I’ve been in and out of South Africa since 2008 and yet this is the first time I’ve felt a large body of South Africans feeling uncomfortable about where the nation is heading. I’ve met ex-patriots now living oversees who have feared the worst – and understandably considering some of the events that led them to leave – but never before have I sat in on so many dinner-side discussions about the what ifs of a civil war.
Of course, one topic leads to another and starting on the likelihood of civil war quickly leads us to talking about the wider global atmosphere and the likelihood of the fall of the west – to China, Islam, the culture of immigrants and so forth.
It often gets bleak and heavy. I don’t like bleak and heavy. I understand the importance of being aware of what is happening nationally and globally, but I think of greater importance is what we do with our awareness. Do we leave it at talk and pondering? Do we take action? What action do we take?
I’d like to suggest three primary actions:
- Let’s pray.
Let’s pray for the nations in turmoil. Let’s pray for minority groups – and yes, whites and especially white Christians are the minority in many countries. Let’s pray for nations at risk of civil war. Let’s pray for nations where concepts like civil liberty are a joke. Let’s pray for unity and boldness within the church. Let’s ask God for His purposes on the earth at this time and then pray for His will to be done.
- Let’s go.
Not in the sense of running away, but rather in the sense of going to nations and places of conflict.
God says: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
Only yesterday I was praying in church and had the image of a half-reaped field. Now I live in farming country, but I don’t have to be told that a half-reaped field is not going to bring me the best return possible for my investment of time and money. I’m going to work as hard as possible to bring in all that wheat. I’m going to hope for more labourers, but even if they don’t come, I’m going to work my butt off to get all that wheat in before it’s too late.
Muslims are hungry for truth. New-ageists are hungry for truth. Buddhists, atheists, Jews, Mormons . . . so much hunger in their midst. Why are we believers afraid to go to them? Are we willing to speak out about our faith in our community, regardless of who is listening? Are we willing to invite our child’s Islamic friend over with his parents for dinner, or a play-date? Are we willing to go into the nations? Are we willing to lay down our lives if necessary so that one person may know of God’s love?
I honour those working for the Gospel amongst people of other faiths and religions, and particularly in nations where believers are persecuted.
- Let’s love.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 18a).
We were not saved to live lives of fear. We have the Spirit of God living within us. Let us walk boldly and confidently, serving the Lord. Many generations have already lived through difficult times. Many generations before us have fought the good fight. Many have laid down their lives for the Gospel. Let us not look up to these men and women in a form of hero-worship leading to idolatry. Let us rather follow their example and so become an example to the next generation to live through troubled times.
“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 11:35b-38, 12:1-3).
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).