The Interceders Encourager No. 40
Believing For Greater Things
In the last three Encouragers, we looked at what God did in the Hebrides 60 years ago.
We saw His power humbling, convicting and breaking people, especially strong men, causing them to cry out for mercy, radically changing their whole outlook and way of life from being God despisers to being God lovers and God servers, many of them becoming ministers and missionaries. We also saw how, as a result, the Lord’s house was crowded, His day was honoured, and His word was obeyed.
The all important question to ask is, can we expect God to work in the same way for us today? There are those who say that we cannot, for our situation is so very different from what it was in the Hebrides in the 1950s.
Now it is true that their situation and conditions were very different to ours.
a) At that time, the Outer Hebrides were even more remote and cut off from the rest of Britain than they are today, the only physical access being a long journey by boat. They were, therefore, much less influenced by mainstream society, than we are today.
b) They lived in closely knit communities, with poor transport links, very different from our interrelated, yet disjointed world of today.
c) All the people were homogeneous, being of one stock, Celtic, speaking one language, Gaelic, in contrast to our multi cultural, multilingual society today.
d) The people had a background of a belief in God, with strong Christian education in the schools, and even family prayers said in the homes; vastly different from most households today.
e) The people lived on a very basic level, by our standards. Houses had no modern conveniences, no water sanitation, no gas or electricity, depending on peat fires for heating and cooking, and oil lamps for lighting; no washing machines, no dishwashers, no central heating. Obviously, they had no televisions, no computers, no mobile phones, or any of the other electrical things that we think are so essential today. The whole of society was very different, with no supermarkets, and no high pressure advertising. People lived a much simpler and quieter, localised existence.
f) There was a history of revivals in Lewis, which increased their faith, and enabled them to live in the expectation that God would visit them again, as against the churches today in Britain, which have never experienced revival or awakening, and are not expecting God to move in such ways.
For these and other reasons, many would assert that because our society is so different, and so materialistic; and we are living in the midst of such an interrelated, fast moving, technological age, along with a world wide turmoil that is threatening our very existence, that such a change in our society is now not possible.
Certainly, there were factors present in their society which made it easier for God to work, and there are many factors in our society which have caused blockages and obstacles to God’s working. One of these is the matter of poverty. While it cannot be denied that most revivals and awakening have occurred among people who were and are much poorer than us; nevertheless, there have been movements of the spirit among those who were not so poor, notably in Rochester, New York in 1830-1831, 1842 and 1856, Boston in 1856-1858, New York City 1857-1858, East Anglia in 1921, and the campus revivals in the twentieth century. So while revival is more likely to occur among the poor, (1Cor.1:26-29), it is still possible among those who are more prosperous.
The other factors, however, present a more daunting challenge, and we need to face up to them, and still declare what I believe is Gods mind and heart on these things, that such an awakening and more is still possible; for the following reasons.
1. Whatever the outward circumstances, the heart of man is still the same. It is sinful, deceitful, rebellious and wicked,(Jer.17:9, Mt.15:19) whether people live in 13th century BC Egypt, 1st century Palestine, mid 20th century Scotland or 21st century anywhere in the world. No matter how clever modern man appears, God is not fooled by him, for He searches all the hearts of people, and knows that basically they are rebellious against Him, and all their wisdom is foolishness, (1Cor. 1:20-25). Everybody still needs the Lord.
2. God does not change, (Mal.3:6). His character, His purposes and His power always remain the same. He is still holy. In Him is no darkness at all. He still wants to change people’s sinful hearts, to bring them out of spiritual darkness into His light, to make sinners into saints, to destroy the works of the devil, to make a spotless bride for His Son. And He still has the same power to do it, the power that raised Jesus from the dead, the power that transformed this nation in the 18th century, and the power that radically altered people in the Hebrides in the 20th century. And He is waiting to use it.
