their children in the public school system. And from time to time, some of you have come and you’ve asked my advice because you are in a predicament where there is occultism that is being taught, or there is sexual training and sexual classes that are essentially immoral. We live in a time when everybody is going to have to decide at some point, it seems to me, at what juncture do I no longer obey the state? And what do I do as America continues to slide in the direction of the dark cruel night of paganism?
Do you remember Niemöller? He made the famous statement... He said, “First,” and of course you know that he was one of the Germans who stood up to Hitler...he said, “First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t belong to the trade union. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out when they came for me.” And that’s why we must speak out for the unborn. And that’s why we must speak out in those areas that we may not be directly involved in because the time will come when we will be affected, and then it may be too late.
One of the exciting things about the Bible is that it has the answer for today’s church and every church, no matter how long the church survives in the world. When Peter wrote the book of 1 Peter, and I want you to turn to that passage of Scripture (actually it’s 1 Peter, chapter 4), he was writing to a congregation that had experienced great persecution. Great persecution! Christians were ostracized because they refused to call Caesar lord. They were kept from the best jobs. They were lied about, and we learned this in our last message. Lies were told about them, and they went through a period when being a Christian was not only difficult, in some instances, it was impossible. Martyrdom was a great option, and that often happened. The people were martyred for their faith. It was a possibility.
In the midst of this, he [Peter] writes to them and he does not say, “Now I want you to all get out and vote.” The reason he didn’t was because they couldn’t vote in those days. Paul used his citizenship effectively, and we should use our citizenship effectively and be involved in all of the processes politically, but you need to understand that in 1 Peter, those were not options. Those were not options. So what he does is he begins to write to them and say, “What you must do is to zero in on how you are going to live in the midst of an oppressive state.” And he does not tell them, “Please do not feel sorry for yourselves because you are going through a difficult time.”
The American church feels sorry for itself because most of us are very unacquainted with suffering, and that is myself included. And because of that, we see all these things and we think that they are all so strange and so different. But actually in the history of the church, suffering has always been seen as a mark of blessing. It was a badge of honor. And sometimes we stand and we sing, “Oh, we’re standing on the rock,” and then in reality we act as if we are clinging to our last piece of driftwood. It’s as if we are just letting go and there is no hope for anything. And then all that you need to do is to open the Bible and discover that not only is there hope, but there is glory and there is challenge and there is blessing.
Now I would like to speak on 1 Peter, chapter 4. And we are going to briefly look at the entire chapter. This will be a quick tour. And I’d like to take this chapter and wrap it around five words that are listed there in your notes and suggest that what we need is a theology that encompasses these five words that grasps the essence of his teaching. I hope that you’ll go home and read this passage more carefully because we can deal with it only very quickly in the next few moments.
First of all, there is the word purity. First Peter chapter 4, verse 1: “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh...” I need to pause and say if He suffered, why shouldn’t we? We always think that we should be exempt when Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they should persecute you.”
“Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same purpose, the same attitude.” The imagery that is used here is a military one. Arm yourselves with an attitude by which you can take the sufferings and the difficulties of life just as Christ did. “For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, (It is in the process of doing that suffering, that we begin to put an end to sin in our lives. And when we begin to suffer, sin becomes less attractive and our attention is riveted more specifically on God.) so as to live out the rest of your lives in the flesh, no longer in the lust of men, but for the will of God.” And then he describes how the people used to live. And I think I’ll take out time to read this list just to ask whether or not there are some believers here who still live this way.
Notice the words (middle of verse 3): “Having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” And he says the world is surprised that you don’t do the same things that they do, and because of that you are being persecuted. And for that, he would say, rejoice.
Now, here’s a question. You say, “Well, what relationship does this have to suffering? I thought that you were going to talk about church-state relations today.” It has a direct relationship. You see, the easiest thing that we could do as a church is to think that all of our problems are concentrated in some of the groups that we love to blast. And I love to blast them once in a while too. We think it is the ACLU versus the evangelicals. It is the media versus the evangelicals. It is Washington versus the evangelicals. And it is them and it is us.
You know what this passage reminds us? It reminds us of the fact that the situation is not nearly so neat because what you find is that the same problems that exist in the world, whom we sometimes perceive to be our enemies, are actually the same problems that are also found in our hearts.
Os Guinness says, “The problem with this dualism is that there is no problem in the wider culture that you cannot see in spades in the Christian church.” The rot is in us and not simply out there. And Christians are making a big mistake by turning everything into a culture war. It is a much deeper crisis. It is a much deeper crisis. Why does Peter talk about purity in a letter that is devoted to suffering? Listen carefully because Peter knows that there is a connection between purity and power.
