Momentum (Christ – centred, Spirit – empowered, Mission – focused)
The Gospel makes its greatest impact in the darkest moments of human history. Iraq and Syria are experiencing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions with 1.8 million Displaced People searching for food, shelter, and hope. ISIS is spreading a reign of terror throughout the land and innocent families are being torn apart; however, in the midst of the darkness, the Church of Jesus Christ is standing strong. There are four Alliance churches in Iraq, in the cities of Bagdad, Irbil, Mosul, and Dahuk. The walls of these churches are filled with fearless believers who are seeking to bring the hope of Jesus into a place of growing despair. The truth stands: Jesus will build his Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!
In my recent visit to Iraq, I was both humbled and deeply moved by what I saw; it was heartbreaking to hear the stories of pain and loss. The whole Middle East is being shaken like a massive earthquake; as a result, cracks are opening up, and the Gospel of Christ is making an impact. Andy Stanley articulates it this way: “Satan’s strategy to stop the Church will ultimately be the very thing that will advance the Church.” The Church is growing in the midst of persecution, and I witnessed firsthand the great reversal of Satan’s strategy!
The Bible is filled with stories of great reversal at work. Joseph, after suffering humiliation and abuse at the hands of his brothers, ended up being the very one who controlled the fate of his entire family. In a powerful reflection of his long and difficult journey, he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20). Satan’s strategy to stop the plan of God will ultimately be the very thing that will advance the plan of God.
The story of Saul the persecutor who became Paul the apostle is another amazing picture of God’s great reversal. Paul, by his own confession, was “…so obsessed with persecuting [the believers] that [he] even hunted them down in foreign cities” (Acts 26:11). Everything changed for Paul when he was encountered by the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. He said, “…I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads…I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me” (Acts 26:13-16). Here is the real twist: the very persecution that was set ablaze by the martyrdom of Stephen forced the Church out of Jerusalem and into the Gentile world. The church in Antioch was birthed by persecuted Christians who fled from Jerusalem. It is this church that embraced Paul and commissioned him into mission. Satan’s strategy to stop the Church ultimately becomes the very thing that advances the Church.
While in Iraq, I was introduced to a young dentist. He had married two months earlier and decided to work for a Christian relief organization in the dental clinic. When his father-in-law found out that he was going to work for the Christians, he offered the organization $200,000 to not hire his son-in-law for fear of what ISIS would do to him and his family. The young dentist responded to his father-in-law saying, “People have come from all over the world to join [ISIS] and are now here destroying and killing and bringing fear. Christians are coming from all over the world and they are bringing help, love, and hope. Which religion would you chose? I am going to be a Christian and help them.”
The amazing power of the sovereign God masterfully orchestrating the great reversal is a place of hope for each of us. What is the circumstance that seems unbearable in your life? Could it be that God is on the verge of preforming the great reversal? Remember, Satan’s strategy to stop God’s work in your life will ultimately become the very thing that will advance God’s work in your life.
“Christ’s resurrection will enable us to meet the hardest places in life and endure its bitterest trials” — A.B. Simpson
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