3. God hates lack of faith and negative thinking. When the children of Israel were faced with the giants in Canaan, and thought the task too difficult for them, God was so displeased that He punished them by saying they would never see the Promised Land at all, and would all perish in the wilderness. God knew that negative thinking is really rebelling against Him by refusing to trust Him and His promises. Let that never be true of us. "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
Having said that, however, I believe there are at least two important things we must learn from all this.
a) Our lives now are very different from those in 60 years ago. They are much more interrelated and increasingly influenced and governed by institutions such as the national government, local government, the media, the legal system, the police, the educational system, the health providers, the City and financial institutions, the supermarkets, computers and the internet, etc. These institutions have increasingly become secular and, in many cases anti Christian and anti Biblical. They have become obstacles to God working in people’s lives. Therefore, for God to get the victory over the whole of people’s lives today, as He did in the Hebrides 60 years ago, these institutions and others, have also got to be radically altered or destroyed. In different ways, they have become strongholds of the enemy that need to be won, like the communities. All the people in these institutions need to be, not just influenced, but dominated, humbled and broken by the Spirit of God, so that they acknowledge the true God, have their lives turned round, genuinely live for Him, and serve people honestly, fairly and sincerely, seeking to do the will of God, according to His word.
b) In the Hebrides in 1949 and onwards, every village had to be taken one at a time; the spiritual battle had to be fought afresh at each place before the devil was defeated and the power of God came down. This fact has great relevance to us today, and its importance will soon be shown.
Therefore, even though we believe it is right for each one of us to pray for the Holy Spirit of God to be poured out over his or her own area, each village, each town, each city, each county, especially where we live and work, so that the power of the enemy will be broken in each one, even then, because of the complex world we live in, that will deal with only part of the problem.
For God to get the victory over the whole of people’s lives, as He did in the past, these huge institutions and organizations that dominate people’s lives, have also got to be won for Him, and each will have to be overcome one by one. Nothing less than the power of God that was poured out in such a dramatic way, will actually do this.
Up until now, most of the praying and activity by Christians seeking to deal with the spiritual situation in our country has been very small, very piecemeal, very shallow and very ineffective. It has consisted of making a little protest about something we don’t like; trying to get a Parliamentary bill changed or rejected, or trying to get a Christian acquitted at a trial. Most of these actions have been unsuccessful, for two basic reasons:
Firstly, they have sought to alter things by human methods. Duncan Campbell wrote, "How many today are really prepared to face the stark fact that we have been out maneuvered by the strategy of hell, because we have tried to meet the enemy on human levels by human strategy?"
Secondly, the ineffectiveness of these methods is compounded by the fact that the whole momentum in society at this time is anti Christian and anti Biblical. Even most of the Christian Church is unconcerned, and regards evangelical Christians as extreme. This means that any action as mentioned above is merely an attempt to stop the tide, so it cannot succeed.
Believers sometimes refer to Wilberforce as an example of someone who struggled against much opposition to free the slaves, and who succeeded in the end. But the tide was going in exactly the opposite direction when Wilberforce was fighting his case. This country had experienced the 18th century Evangelical Awakening, and the nation was becoming more and more Christian. The reason why Wilberforce had such difficulty was because of the landed gentry, and especially the slave owners, who felt their livelihoods being threatened.
Today, the whole thrust of today’s society in Parliament, on radio and television, on the internet, in education, in business, etc, is based on selfishness, greed and rebellion against God’s ways. God is not considered at all, and evangelical Christianity is regarded as irrelevant. Whatever influence Biblical Christians have had is being shaken off. Whatever action we make is seen as the Church acting as killjoys or dinosaurs. None of it has stopped the relentless tide of evil sweeping across the land.
It is not surprising that people view Biblical Christians in this way, for everything they see us doing seems so negative. We pray and try to stop the government passing what we think are bad laws, but they think are good; we pray and try to stop judges making what we think are unfair decisions, but they think are quite fair; we pray and try to stop teachers teaching certain subjects, which they think are quite all right; we pray and try to stop institutions approving what we think are bad practices, but they think are unimportant; etc. What we do is so small and so negative. It is like the children of Israel in Egypt praying and asking the taskmasters not to be so cruel, and to give them some concessions! God had much bigger ideas than that for them, and He has far bigger ideas for us. He doesn’t want people just to be influenced. He wants all these people and institutions and organizations and religions to be humbled and broken and convicted before Him. He wants them all to acknowledge the one true God, and live for Him.
There are those Christians who think it is sufficient to pray for social and political problems to be lessened, such as praying for crime rates to come down, but this is all spiritually shallow, for even if the prayers were answered, people would still be in their sins and living in rebellion against God.
This is why something far larger, far deeper, more fundamental and more drastic than anything we have sought to do before is needed to reverse the tide in this nation. All the influential people in society, the law makers, the law enforcers, the media, the educators, the business people, need to be radically changed by the Spirit of God, so that they enact and carry out measures that are in line with the will of God; and this will only happen when the power of Almighty God comes down on them all, so they are deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit of their selfishness and greed, and their rejection of God’s ways and of His Son; so that their thinking and their actions then please Him.