A moment ago I mentioned that we are in the same boat, and if somebody is drilling a hole in part of the boat over there we can’t say, “Well, we’re unaffected; let them do their own thing.” To return to that illustration, the problem is that we are drilling our own holes to let water into the boat. And one of the things that God always desires to do is to use persecution and difficultly to purify His church. And when the church is involved in these kinds of things that all of us have struggled with, God uses the furnace of affliction for purity.
And so the first thing that we must do when we think about the world out there that we need to fight, is to begin to look at the world in here that we need to fight. And we need to fight the world within more ruthlessly even than the world without. Our own hearts and our own minds—that’s where we are to begin in our own struggles with the state.
There’s a second word, and that is the word unity. You’ll notice in verse 7 he says, “The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose or prayer. Above all keep fervent in your love one for another because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another,” and so forth.
When Peter was talking about unity, it wasn’t so much about unity between Christian groups because they didn’t have communication in those days like we do. He was speaking about the unity of individual congregations. Now we learned in this series that one of the reasons that Hitler could trample over the church is because it was divided. Remember I told you the decision that was finally made that every pastor had to make a choice as to whether or not he would take a vow to Hitler or not. If the church throughout Germany had stood with one voice and said, “No,” they would have been much more powerful. And in the very same way, whether individual congregations or denominations, the stronger we are together, the more powerful our impact will be, the more courage will be given to those who are weak to stand. And I think that the essence of unity is given here. Prayer. Prayer keeps uniting us with God. It keeps our relationship with God open, and then love, which bonds us together. And if we have love and loyalty one to another, we will be much more inclined to draw some lines, to stand where we need to stand, and be as committed as we need to be in the midst of a society that has increasingly drifted toward paganism.
And so what we can do is to recognize that God uses unity. Whenever you have division, division dissipates energy. Division is often used by the devil. Now sometimes there has to be division over doctrinal issues, over the impurity of the Gospel. Thank God for division, for essentials. But I’m talking about those things that are not essential, but oftentimes they are personality conflicts, they are individual points of view, and they become the means by which the sheep are scattered so that the wolves can get the individual sheep without having to take on the whole herd or facing the shepherd. The second word to stand strong is unity. If the first is purity, the second is unity.
And the third is humility. Notice it says in verse 10: “As each one has received special gifts, employ these in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak as it were the utterances of God. Whoever serves, let him do so by the strength which God supplies so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom be glory and honor and dominion both now and forever.”
Why is humility so important in our battle? Why does it say that even when we give a witness to people, we should do it with meekness and fear? It is because the world is hard. The world is cynical. The world is unbelieving. And when they see hardness and harshness and anger from us, we are acting just as they act.
I don’t need to tell you that the battle for our freedoms oftentimes has fallen into the hands of those who may be on our side, but who sometimes speak viciously and with anger, and do not give a good representation of Jesus Christ when interviewed on television. And as a result, there is this tension and this division, and though what they may say may be right, they do not say it with the meekness and the gentleness and the compassion of Christ. We must fight, but we must fight like Christ.
You say, “Well, wasn’t He angry?” Yes, He was angry, but interestingly, Jesus Christ was angry with the religious people who had a form of religion, but inwardly they were filled with rot. That’s who He was angry with. When He was very gentle, [it was} when He was dealing with sinners who were deceived by their sins.
I need to gently say this. Will you remember that God hates pride in conservatives just as much as He hates pride in liberals. And when we see conservatives blasting out, and they have all the answers, and all that you need to do is to follow them, and they are going to change America, God hates that kind of pride even if it’s coming from somebody who may have some good ideas, and somebody whom we may support. Watch it!
It’s so interesting to see when we have someone who is liberal who is elected. You see, the mood in the church is, “Oh, let’s not get involved in politics. Let’s just have Bible study and prayer. There is no way that we can do anything.” And then we have conservatives who are elected and everybody says, “See, we can win America back after all.” Let me remind you that we might win America back, but there’s much more to it than simply electing conservatives to Washington, however happy we may be that there are some there.
Number four, I use the word reality. I love this passage, picking it up in verse 12. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing happened on you. But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Just that far, but keep your fingers on verses 14 and 15. We have such a poor sense of history I think. And pardon me for saying that over and over again. I hope it encourages you to read church history. I have people coming to me and saying, “Pastor, do you think that anything in history has ever been as bad as it is today?” And I want to say, “It has seldom been better.” This whole experiment of giving freedom of religion to people in America and in Canada and a few western nations is a rather new notion. If you go back into history, you discover that that seldom happened. The Christian church has always been persecuted right on from early Rome. And after the Christians took charge under Constantine, the true Christian church continued to be persecuted, and thousands were drowned and burned at the stakes.
