Publication: Pastoral Letter, October 2009
Dear Friend in Christ:
When we cannot see the way ahead, there is The Way. So it was with the disciples in John chapters 14-16. Jesus had told them of unthinkable events that lay ahead, including His own Crucifixion, burial, and Resurrection. Added to that was His warning that they would face tribulation. They were, of course, full of trepidation and fear.
In our time, there are many believers who – while they may be facing less trauma and tribulation_are still dealing with trepidation, deep concerns, and fear. Many of us cannot see the way forward.
I recently received a small book on the subject of guidance, which was written by a missionary to India many years ago. She had been taught three simple principles by an older, successful missionary. When someone came to her with a bad situation and seemingly no way forward, she would invite them to pray with her, listen for an answer from God, and commit to obey what He said. The book was filled with testimonies of positive results. Praying honestly, listening intently, and obeying completely are keys to the way ahead. Sometimes the instructions from God are not what we would expect, but the way ahead is in Jesus.
Jesus gave the disciples specific instructions for how to endure and overcome what was to be a traumatic situation. At the heart of John chapters 14-16 is His statement in 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Jesus had begun His discourse by saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” Belief that Jesus is the way is the key to a peaceful heart. Jesus promised the disciples and us many great and valuable promises if we believe that He is The Way!
In other words, though change will be great and trying, we will be equipped for the times.
I remember the night that I accepted that Jesus would be my “way”. I was a sinner incapable of doing what I should, but He would be my answer. Later, when I was made certain of His call to be a minister, unqualified and seeing no way forward, I again trusted Him to be my way. He has been for the last 52 years, when I saw no other way.
Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation.” I have also found that to be true. But He didn’t stop there. He continued, “…but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” We need to receive the entire verse.
Tribulation is the testing of our souls, and in many cases it has included physical suffering. Yet, the Bible teaches that tribulation works good things in us. It presses us into God and causes us to distinguish between what is necessary and what is unnecessary. It is like the storm recorded in Acts 27, when the crew threw the cargo overboard in order to survive. Tribulation motivates us in a similar way.
Romans 5 tells us that tribulation works in us to produce patience, perseverance, character and hope. These are good things that seem to come no other way. Much like stressful training to an athlete, enduring hardship produces strength.
Testing has many tools: opposition, finances, competition and even war. I remember WWII, Vietnam, Korea and more recent conflicts. Our nation and our people were surely challenged. Now we are challenged by militant Islam, secularism, cultural conflicts, and economic recession, as well as personal issues. The culture seems infested with violence, immorality, economic chaos, corruption, political ambition, and religious hypocrisy. Christians are caught in the cross currents and cultural melee.
Where we ourselves are guilty, repentance is required. Where we suffer over issues beyond our control, we must allow tribulation to do its refining work with joy, not bitterness. It is important to count our blessings amid the conflict and remember the price others have paid for us to be so blessed. In all matters, we must turn to The Way.
I was recently reading the book of Revelation once again. Many years ago, I spent an entire year in that book looking at it dipensationally – that is, thinking that the book was written for certain periods of time. Lately, I have come to believe that it speaks to followers of Jesus in every age.
Chapter one tells us that it is the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” Chapter two and three speak to the seven churches. In each case, promises were made to the “overcomers.” The word “overcomers” is a clue to all of us. Revelation 4:1 says, “after these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this,’” John was immediately in the Spirit and saw events in heaven and on earth. Among the things that John saw was God’s throne, heaven’s worship, war in heaven and on Earth, persecution and God’s ultimate triumph. What struck me as I read was the word must.
Yes, we can change some things, and are called to do so. But the fact that there will be great spiritual conflict cannot be altered. We can overcome by the blood of Christ, the word of our testimony, and laying down our lives. But we cannot remove the conflict. The throne is unshakable, but the world is being shaken violently. We are not the first to face it and if the Lord tarries, we will not be the last. But we can be of good cheer in the face of it, if we see Him as the way. Look at these promises:
What must come is more than matched by Him who loves us.
Some see religion as an escape from suffering. I would urge them to read Hebrews 11 once again. When tribulation comes, “escapists” will either change theologies or fall way. Biblical theology will serve us well in times of testing.
The Chinese believers have grown in persecution. When leaders are imprisoned, believers multiply. It is said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the saints.” Some say, “It could not happen here; this is America!” It can and it will. Those who relentlessly seek to marginalize the Church will persecute it when it becomes politically acceptable. Those who talk about “tolerance” can be extremely intolerant.
Make no mistake, people who savagely murder viable babies, euthanize the elderly, and protect child molesters will have little problem with the idea of persecuting followers of Jesus. Already, they blame Christians for standing in their way to “social utopia,” which includes the homosexual agenda. These people have steadily gained power and influence in our culture, while Christians slumbered. Romans 13:11 warns us that it is “high time to awake out of sleep.”
I am reminded of a sermon delivered by the noted pastor and evangelist, Dr. R. G. Lee: “Alibi, Lullaby, and Bye-and-Bye.” He warned of the alibi habit, the lullaby attitude, and the bye-and-bye judgment.
The above description of our plight is not new; it is characteristic of decaying cultures throughout history. Are these the last days? We have been living in the last days since Jesus. He overcame, and through Him, we can. The body of Christ must come together in Him, and not around some “hot new method.” Let us stop speculating about topics over which we have no control. Let us stop trying to identify the antichrist and seek the true Christ. He is The Way, not some speculation.
We must stop speaking of this nation as a “Christian nation.” It isn’t any longer. There are mosques and temples everywhere and many universities that are actually temples of secularism – the worship of humanity. But reacting to those ideologies is not our answer. Jesus did not send the disciples out to fight paganism; He sent them out to make disciples. That we have not done; we have made converts ill-prepared for real conflict.
The challenge that we face is more inward than outward. It is the challenge of our own hearts to return to The Way, listen and obey with our whole heart. He will make a way where there seems to be none.
What really bothers many people is the phrase, “the way.” They would grant that perhaps He is a way but not the way. However, Acts 4:12 says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This was the apostolic creed, and for that many died. But it was The Way that made the way for us, not some other way. The Apostles were commanded by civil authorities not to preach or do miracles in that name. Nevertheless, they stood steadfast and Jesus made the way that got us here today.
Like the missionary in India, it is time to pray, listen and obey. Like our Chinese brethren, it is time to face suffering and tribulation and overcome. We can do so by the blood of Christ, the word of our testimony, and laying down our lives.
Let me say that I join you in repentance, prayer, listening and obedience. I join you in The Way. I believe the door into heaven is still open and the Voice is still speaking. The conflict is still there but so is The Way forward.
Please share this letter with a friend and urge them to join us to seek the Lord for His will and for our nation. Also, let me sincerely ask you to keep us in your prayers and in your special giving this month. Like many ministries, we have faced a significant downturn in giving, even as opportunities and needs have continued to grow. More and more people are open to hearing the Good News of Christ’s Kingdom and we are called to share it with them.
Also, remember to visit us on the web at www.csmpublishing.org and to mark your calendar for the April 14-16, 2010 CSM Gatlinburg Conference. We would love to see you there!
P.S. We are releasing a brand new “live” audio teaching on “Breakthrough” which offers more insight and encouragement. To receive it, please see the enclosed card.
Scripture Reference: John, Acts, Romans, Revelation, 1 John, Hebrews,
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.