At War Once More
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 22 March 2003
I expect you've noticed - because you've been doing it yourselves - that all of a sudden people are huddled around their radios and television sets anxiously waiting for news of the latest war in Iraq which erupted on Wednesday. This is the third Iraqi war I have witnessed, not to mention one between Iraq and Iran, and numerous conflicts in Africa, Indochina, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. War has become so common place these days that most people don't even bat an eyelid. It's only when it comes on our own doorstep that people start taking notice and worrying.
As before when the first Gulf War broke out in 1991 when America was led by the current president's father, the Christian world was predicting that World War III was about to erupt and that Armageddon was upon us. We were one of the few Christian voices who said that this war was not the one that would lead to the Great Apocalypse and not to worry (OB 291). Back then we warned that this was just the opening gambit and that far worse was yet to come. In 1998 that same war resumed and I had a vision showing how the allies would fail to kill Saddam Hussein in their air attacks on his palaces. That came to nothing. But between the second Gulf War (which was more of a skirmish) and this one a major event took place in the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. Now there is the threat of international terrorism on a scale previously unknown.
People have been asking me what I have been told about the current war in Iraq and my answer has been that I have not been shown anything now since the visions I saw in 1998 and 1999, one of which was of a nuclear explosion. This time I do not know what is going to happen. Indeed, my counsel to all our congregations would essentially be the same as in the previous years: be prepared.
There are always things to be alarmed about and Yah'shua (Jesus) warned us that in the last days there would be constant wars and rumours of wars. He also admonished us, as did the apostles, to expect His return at any time, and to be in such a state of preparedness that should we be taken from life that we should not have to fear for our eternal salvation. More important, then, than the current war is the question: Are you ready to meet God? And, when you have done that, are you ready to help others do the same?
It is possible that war may very well be brought to Western cities by terrorists. But even in the absence of any overt terrorist activity yet, there is still much we can do to help those who may be frightened and have no faith. Yahweh often permits such "states of emergency" to bring people out of themselves and to consider the greater and more important questions of life.
There are, already, grieving widows, children, and parents as news of the first war dead trickles in. The casualty lists will get greater, and on both sides. As usual, innocents and non-combatants will be wounded, maimed, and killed. There are going to be a lot of people in need of a lot of consolation. How will you help them? What will you say to them? How will your caring make a difference?
"Some years ago Alexander Woolcott described a scene in a New York hospital where a grief-stricken mother sat in the hospital lounge in stunned silence, tears streaming down her cheeks. She had just lost her only child and she was gazing blindly into space while the head nurse talked to her, simply because it was the duty of the head nurse to talk in such circumstances.
"Did Mrs. Norris notice the shabby little boy sitting in the hall just next to her daughter's room?"
No, Mrs. Norris had not noticed him.
"There," continued the head nurse, "there is a case. That little boy's mother is a young French woman who was brought in a week ago by ambulance from their shabby one-room apartment to which they had gravitated when they came to this country scarcely three months ago. They had lost all their people in the old country and knew nobody here. The two had only each other. Every day that lad has come and sat there from sunup to sundown in the vain hope that she would awaken and speak to him. Now, he has no home at all!"
Mrs. Norris was listening now. So the nurse went on, "Fifteen minutes ago that little mother died, dropped off like a pebble in the boundless ocean, and now it is my duty to go out and tell that little fellow that, at the age of seven, he is all alone in the world." The head nurse paused, then turned plaintively to Mrs. Norris. "I don't suppose," she said hesitantly, "I don't suppose that you would go out and tell him for me?"
What happened in the next few moments is something that you remember forever. Mrs. Norris stood up, dried her tears, went out and put her arms around the lad and led that homeless child off to her childless home, and in the darkness they both knew they had become lights to each other!" (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 265-266).
They say that war brings out the best and worst in people. Since there is nothing we can do about the present war other than to pray, let us consider how we can be lights in the world to the many suffering people who will be its victims. We may by this means bring to people's attention just what Christ actually did for us.
"In the French revolution, a young man was condemned to the guillotine and shut up in one of the prisons. He was greatly loved by many, but there was someone who loved him more than all the others put together. That one was his own father, and the love he bore his son was proved in this way: when the lists were called, the father -- whose name was exactly the same as the son's -- answered to the name, and the father rode in the gloomy tumbrel out to the place of execution, and his head rolled beneath the axe instead of his son's, a victim to mighty love. See here an image of the love of Christ to sinners. For thus Yah'shua (Jesus) died for the ungodly". (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)).
Both of these stories are true images of the love of God and they inspire us. Most of us, however, are unlikely to find ourselves in such predicaments. Nevertheless, there is a wealth of opportunity right here, wherever you may be. No matter what your situation, Yahweh has given you opportunity to reveal His love to people and to grow as a result. But before we are in a position to do this, may I suggest that the first thing we have got to do is to accept the things we cannot change?
"The habit of resignation is the root of peace. A godly child had a ring given him by his mother, and he greatly prized it. But he suddenly and unhappily lost his ring, and he cried bitterly. Recollecting himself, he stepped aside and prayed. His sister laughingly said to him, "What is the good of praying about a ring -- will praying bring back your ring?"
"No, sister," said he, "perhaps not, but praying has done this for me: it has made me quite willing to do without the ring, if it is God's will. And is not that almost as good as having it?"