In addition to the many institutions and organizations that we have mentioned, which increasingly control people’s lives in this country in these days, we have to mention the Christ denying religions. I am convinced that God wants all these institutions and organizations and religions to be won for Him, but, we will need to take each of these strongholds one at a time.
You may think that such a thing is impossible, so let us remind ourselves of the word of God; of the conditions and the possibilities that our great God has set before us.
"O that my people would listen to me that Israel would walk in my ways. I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their adversaries." (Ps.81:13-14)
"If you diligently obey the Lord your God…the Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face. They will come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways." (Deut. 28:1-7)
The Son of God said, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you." (Jn. 15:7)
"There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides in the heavens to help you...He will drive out the enemy before you." (Deut.33:26-27)
"When you go to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them…for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies." (Deut.20:1-4)
"Do not be afraid....for I myself will help you," declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, but you will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel." (Is.41:14-16)
"Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds. Through the greatness of your power, your enemies will submit themselves to you.’" (Ps.66:3)
"Through God, we shall gain the victory, for it is He who will tread down our enemies," (Ps.60:12)
"Your arrows are sharp in the hearts of the King’s enemies. The peoples fall under you." (Ps.45:5)
Therefore we should pray:
"Rise up, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before You." (Num. 10:35)
"In Your majesty, ride forth victoriously on behalf of truth, humility and righteousness. Let Your right hand display awesome deeds." (Ps.45:4)
"You are my King, O God. Command victories for Jacob. Through You, we will push back our enemies. Through You, we will tread down those who rise up against us." (Ps.44:4-5)
As an example, we can look at the way God dealt with the Egyptians at the time of the Exodus. The people of Israel were frightened of the Egyptians, for they had the power, the money, the taskmasters, the whips, the army, the chariots, the horses, the spears and the swords. But God said, "I will gain honour over Pharaoh and over his army, his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I have gained honour over them." (Ex.14:17-18)
As He worked in the days of Moses with Pharaoh, so He wants to work now. He wants to get victory over those who oppose Him and His people, as He always does, for He does not change. God could have brought His people out by softening Pharaoh’s heart, so that they could have left quietly, but He wanted to show His power, that He is the God of miracles, who works on behalf of those who trust Him, who work righteousness, who remember Him and wait for Him,(Is. 64:4-5). He wanted to disgrace His enemies, so He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the people go, and then brought the plagues upon him to teach him a lesson. "He made sport of him, (Ex.10:1-2), to show who was in control. He then killed all the firstborn of Egypt to humble Pharaoh and break his will. Finally, He destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, so that they would understand that they were but men, and they were fighting against the Lord. (Ex.14:25). Through all this, the Egyptians learnt that they could not treat God’s people as second class citizens, as they had done. By the end, they were completely broken, and troubled the Israelites no more.
Moses summarized what God had done, affirming the nature and power of God by declaring, "Your right hand, O God, became glorious in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of Your majesty, You have overthrown those who opposed You. You unleashed Your burning anger. It consumed them like stubble…Who is like You, O God, among the gods? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, terrible in glorious deeds, doing wonders?" (Ex.15:6, 7&11)
It is right for us to remember what God has done. The psalmist started to doubt the concern and the power of God, and then he thought, "to this I will appeal, the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works, and talk of your deeds." (Ps.77:10-12)
We have already reminded ourselves that God’s nature and power do not change. He is still perfect in holiness and righteousness and justice, He still hates sin. He is still glorious in power. He can still overthrow those who oppose Him. He can still do wonders. Therefore, He expects us to believe Him for the impossible, for Him to act and show His power in supernatural ways, as He did then. Our natural inclination, like the Israelites at that time, is to be afraid and think the enemies we face today are much too strong for us.
We need to be reminded of the words of Deuteronomy, when the people were faced with great enemies to be overcome, "If you say in your heart that these nations are greater than us. How can we dispossess them? You shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember what the Lord Your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt; the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid….You will not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, the great and awesome God, is in the midst of you. The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you little by little…The Lord your God will deliver them over to you, and throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed…No one will be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them." (Deut. 7:17-24)
Let us truly believe that the things that are impossible with man are possible with God. All things are possible to him who has faith. We have seen that in the Hebrides and in other places, God can come in power, and save the hardest sinners, and change the worst community. So God is calling us to believe for that in our communities, and that the most anti Christian institution or organization or religion can be changed and redeemed.