Why do we think it’s so strange? Why should we be surprised when the ACLU, with its strict view of the separation of church and state, nevertheless was willing to defend the school that wanted to show the blasphemous movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, proving that the real issue isn’t religion after all? The real issue is whether or not it’s a blasphemous religion. Why should that surprise us? Why should we be surprised when a principal tells a handicapped girl that she cannot read her Bible on the bus because the bus is school property, and there can be no Bible reading on school property? Why should we be surprised at that?
Why should we be surprised when we find that occultism is being taught in our schools, or immorality is being taught? Should that really surprise us? Folks, that’s the way it is in the world. And we may be surprised in America that actually there are many who would give anything for the freedoms that we still have left. The Scripture says, “Do not be surprised.”
You know, there are different kinds of suffering. There is physical suffering. There is emotional suffering. But the Bible indicates that there is a kind of suffering that means so much to God. It means more than suffering that comes to you because of cancer. It means more than suffering that comes to you because of the difficulties in your background. It is a very special kind of suffering, and that is the suffering that we have with Christ. It is suffering injustice.
If you have ever been fired from a job because you were honest or because you did not play the same kinds of manipulative games that other people have played... If that has ever happened to you, you are to be envied. You are to be envied. That’s what the text would say. It says that if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests on you. And why should we be surprised when that happens? The big shock is that it does not happen more often than it does.
By the way, notice he goes on to say how we should suffer when we are reviled. Verse 15: “By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer.” See, if somebody takes your life or kills your child, don’t retaliate. Don’t be a Christian who has committed murder. Don’t murder an abortion doctor. That’s not the way to do it. “Do not suffer as a murderer or as a thief.” See, in those days, Christians often had their property confiscated. It says in the book of Hebrews that there were those who, when they had their property confiscated, rejoiced in that they thought that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ. I don’t think that I’ve met many people who I know who would rejoice if their property were confiscated, thrilled with the opportunity of suffering for Jesus.
But it says, “Do not be a thief. Don’t steal it back. Don’t be an evil doer. Don’t be a troublesome meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.” That’s what we are supposed to do when it comes from the standpoint of handling suffering. And you just simply live out your convictions. Do whatever you need to do. Work through the school system if you can work through it. Try to effect change lovingly and sweetly, and if that does not happen, there has to be some other alternative that God has for you whether it is home schooling or some other kind of way in which the problem can be solved. But you do what you need to do and you don’t feel sorry for yourself. If you suffer as a Christian, you are blessed, and the text says, “The spirit of God and glory rests on you.” Suffering creates a great opportunity for the blessing of God.
Finally, there is the word eternity. Eternity! We are so time-bound, aren’t we? We look at things in terms of years. God looks at them from the standpoint of all of eternity, and a long, long period of time. Notice in 13b, the last part of the verse, he says, “So that at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exaltation.” God is preparing us for the revelation of His glory, and we have the privilege, therefore, of looking at things through the lens of eternity. But in addition, he says in verse 17, “For it is time for the judgment to begin at the household of God.” That’s an interesting verse. He’s saying that you’re going through a time of tribulation. That is God judging you Christians. He is disciplining you. And if it begins with us first, if Christians have to go through such turmoil, wow! What is the outcome going to be for those who do not obey the Gospel of God? You can only fill in the blank there. And if it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved, and he doesn’t mean here as if to say that salvation isn’t free. What he means is that once we are saved, it is with difficulty that we get into the kingdom of heaven because of our trials and our persecutions and so forth. He says, “What will become of the godless man and the sinner?” If God is willing to look down from heaven and see His people suffer and not intervene and just let it grind in all of that agony, if God is willing to do that, think of what it’s going to be like for those who are godless. If those who have accepted His Son are not exempt from the trials of life, think of what’s going to happen to those who reject His Son.
And then he says, “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful creator and do what is right.” You do what is right. You take your lumps as from the hand of God.
A couple of comments that I need to end with today. First of all, we don’t need freedom in order to be faithful. Remember we don’t need freedom in order to be faithful. Peter didn’t say, “Well, you know, actually I have to tell you, you can’t be faithful as a church because you’re in a hostile culture. The state is against you. Therefore, there’s no way that you can really serve God.” No, Peter says the opposite. He says the worse the state is; the more opportunity you have to glorify God. And we can fight for freedom, and we should fight for it, and we’re glad for all those organizations out there that are trying to keep our freedoms, but we do not need freedom in order to be faithful. The church seldom has had freedom. The church frequently has been faithful.