Thus faith quiets us by resignation, as a babe is hushed in his mother's bosom. Faith makes us quite willing to do without the mercy which once we prized; and when the heart is content to be without the outward blessing, it is as happy as it would be with it, for it is at rest" (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990).
We have all of us, without exception, been denied things that we would like. It may be our health, our country, our friends, recognition, or basic comforts. Right now we are being denied peace and before long it may well spill beyond Iraq's borders and hit our own homes. As believers we are called to be leaders - to show those in darkness how to come into the light.
"A true leader is committed to the cause, and does not become the cause. Staying personally dedicated to the cause can become extremely difficult, particularly if the cause succeeds. A subtle change in thinking can overtake the leader of a successful ministry. He or she begins "needing" certain things to carry on the ministry -- things that were not needed earlier. I admire Mother Teresa, who decided after winning the Nobel Prize that she would not go to accept any more recognition because it interfered with her work. She knew she was not in the business of accepting prizes; she was in the business of serving the poor of Calcutta. She maintained her dedication to the cause by refusing unrelated honors" (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 311).
There is no more important question for us as individuals to discover what our rôle in life is. We need to know what our callings are. The answers may not come all at once but answers we can surely get provided we maintain a humble attitude.
I wonder how many of you here have heard of Frencham Pond? Probably no more than two of us in the whole of the Church internationally. Well, our brethren in America, Africa, and Asia with some justification might exclaim: "Where the blue blazes is Frencham Pond?" As it happens, its a small pond near where I used to live in England. Doesn't mean much to you, but it meant something to me. But if I were to ask you if you'd heard of the Atlantic Ocean, I know almost all of you would know what I was talking about.
"Rivers gain more attention than the little streams that create them. You can name the great rivers of the world but you cannot name their tributaries. However, without the tributaries there would be no river. It must be remembered, too, that the smaller streams, while less well known, are purer and are found on a higher elevation. Some of our lives are tributary lives. It is our role to provide the pure water from the higher elevation that enables another to be a mighty river of power and influence" (Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
Whatever our rôle may be, we must learn to be content with it, otherwise we may be failing others. If your life has stagnated and you feel you aren't getting anywhere, it may be that you have your sights just a little too high. It may be that you are supposed to be Frencham Pond and not the Atlantic Ocean.
Yahweh measures our service not by our ability but by our willingness. What are you willing to do? What are you waiting for? There is never any justification to stagnate. And if you doubt me, look at the story of Joseph, son of Jacob. Whether as Prime Minister of Egypt or in a stinking prison hole, he thrived! And he thrived because he made the best of what was available to him and took all the unconquered ground that lay before him. Yes, he was gifted. But then so are you. Everyone is. We are all gifted to do the things Yahweh wants us to do in the place He has put us, whether it's Frencham Pond or the Atlantic Ocean.
As we are in a wartime situation once again, I'd like to end with a couple of last thoughts. When war comes, it is so easy to hate and even easier to find scapegoats for our own failings by blaming ther enemy. As Christians, however, we have been called to occupy much, much higher moral ground.
"An Indian brave found an eagle's egg. Since he couldn't find the nest to put it back, he did the next-best thing. He put the eagle's egg in a nest with prairie chicken eggs. So the eagle was hatched and began to live with the prairie chickens. All it saw were chickens, so it clucked and scratched and pecked around and was a chicken for years. And then one day it saw a glorious sight in the sky, a great bald eagle soaring up there. He said, "What is that?"
The chicken said, "That is the eagle, the king of birds. But forget it. That's not for you; you are a chicken." And he lived the rest of his life clucking, pecking, and scratching, and not flying.
Listen, friends: by the grace of God, you and I are called to be eagles to soar. That means loving your enemy, loving yourself even when you don't love your enemy, and trying again to love your enemy. That's the law and the gospel" (Bruce Larson, When Your Enemy Prospers, Preaching Today, Tape No. 78).
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could forget out troubles as quickly as we forget our blessings? Think of the state of mind we'd be in! If you wait until every hindrance is removed before serving Yahweh, you'll never attempt anything for Him. Do you feel your conditions are less than ideal? Do you wish you could "break out" into the world and make a name for yourself? Perhaps what you need to do is break into the one you're already in and count the blessings around you.
"Once upon a time, there was a man who lived with his wife, two small children, and his elderly parents in a tiny hut. He tried to be patient and gracious, but the noise and crowded conditions wore him down.
In desperation, he consulted the village wise man. "Do you have a rooster?" asked the wise man.
"Yes," he replied.
"Keep the rooster in the hut with your family, and come see me again next week."
The next week, the man returned and told the wise elder that living conditions were worse than ever, with the rooster crowing and making a mess of the hut. "Do you have a cow?" asked the wise elder. The man nodded fearfully. "Take your cow into the hut as well, and come see me in a week."
Over the next several weeks, the man -- on the advice of the wise elder--made room for a goat, two dogs, and his brother's children.
Finally, he could take no more, and in a fit of anger, kicked out all the animals and guests, leaving only his wife, his children, and his parents. The home suddenly became spacious and quiet, and everyone lived happily ever after" (Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 1.).
May Yahweh bless you all. Amen.
This page was created on 28 March 2003
Last updated on 28 March 2003
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