As Charles Wesley wrote: "Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees, and looks to that alone; Laughs at impossibilities, and cries: ‘It shall be done.’"
However, for that to happen, we have to come to the end of ourselves, and acknowledge that we can do nothing to really change the situation, any more than the Israelite slaves could change their situation. They had to cry out to God to deliver them, and we need to do the same. God has told us that we have to humble ourselves, turn from all our sins and disobedience and lack of faith and lack of prayer, and plead with Him to show His power. And just as God heard their prayers and answered them in the most incredible way, beyond their wildest dreams, He is waiting to do the same for us. Perhaps it will be through a leader that He will raise up like Moses or Joshua to lead His people at this time, but the burden has to be borne by us.
We certainly need new leaders, for our present leaders are but men, who trust in other men and not God. They never acknowledge Him at all, so they are cursed by Him, for He says, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert. He shall not see any good come." (Jer.17:5-6) So we are not to look to Godless leaders to deliver us.
All our leaders, whether in business, in law, in education, in politics, etc, are only created beings who are sinners, who need to be told the truth about themselves and about God. They need to be told that the Almighty God rules over all things, that His is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in earth is His, not theirs, that He is to be exalted over all…that He reigns over all, and that…all things come from Him. (1Chron. 29:11-15) Therefore, they have to openly acknowledge this, and stop living as if they own the world, and can do what they like. They need to stop rebelling against Him, and submit to Him as the Creator of all things and the Lord God Almighty. (Ps.24:10) They also need to be told that the one true God is a jealous God, who will not tolerate any idolatry, any other person or thing or religion taking His place. Jesus, His Son, sent as the Saviour of the world, is the name they must honour as the name high over all, in hell or earth or sky. Angels and men will fall before Him, and devils will fear and fly. That truth will convict them only when the Holy Spirit is poured out, so that He can take the word which is His two edged sword, and use it to pierce and divide soul and spirit. Without the Holy Spirit bringing conviction, the leaders will laugh at this, but once He has come down and His power is active in the world, then these truths will convict them.
But the churches as they are now, are in no position to do anything like this, for they have not taught holiness and separation from the world, but have compromised with the world, and have been afraid to stand up for God and be different in their attitudes, their words, their clothes, their music, and their deeds. They have not renounced worldly passions, and lived sober, upright and godly lives in this world. (Titus 2:12) They have not denounced sin and ungodliness, but have become like the people around them, so God has withdrawn His presence and many evils have come upon us. As Duncan Campbell emphasized, revival and awakening are always linked with holiness. We will not know God amongst us or see Him work in power until we emphasize repentance and holiness of life, and earnestly seek His face. Unless the Church shows that it has been saved from all sin, and has much higher moral standards than the world, it is impossible for it to change the world. The Early Church proved it. They survived and grew, in the face of overwhelming odds, through outthinking, outliving and out dying their pagan contemporaries. They did it through being completely different from those around them. If they had tried to be like the world, as so many Christians have done in our generation, they would not have survived the first Century. Every period of revival and awakening has proved it. Their standard of life has been way above their contemporaries. But today, most churches are going in the opposite direction. They are trying to show how contemporary they are, how accommodating they are, how like the world they are, how open and nonjudgmental they are. The result is disdain from the world, rejection from those who are looking for something different and those who are seeking authority and reality, and rejection by the Lord of the Church; making revival impossible.
It is interesting that John Paul Jackson, seeing the judgments that will come upon the churches, if they do not repent, has said that the only way for the churches to avoid these judgments, is:
a) They must return to God and His ways. They need to fear God and live in the fear of Him.
b) They must really contend for the faith and stand up for the truth, that the Lord our God is the
only true God, perfect in knowledge and wisdom and holiness and power, and that Jesus is the
only way to Him.
c) They must return to trusting God’s word, the Bible, and obeying it.
d) They must truly repent and fast and pray and seek His face, holding sacred solemn assemblies,
and weeping before Him.
The result, says John Paul Jackson, will be a clear distinction between those who are 100% for God and those who are not, and the words of Malachi will come true. We shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve Him (Mal.3;16-18).
Only when the churches have been humbled and broken and cleansed of all worldliness, and become fit channels through whom the Holy Spirit can be poured out on a sinful world, can they then think about effecting the change in society that is needed. Only then can the churches be in a position to change from being on the defensive to being on the offensive, from trying to stop the tide, to getting God to change the tide.