The second observation: we don’t need many people — we don’t need a lot of people to have a great impact. You never know what God will do. Just a little bit of salt can preserve quite a bit of meat. You don’t know what God might still have in mind for America. We can be pessimistic, but we don’t know. God may send a great awakening. Do you know that in the eighteenth century, Britain was in such sad shape that they would disband Parliament in mid-afternoon? They could not continue because all of the members of Parliament were drunk. Babies were being killed. Children were working in the factories. Immorality was rampant. Cruelty! And then you have the great revivals under the preaching of John Wesley and Charles Wesley and Whitefield. And you have a great movement of the Spirit that historians say kept England from the French Revolution. We do not know what God may still do in America. And He may begin doing it in America as you witness in your office, in your factory, in your hospital, in your bank, to the person next to you. It is all part of the way in which God will work. It’s not going to happen through the media. It’s not going to happen because we all elect the right persons, even though we would like to see whomever elected. It’s going to happen when the people of God say, “Right where I am, I’m going to stand for Jesus.”
And finally, we don’t have to win in this world to triumph in the next. We really don’t have to win in this world to triumph in the next. If you take the long-range view, you can see that. You know, Jesus...if you look at Him only narrowly, that is to say, through the cross, and you think of Christ dying on that cross...if you see Good Friday with all of its horror and its blood and its shame, it looks like Christ was a failure. But you need to look at it through the eyes of Easter Sunday and the ascension and the eventual triumph of Christ, and then you realize that what looks like a failure on a Friday becomes a tremendous victory on a Sunday. Now, we don’t need to win. We really don’t need to. We need to be faithful.
I like to tell that story of the girl who, during the Boxer Rebellion in the year 1900 in China, (called Boxers, by the way, because the people who were involved in the persecution used to do calisthenics)...They marched into a school one time and they said, “All the Christian students, you have a choice to make. We put a cross flat on the ground outside.” Here was the decision. “Trample on the cross, and you’ll go free. Walk around it in respect and you’ll be shot.” The first eight students trampled on the cross and they were allowed to go free. The ninth, a girl, prayed that God would give her the grace to do what she knew she should, and she walked around the cross in respect and was shot. And I’m told that all the other students in the school also walked around the cross, and because of the power of her example, they were shot too.
Now the question is, “Did they win?” Well, you know, that’s a difficult question to answer depending on your perspective. Here there are school children who die young. In one sense they lose. But we do not have to win in this life in order to win in the next. We do not have to. God calls us to be faithful here and He will make it up for us. The Scripture says, “The spirit of glory and of God rests on us.”
In the 1600s there was a horseman by the name of Ferris the Horseman. Whether this is true or a legend I do not know, but the story is worth telling. He was training some horses, and the story goes that one day the whole herd of horses...and I think horses are a herd, aren’t they? They’re not a flock. They’ve got to be a herd. (chuckles) It’s been a while since I talked about horses. The whole herd of horses suddenly began to stampede toward a mirage in the desert. And he blew his horn, and he kept blowing it and blowing it. And five mares turned around, and the rest of the herd went stamping over to the mirage. And the story is that it was those five mares that were used to breed the very famous Arabian horses.
Do you know what God does when times get tough? And this is true whether it’s church—state issues, or whether it’s your personal struggles, or whatever. God blows His horn, and He tests His people to see how many will be faithful and obedient, no matter how tough it gets. And He says, “If you are [faithful], upon you,” He says, “the Spirit of God and of glory will rest.”
If we could look at it from the standpoint of eternity wouldn’t it be much better to be among those who are faithful to God in Nazi Germany, even though it cost them their lives and their families, than those who went along with the regime who lived, but who now are accountable to God? God is with us no matter what. We will, will triumph, for it is He who will cast down our enemies.
Let us pray.
Our Father, we thank You today for the privilege and the great honor that it is to live at this time. Surely no time in American history has been as interesting, as exciting and as challenging. And we pray, Father, that as we have the opportunity to interact with people that we might always represent Christ, that we might be able to stand for that which is right no matter where it takes place; to stand against evil, and that You might make us all that we should be even if times get more difficult. We thank You that we are filled with nothing but joy and hope, for we have all of Your promises and the strength of Your character to help us through. For that, Father, we praise You in Jesus’ name, Amen.