Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fear Not

Many American Christians, when asked why they are hesitant to be involved in missions will say that they are afraid that God will send them to Africa. What about African Christians? When they are asked where they are afraid God will send them, many say Tanzania. There usually seems to be somewhere worse than where we are.

What are we afraid of?

Perhaps it's the discomfort of living within means that seem woefully impoverished although the people missionaries minister to are typically moreso. Would it be the infestations of various insects and vermin? There are cockroaches in South America that chirp you to sleep at night from the wall next to your head. There are the tiny ants that you share your food with in places in Africa. You may just get several with each bite for some additional protein.

Perhaps its the security factor where you shouldn't go out at night exposing yourself to attack by various types of mauraders. Sometimes theft or attack happens in broad daylight.

Perhaps its the exposure to diseases and parasites in the water, the people you minister to, or the animals you come in contact with such as stray dogs, flies or mosquitos.

There's the trepidation we all have towards various governments and their hatred for Christians. We fear imprisonment. We fear separation from loved ones. We fear torture and even death.

Face it, many people around the world don't like us. We could get caught with an extra Bible in China or the Middle East. We could be burned to death in a car in India with our children. We could become deathly ill in the Himalayas with no physician, medical care, or even roads for quick travel for many miles. We could be taken prisoner in the Indies and required to live in solitary confinement. We could be taken hostage by a rogue militia in the Phillipines and watch them kill our spouse. We could watch our spouse go out to make first contact with a tribe in Ecuador never to return. We could be beheaded in the Middle East or tortured to death in Turkey with multiple surgical stab wounds designed for the maximum amount of pain. We could spend hours in gruelling interrogation for our activities. We could discover that the government has an extensive dossier on us and has been tracking our movements for years for the purpose of destroying the local underground church and all who attend it and minister therein. We could sit by and watch as our villiage faces attack by a neigboring villiage - right in your front yard.

All these things have happened and it's only a small sample.

Is this what we are afraid of?

I got into a conversation recently where the fate of the United States was questioned. It was noted that once we were a moral people and now we are decidely not. We have gone through periods of relative morality and periods of relative immorality. At no time have we been completely immoral or completely moral.

As an aside, part of the most recent slide into immorality comes from the fact that our last spate of morality in about the 1940's was merely moral and not explicitly Christian. It's one thing to do the right thing becuase doing the right thing is in your best interest and another to do the right thing because you want to glorify God.

The larger picture is that history is like the vibrating of a guitar string. There is a cyclical arch to it. However, the string does not merely vibrate between its end points. It also vibrates in subdivisions. That is, it vibrates from the center point to the ends or in halves. It also vibrates in thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, on up to the point where the segments are too small for it to physically vibrate. Each of these vibrations, being fractionally smaller than the length of the string have different pitches that comprise the harmonic overtones that characterize the timbre, or tonal quality, of the string.

History is like this vibrating string in that historical patterns happen at large intervals as well as smaller intervals such that history resonates with harmonic regularity: the flow of thought through history, the conduct of wars and international policy, the fidelity of the people of the living God, the settlement of the land, the technological advances, etc. Have we the capacity to build structures that rival the pyramids of Egypt or the Colossus of Rhodes? Sure we do. But for a long time after the pyramids were built, we didn't. Read the book of Judges and see how the Hebrews would become unfaithful, God would punish them, they would become faithful for a time, only to slip back into infidelity as a nation.

Inasmuch as men have been barbaric, and have become civilized, the civilizations of men will fall once again into barbarism.

As the conversation the other night progressed, one fellow conceded that he feared that our way of life would be over and our children would have a difficult world in which to live. I assured him that God was still sovereign and told him that he therefore had nothing to fear. This is why we need to prepare our children now.

Do you fear the future? In whom is your trust? If you trust God then no matter what happens, fear not.

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