To bring this about means:
1) They have got to be obedient to the Lord and His word.
2) Each believer must pray for personal revival, for God to cleanse him or her from all unrighteousness, give them clean hearts and sanctify them completely, so they can be channels of revival.
3) They have got to have greater faith in the God who wants to defeat their enemies.
4) They have got to pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the churches, to bring them to repentance, so they will truly become the pure, spotless bride of Christ.
5) They have got to pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the area where they live, and over the whole land, so that the whole atmosphere of this country is changed, with an awareness of the presence of a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, so that everyone is convicted of their sin and brought to repentance and faith in the Son of God.
6) They have got to pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the institutions and organizations that dominate our lives, and for them to be brought under the dominion of our God, one at a time.
7) They have got to declare the whole truth about the One True God to the whole nation. This includes proclaiming His Holiness, His righteousness, His hatred of sin, His condemnation of sinners, Jesus as the only way to God and the only sacrifice for sin, who rose from the dead, and will come again as the judge of all, as all the great preachers of the past did.
8) They have got to pray for the preachers and leaders who will declare these truths to the nation and to the institutions, the organizations and the other religions.
We need to prove and show the awesome power of God that the people of Israel saw at the time of the Exodus and when going into the Promised Land; that same power that has been seen in every spiritual awakening, but now is needed on a far greater scale, let loose over the whole of Britain and over every institution and organization and religion.
We need to believe that the war can be won through one battle at a time. We need to see the devil defeated, and the Holy Spirit released upon one area first, in order to give us the faith to believe that He can then intervene and pour out His Spirit on an institution or organization or religion.
I am not denying that this is a program that really tests our faith, but whatever is not of faith is sin. It is far better to believe and fail than not to attempt.
Let us honestly look again at the present situation in this country and admit that:
a) What believers have done up till now has not worked, or has achieved very little. There have been a few little successes, but, on the whole, it has been one failure after another, for the tide is against us, and the tide is getting stronger, so, continuing in the same way, the situation will get worse, and will have to end in judgment.
b) What believers have done up till now has not been worthy of Almighty God, the Creator of the earth and the ruler of all things. Just about every effort has merely shown up our weakness and our inability to change things, so that the cause of Biblical Christianity has been pushed further and further back.
So the alternatives are either the supernatural working of God in revival and awakening on a deep level, changing the heart of our society, and bringing it into conformity with His will, or the terrible reality of judgment, as so many have said. But God does not want to send judgment. He intends the Church to be strong, and be the praise of the earth, (Is.62:7), and for rulers to serve the Lord with fear, (Ps.2:10-11). But this will happen only when God rends the heavens and comes down in convicting and converting power; and that will happen only when we pay the price in humility, in brokenness, in earnestness, in persistence, in faith and in desperation.
If these really are the last days, and there are many indications that they are, including the fact that Satan is doing his utmost to destroy the Church before the end, for the persecution of the Church worldwide has never been so intense, and is increasing all the time; God has, therefore, allowed all this in order to bring us to the place where we will ask Him to do the impossible. He is wanting to display His power as never before, to do the greatest work, make His Church the praise of the earth, and raise up a pure and spotless bride for His Son. God’s intention is always to bring good out of evil; therefore He must intend to bring the greatest good out of the greatest evil, and the greatest victory out of the seemingly greatest defeat, just as He did at the Cross.
I am convinced that God is always wanting to prove His power, and today’s situation in this land cries out for God to intervene. Our leaders, our politicians, national and local, the media, the educators, the business people, the followers of other religions, have all defied the living God, just as Goliath did. They have disregarded and rejected His laws, and poured scorn on His people. "It is time for the Lord to act, for His law has been broken," (Ps. 119: 126), and it is time for us to be far bolder in our thinking, our believing, our praying and our actions, so that they may know that there is only one true God, and He saves by His power. We are called to be like David, who didn’t just complain or seek to defend his position, but went forward to attack Goliath and the Philistines, and overcome them.
So let us not fail God, but believe Him for the impossible. Let us use the weapons of our warfare, which have divine power to destroy strongholds. Let us destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God. Let us take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, (2Cor.10:4-6) by the power of His Spirit, so that the people of this land and all the institutions and organizations and religions that have risen up in this nation against the true God, are spiritually changed or removed or destroyed by God displaying His power, and showing to the world that He is still the same and never changes. We need to have a holy jealousy for the honour of our God before it is too late.