By Greg Robbins ( e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
It seems to me that people take the things of God lightly today. There is a levity in our attitudes concerning the word of God and the will of God. It carries over into the service given to God as well. It shows in our speech and in our actions. I think that this is largely because the distractions of our modern world are so great. But forget not that in the simpler times of Israel’s history, they repeatedly backslid, fell away, and rebelled against God; so the modern distractions cannot bear all of the blame. I would also lay some of the blame to the lack of persecution in our safe western society. Persecution as suffered by the early church is a necessary ingredient to produce healthy Christians. When your earthly goods are stolen, you are imprisoned, tortured, and killed for your faith; you tend to be very serious about the things of God.
I am speaking of persecution for Christians and the positive effect it has on them. Non-Christians are also persecuted for their religious beliefs or ethnic origins, but in the end it profits them nothing. I speak of situations like the Jews in the Holocaust, or the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia or the Soviet Union. At this point in time persecution in the United States and other western countries is practically non-existent. So the church has grown fat, lazy, and sinful to a large extent. There is always a remnant of people who stay on-fire for God no matter what. But in a society in which statistics show that only about 25% of church attendees tithe, very few go out to preach the gospel, few give their time and money to help the poor and needy, there is a 50% divorce rate, a large number of pastors are addicted to pornography, teen pregnancy is way up, and multitudes of other problems as well; no one can claim that the modern church is healthy and thriving. These statistics show something else altogether.
Joshua 6:12-16 “And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rear guard came after the the ark of the Lord, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord has given you the city.”
Look at the utter seriousness in which Joshua and the children of Israel treated the things of God! There was no levity or playing church about it. It was life and death. If they disobeyed the commands and instructions that God gave them, they could be killed or entirely wiped out. In our own military there are frequently battlefield revivals and conversions when the soldiers know that their life could end at any moment. Persecution and war tend to make people get totally serious about being right with God.
Joshua rose up early in the morning. Not to have coffee, orange juice, breakfast, and to read the newspaper; but to get ready to serve the Lord. The soldiers and the priests also rose early to serve the Lord. They carefully followed the instructions and commands given to Joshua. They acted out what God had commanded. The result was that the walls of Jericho fell down and they took the city. A great victory came by obeying the Lord in all things.
Acts 12:1-12 “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also, (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and he delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth unto the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came unto him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird yourself, and bind on your sandals. And so he did. And he said unto him, Cast your garment about you, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and knew not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate which leads unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through the street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come unto himself, he said, now I know of a surety, that the Lord has sent his angel, and has delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.”
Look at the seriousness of the situation, along with the sobriety, and the devotion of the disciples. King Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword, and he had Peter arrested and put in prison. What were their crimes? Preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus, and winning converts to the church. It was faith related and it was persecution pure and simple. The entire church was in continual prayer day and night for Peter. They gathered in homes and they all prayed day and night.
Now days if a prayer meeting is announced, only a small percentage of the people would come. The majority of church attendees today do not even pray and read their Bible every day. Churches today boast of large memberships of say, 4,000 people. But on any given Sunday, only 50%-60% of those people show up. I have attended Lakewood Church out in Houston, Texas. They boast of around 50,000 people. I have counted the stadium seats and factored in the different services, but still, only 50%-60% of the people showed up.
Well, here the entire church showed up to pray! That is 100% of the members. What is the difference between these results and the lukewarm results in modern churches? More than any other factor it is the fact that they suffered dire persecution, and we today have NEVER suffered persecution in our lifetime. Yet even today, millions of people die as martyrs worldwide. Recently we have seen the middle east Christians have their heads chopped off by Isis. These Christians are very serious about the things of God. They have had to lose their homes, their possessions, their family members, their friends, their jobs, the life they once knew, their freedom, and ultimately their lives in martyrdom.
Wherever there is persecution, the church grows serious, strong, healthy, and vibrant. Without persecution the church grows sick and weak. Starting in 1905 in the Ottoman Empire in the country of Turkey, 2 million ethnic Armenian Christians were martyred for their faith by Moslems. I have a picture on Pinterest of Armenian girls crucified during this horrible event.
I remember a story of a pastor and his family in Korea during the Korean war. The communists overran a village and gave the opportunity to this pastor to renounce his faith, or that he and his family would die. They dug a deep pit in the center of town and put this pastor, his wife, and their three little children into the pit. The entire village was forced to watch.The pastor began to waiver as his children cried and said, “Daddy think about us!” He started to speak up and his wife said, “Daddy don’t!” She said, “Children be quiet. Tonight we shall eat dinner at the house of the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.” She led them all in loudly singing a church hymn. As they were buried alive, first the voices of the children were silenced, and then the mother and the father. As a result of this public execution nearly everyone in the village who witnessed this event, later became Christians because of what they had witnessed.
Many Koreans were martyred for their faith in Christ. The church is founded upon the blood of martyrs. Today, South Korea has the largest percentage of Christians per capita than any other country. Without martyrs there cannot be healthy Christians. When we compare the Christians in the early church to the Christians of today, there is absolutely no resemblance whatsoever. It is like taking a space alien and comparing it to a human being. This should greatly concern us. To bake a cake, the recipe must be carefully followed or it will not turn out well. The recipe for making healthy Christians includes persecution. Sometimes I think that it would be proper to pray for God to send persecution to America. I haven’t decided yet if that would be proper or not. But I do know that American Christianity needs a revival of holiness before it is too late. Some have said that if God failed to judge and destroy America, then he would owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.