Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray that you have a very blessed New Year! As we begin 2023, I want to share some personal testimonies and insights with you, which I trust will encourage you in the season ahead.
Battles and blessings do not appear to belong in the same sentence but in truth, they do. My purpose here is to help us understand that blessings can emerge out of battles. In fact, our very salvation came from the battle prior to the Cross, when Jesus sweated blood and gave Himself to the Father’s will. The Crucifixion must be the greatest of battles, where He took upon Himself the sins of the world. His Resurrection must be the greatest of victories, when He emerged victor over sin, death, Hell, and the grave!
We have a great heritage in Christ; we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ (see Ephesians 1:3). We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (see Romans 8:17). We cannot truly experience His victory until we see victories in our own battles. Our heroes are those who are tested in battles and come out victorious. Our liberties, our heritage, our testimonies, and our lasting relationships are each battle-tested.
The years 1979 and 1980 are among the most difficult times of my life and our family’s life. In 1979, Jim Jones infamously led his hundreds of cult followers to Guyana and ultimately to suicide. It was a traumatic tragedy that rocked nations; it also brought suspicion and attacks upon many legitimate churches and Christian groups. A most prominent Christian televangelist pronounced me a “cult leader,” along with others. We once had daily broadcasts on his TV network, but he later spread many damaging untruths about us. Other preachers, including some in our own hometown, picked up his slander and ran with it.
My family had just moved into a neighborhood here in Mobile, Alabama. A local pastor’s wife wrote a pamphlet stating that I was a “new Jim Jones.” The result was that crosses were burned on our front lawn; our house and property were repeatedly vandalized; shots were fired into one of our windows; a stalker appeared at another window; one of our sons was spat upon and physically attacked at school; he also had a confrontation with a car driving through our yard in the middle of the night; ultimately, for a season, we had to have guards at our home. During this time, I was traveling in ministry often.
In 1980, I was invited to a leader’s conference in Illinois attended by about 60 international leaders. I was not physically well but went anyway. The topic would be “The Discipleship Controversy.” I arrived early to meet with two friends who told me that they did not trust me. That conversation was extremely painful!
I went to bed that night in darkness, laying in the bed sweating out a fever and unable to sleep. In the darkness and quietness, I had a vision of an ancient figure standing in a field surrounded by adversaries attempting to kill him, but he was shouting, “You can’t have this field,” over and over again. Then I began to say it with him, repeatedly, as I lay upon my bed, “You can’t have this field!” Soon, I got up, turned on the light, and got my Bible. I opened it randomly, and before my eyes was
Second Samuel 23:11-12.
Shammah was standing in a field of lentils, surrounded by hostile Philistines who wanted to kill him and take his field. Then the Lord spoke to me, “Don’t give up what I have given to you.” I decided there and then to stand and fight. Shammah fought, but the Lord won the victory. Shammah was battle-tested and became one of David’s mighty men.
I believe that the fundamental issue is, will we give up what the Lord has given to us? The next question is, where is the battle? If we are victorious, who really won the battle?
Recently, I reading Psalm 24:8-9, “Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory shall come in.” There will be and there are battles, but the Lord reveals His power and glory in battles. Testimonies come from battles won!
In Psalm 23, David says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” David was battle-tested, first with a lion who wanted his sheep, then a bear, and soon it was a giant. He was battle-tested!
When Samuel came to Jesse’s house to privately anoint a new king, he almost anointed Eliab who looked good, but was rejected. After the Lord rejected each of David’s brothers, David was summoned from the pasture and Samuel anointed him, because David had a heart after God’s own heart (see 1 Samuel 16). When trouble came, David lifted his head! God was for him; who could stand against him? (See also Romans 8:31.) God loves the courageous heart!
Our real heroes are those who have been battle-tested. Our soldiers, our founders, and many others have stood up in battles and God gave them victories. “Heroes” based only upon image or words are not real heroes.
Billions of people worldwide love and watch sports in every season. The problem is that many people do not know what athletes endure just to get on the field. Training is difficult and many athletes quit before achieving their goal or dream. Spectators too often are just that … spectators. But as we walk with the Lord, we are all in training for a special moment and must not quit but lift our eyes and look at Jesus! If we do lift our heads, we can discover that the Lord is mighty in battle!
My dear friend, it is not about image, it is about heart! Don’t be naïve … accept the test as preparation for the field of battle and knowing the power of the Almighty! Naivete is a real problem. Just because we have watched contests does not mean we are ready for one. In fact, naïve people will likely choose “good-looking leaders” instead of leaders who are battle-tested; then crisis will surely come to untested leaders who are not prepared. Woe to the people who have untested, naïve leaders who lack discernment or heart for battle. Their seductive words draw the untested, naïve followers into self-destruction. If the blind lead the blind, they both wind up in the ditch (see Matthew 15:14)!
OPPORTUNITY IN CRISIS
I believe that our nation and indeed the entire world is in crisis, with more to come. No, I am not being gloomy. Daniel 12:10 tells us that both wickedness and righteousness will increase, but that will lead to purification of the righteous. I believe that crisis can lead to repentance and purification. Often people need to experience the results of their path in order to change their course. It has often been so in history. It is in realizing our peril that we repent and seek God. This is a great opportunity to seek the Lord. It is also a great opportunity to share the Gospel with someone who is in crisis.
It is not time to blame or condemn people for their crisis. It is not time to criticize those who “brought it on themselves.” It is time to offer hope in the Lord who is mighty in battle! If we are victorious in our battles, we have a testimony to share and we can help them overcome.
Are you in a battle? Have you stood and done all to stand? Are you ready to lift up your head? Have you given it to the Lord and put your trust in Him? Are you in faith for a fresh testimony, something that the Lord has done?
In the 1960s and 70s, many of us traveled the nations giving our testimonies of healing, deliverance, and being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Millions more were healed, delivered, saved, and filled with the Holy Spirit! Testimonies are powerful and bring the same hope to those in need. Share your testimony with others and be a faith builder. Scripture gives us this hope: “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
The prophetic Spirit tells us what is ahead and to prepare ourselves. The Bible was given in that Spirit. I have tried to be obedient in that Spirit. It is not an easy message, but it comes from the love of God. So how do we prepare? Here are some thoughts which I pray comes from that same Holy Spirit.
• Know that God loves us, wants us to love others, and reveal His power to them.
• Know that He is with us in the Holy Spirit.
• Know that His Word came from His Holy Spirit. Get full of His Word.
• Seek a new sensitivity to the Word and the Holy Spirit.
• Don’t fight with others; our battle is not with flesh and blood.
• Study Ephesians 6:10-18 carefully and do what it says.
• Stay focused on His Kingdom, His Holy Spirit, and your mission (see Acts 1).
• Avoid unnecessary distraction, debates, telling God what to do … listen to Him.
• Ask for His peace in the midst of your storms. He is never afraid!</font color>
MIGHTY IN BATTLE
My intention in writing to you this month has been to encourage and strengthen us, not frighten us. I love you and thank you for prayers, friendship, and financial support. Yes, we have had our storms as well in our family and here at CSM. Would you please continue to stand with us in 2023? Though there is great opposition, there is also great opportunity! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is still the power of God unto salvation. I know many of you face battles as well. Please know of our love and prayers for you. (See the card enclosed if you would like to share your prayer requests.)
Also, please mark your calendar for our May 9-11 CSM Gatlinburg Leadership Conference. Our theme this year will be “Rhythms of Grace.” More information coming soon! My desire for all of us in 2023 is that we can prove ourselves in battle, lift our heads, and see the Lord mighty in battle. He still is the King of Glory!
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.