Answering the Opposition

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” –Nehemiah 2:17-19 (NIV)

In all of our hearts, God has placed desires to be used for His glory. When we become aware of these desires and surrender them willingly to Him, He reveals to us the path that we are to follow so that His pleasing and perfect will for our lives may be fulfilled. As long as we continue on the path He has laid out for us and walk in His wisdom, we will be assured that we are doing what is right in His eyes. But God does not promise a smooth journey. By choosing to follow Him and His will, we will often earn the opposition of others on account of the stance we have taken. For their own ulterior motives or for their lack of an eternal perspective, they will try to dissuade us from continuing on the road God has explicitly called us to follow. They will even misuse the Scriptures in an effort to deter us.

Under these conditions it can be easy to get discouraged. Doubts cloud our minds and it becomes increasingly tempting to give in to the pressure of their voices. But we must resist through prayer; asking God to give us the strength to carry on in the task He has called us to accomplish and the wisdom to handle the antagonism lobbed against us. When we try to handle hostility towards us in our own wisdom and understanding, we will more likely than not end up sabotaging our witness for Christ. However, when we pray and ask God to control our thoughts, words, and actions, we will be given the discernment to either answer our critics in love but without compromise, or to not deliver an answer at all. When our security and our definition of ourselves are found in what others think of us, we will be forever bound to their desires and whims. But when our sense of assurance is found in the love of Christ and what He has done for us through His redemptive sacrifice on the cross, even the most violent of opposition will not shake us. We will be able to carry on knowing that God will not call us to a task that was not meant to be finished, and is faithful to those who truly serve Him and seek His will.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

An Everlasting Peace

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” -Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)

We would all like to possess eternal happiness. It’s the driving force behind humanity’s utopian aspirations, where a world would be brought into existence where sorrow is absent and joy abounds. Many ideologies have sought utopia only to be dashed by the reality that as long as sin and wickedness persists in the world, a utopia is impossible to achieve by human hands. Thus, our contentment comes to depend on our circumstances. One day we may be elated because something wonderful has happened to us. The next day, we could be mournful because suffering has knocked on our door. It can be painful sometimes to endure this cycle of emotions and we long to find that sense of peace and contentment which will remain with us regardless of our present conditions.

Where then can we find that eternal sense of contentment? It cannot be found in anything of this world. Though we may find temporary solace in the things that this world may offer, it will not deliver on its promises of providing last contentment. Sometimes, such remedies will cause more misery than healing. True peace can only be found in Christ. Through His crucifixion and resurrection, He conquered the two sources of suffering in the world; sin and death. Christ, through His blood, has broken the grip sin has held over humanity so that those who believe in His sacrifice may allow Him to dwell in their hearts and begin His redemptive work to clear the remnants of our wickedness. But the sting of death has also been rendered helpless for through His resurrection, Christ has conquered the grave and promises that all who believe in Him will spend eternity with Him in heaven; the only true utopia. Our whole perspective on life will change when we view our circumstances in the light of the hope we have through Christ. Will we still feel suffering? Yes. But for those who find rest in Christ, suffering will never be able to oppress us as we allow the peace that only He can give to invade our lives. It begins now!

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Bringing About Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” –Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

September 1938 was a tense time in Europe. Under Hitler, Nazi Germany had invaded the Sudetenland; an ethnically German region belonging to Czechoslovakia. As the prospect of war loomed across the continent, the British Prime Minister at the time, Neville Chamberlain, met with Hitler in Munich. In keeping with the general rule of appeasement which characterized European foreign policy in the years between 1918 and 1939, Chamberlain returned to Britain with a compromise in hand. Under the terms of the Munich Agreement, Germany was allowed to annex the Sudetenland on the condition that Hitler and the Nazi state would promise to cease their expansionist designs. Chamberlain proclaimed to the cheering British crowds that the agreement had brought “peace for our time”.

However, only a few months later, Hitler completely disregarded the Munich Agreement and invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. At this point Chamberlain, along with the rest of the democracies of Europe, realized the failure of appeasement to check German expansionism and resolved to deal with Hitler by force should the trend continue. When Hitler invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939, Britain and France declared war two days later; triggering a war that, although would be bloodiest in the history of mankind, would also see the destruction and widespread condemnation of fascism and ultra-nationalism.

Often we get confused over what it really means to be a peacemaker. In our minds, a peacemaker is someone who makes sure the peace is achieved through the maintenance of the status quo. As long as we don’t get on anyone’s bad sides, we have done our duty in maintaining peace; even if means ignoring serious issues that lie at the root of the conflicts we have to deal with. But this is not what it means to be a peacemaker. The role of a true peacemaker is to form a lasting peace by tackling the crux of issues; not simply dealing with mere symptoms. Just as how Christ came to redeem the world by addressing the problem of sin, we as His children must also be willing to address the source of the conflicts we have been called to intervene in.

Doing so always comes at a price. In order that the problem of sin may be finally solved and humanity freed from its chains, Christ had to die and rise again. The penalty for sin was death. Only by His willing sacrifice on the Cross for all of our transgressions, could that penalty be met. Likewise, to be a true peacemaker we will have to give of our time and energy; continuously opening ourselves emotionally and spiritually in order to speak truth and wisdom even when we are rejected and rebuffed by the very people we want to help. It might not always be the most comfortable and pleasant thing to do, but it is a worthy price to pay for God’s truth and peace to flourish. People will know if we are His children by the way we solve conflicts. Only by staying close to Christ and relying on Him for wisdom, strength, and discernment, can we be the peacemakers He has called us to be.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.