I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard people debate the will of God. We seek after God’s will for how we should live our life, whereas the answer is found in God’s nature. I like cozy Christianity, myself, but I’ve learned that it impedes us from living the life we were called to pursue. Let me explain.
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The Story of a Soldier
Are you familiar with the story of Desmond Doss?
It might be familiar if you saw the 2016 blockbuster film, “Hacksaw Ridge.” Desmond Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who joined the military in World War II, but only under the conditions that he would not kill or bear arms; this was according to his beliefs.
Although Mel Gibson’s movie is accountable for a significant amount of literary license, specifically in Doss’ early years, it does present the believer with a challenge to live according to the nature of God.
Doss was treated terribly by the members of his battalion, and even by some of his commanders. They had no respect for this man who didn’t believe in what they did, nor did he live by their rules.
But what they didn’t know, was that God had placed Doss there to save their lives.
They didn’t know that when their weapons were depleted, their strength had failed, and their bodies were broken and mangled, that it would be this man who would lead them to safety.
Doss was a dedicated medic. In fact, he was fearless.
Over the course of weeks, he exposed himself to open fire by the Japanese to rescue his wounded countrymen. He single-handedly dragged soldiers (sometimes up to 300 yards) to the precipice of Hacksaw Ridge, a 400 foot cliff. Then he would belay them down to safety.
You can read this citation he received from President Harry S. Truman in 1945 for a more detailed account of his acts of bravery.
The War We Are In
In many ways, we are like Desmond Doss. We are in the midst of a supernatural war between holiness and evil. The more open we are about what we believe, the more we expose ourselves to scrutiny, even persecution.
The more you understand of the world, the more you understand that the world hates Jesus and the faith to which He called us. Our society is changing rapidly due to the success of the progressive movement.
As laws are changing from province to province, Christians are either slowly being muzzled or coerced to fall in line with where “we are at as a society.” Words our Prime Minister used last year as he was defending reproductive rights.
(For more on this issue, listen to this podcast, “How Should Christians Respond to Abortion?“)
Have you ever asked God, “How much longer?”
I have long been a member of the choir that sings, “Surely Jesus is coming back soon!”
Many people like to speculate on how long it will be before the rapture; Christians have been doing this for centuries! Here’s what we need to ask ourselves:
Do we have a firm understanding of what the ancient Prophets wrote about the End times? Or are we hoping that Christ returns soon because we fear the persecution that awaits us?
All of the fear and dread is completely understandable because we have seen how tides are turning. But could it be that we think things are getting worse because we have been shielded from the persecution?
Could it actually be that our Western church is being pushed out of its cozy Christianity against its will?
What does the Bible Say?
The Battle Plan is Found in the Nature of God
The Apostle Peter, who was persecuted, tortured and ultimately martyred, wrote in his second letter.
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.2 Peter 3:8-9
God is watching this planet self-destruct. He sees the evil, the pain, and the injustice. He does not watch from a distance, for the Father of light and life is near to the broken-hearted.
And as Peter says, he tarries, as some view tardiness, because He is saying “one more.”
This side of heaven, we do not know what awaits the unbelievers in hell. We can debate it, however we have no capacity to understand.
But God does. That’s why He gave us Jesus. He knows that nothing we can go through on this planet is as terrible as an existence permanently separated from Him. And so He delays in sending our Groom to bring home His bride.
Lost on the Battlefield
And so here we are, standing at the top of a cliff, scared and uncertain. We don’t know if we should retreat and attempt the precarious journey down to safety, or if we should venture into the smog and fire.
My heart so resounds with these lines from the film, as Doss trembles alone in the darkness.
“What is it you want of me? I don’t understand. I can’t hear you.”
We can easily reason that God does not want to see any of His children suffer, so it is hard to reconcile why sometimes our Lord calls us to stand firm and endure persecution, when we could just as easily stay out of the line of fire.
Full disclosure: I thought I was going to write a post about why Christians should observe Lent. (Spoiler alert: the Apostles observed a yearly fast before Passover, so I think that answer should rightly be yes.)
In my research, I began reading the writings of Eusebius (a historian who lived from 263 to 339 AD). As I scanned through the document, I kept seeing the word “martyr.”
Despite the fact that I talk a lot about looking into the darkness others live in, I did not want to read about the persecution. But as I should practice what I preach, I took a deep breath and started reading.
You can access this document here, and start reading on page 140.
I warn you, it’s graphic.
With love and compassion, I say you should read it. Because these Fathers and Mothers of our faith bore the unthinkable to keep the message of the Gospel alive for you and me!
The Soldier Who Stays
You know what’s amazing? And when I say “amazing,” I mean drop-to-your-knees humbling.
The Christians who were persecuted, then and even now, have a strength and courage that we cannot possibly understand when we attempt to live out our faith with caution.
How do they do it? They have a revelation of Jesus that creates joy in times of persecution; even when facing death.
I recall when my daughter and I went to an underground gathering in China years ago. Young people were praying so passionately, begging God to send them to the most dangerous places. They were actually hoping to die as martyrs! I had never seen anything like it. I still can’t get over the fearless passion for Jesus that this church embodied.
(…)As I described church life in America, they began to laugh. Not just small chuckles–they were laughing hysterically. I felt like a standup comedian, but I was literally just describing the American church as I’ve experienced it. They found it laughable that we could read the same Scriptures they were reading and then create something so incongruent.“Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan
As Eusebius set out to record the great persecution of the holy witnesses. He records here:
But the grace of God led the conflict against him, and delivered the weak, and set them as firm pillars, able through patience to endure all the wrath of the Evil One. And they joined battle with him, undergoing all kinds of shame and injury; and regarding their great sufferings as little, they hastened to Christ, manifesting truly that ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us afterward.’ Romans 8:18.”Eusebius: History of the Church – Book V – Chapter 1.
The Victory in Obedience
The great truth that we need to awaken to is that God wants us to step out for ‘one more’.
I type this holding back a flood of tears, because I know to the depths of my soul that this is not only the will of God, it is in accordance with the nature of God.
“What is it you want of me? I don’t understand… I can’t hear you…”
Desmond may not have been able to hear God speaking, but he heard the call of his brothers in arms. He heard the desperate calls of the wounded and dying. And that was all he needed to hear to take his next step forward.
Sometimes God answers our questions through the call of those He wants us to serve.
I don’t know where God wants you to step out in faith. Only you know that. It’s a conversation you need to press in and have with Him. I am labouring to do the same thing.
I want to climb down off of this cliff and retreat. But God keeps showing me reasons to step forward.
When surrounded by attacks and carnage, when it seems time to flee, we are called back into the flames, the smog, the danger, the evil.
We are called by souls who don’t know that they are dying.
When the enemy seems to be winning, we head back in. We head back in not as soldiers of war, but like the medic Desmond Doss, we risk it all to save the wounded. We stop pursuing cozy Christianity and we pray, “Lord, help me get one more!”
Watch this powerful scene from the movie “Hacksaw Ridge. Ask God where He is calling you. (Please note, this clip is meant for mature audiences only.)
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