In the last two weeks, there have been many reports of the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas. Dispatches from the field that describe unspeakable atrocities. Bombings that kill, injure and maim. Daily are the updates of the number of lives lost, both from that initial onslaught into Israel and the subsequent retaliatory bombings in Gaza. There are updates too on the hostages taken. Coming to the fore are reports of murderous rage so heinous that babies and even the unborn were not spared. Reports in war time are seldom of good news.
Reflecting on this, I recalled that in the aftermath of the genocidal reign of Pol Pot in Cambodia from 1974-1979, the big picture of the atrocities of that abhorrent period began to come to light. Then too were reports that babies were not spared. It was not until a visit to the former interrogation center, Tuol Sleng, in 2001 at the end of a short term mission trip, that drawings of eyewitnesses affirmed these and other atrocities. Many forms of torture and names of victims were meticulously documented. In some sections of that museum, it just became too much. Such matters can weigh heavily and leave a troubled heart.
There have always been wars in this world with their accompanying unimaginable suffering, heinous atrocities and the desecration of the sanctity of human life. The darkness of the human heart is often laid bare in times of war. Reports of suffering are countless. The ugliness of physical war is the outflow of the ugliness of sin that resides in the darkness of the human heart. As believers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we are fully aware that there is a larger spiritual war taking place, ‘for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’ (Eph 6:12).
The language of war speaks of fighting between enemies. From the beginning, sin sets sinful man as the enemy of God.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15
War speaks of hostility between one party or country and another. Likewise, the sinful mind is hostile towards God. In spiritual warfare, sin makes man the enemy of God. It makes it impossible to please Him:
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:7-8
Like physical warfare that results in death and destruction, there is this outcome of sin in spiritual warfare:
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4
For the wages of sin is death… Romans 6:23a
The result of sin is an eternal separation from God in utter darkness and suffering in the absence of His presence, love and goodness.
When reports of earthly war reach our shores, will they disquiet our heart? Does news of the suffering of war sadden us? Does it give rise to questions of God’s purpose? Are we laden with a heavy burden?
Whilst reports from wars and dispatches from the theatre of physical war speak of unspeakable suffering and death, let us look at the heavenly reports and dispatches from God concerning spiritual warfare. Its excerpts read like this:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! Luke 2:14
In the theatre of spiritual warfare, our light comes in the form of Jesus, and herein lies our hope:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:10
The kingdoms of men appear to be in perpetual war since creation. The sinful heart by its very nature cannot attain peace. To this world peace is elusive, but the good news from above is Jesus who is Christ our Lord, our Savior who died to bring reconciliation and peace with God. This is the only way to please Him.
Does news of war and suffering leave a troubled heart? Let peace with God through the Lord Jesus who has overcome the world lift it up:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Does it bring questions of God’s purpose? Our heavenly dispatch tells us that Jesus came
to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10
proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him. Luke 8:1
Last weekend we had the missions conference. Is your heart laden with a heavy burden? Let that burden be for lost souls as we find our rest in Jesus whose yoke is easy and burden is light (Matt 11:28-30). How uplifting it is to learn from men and women who are bringing the gospel of peace to an often hostile, yet dying, world. Those going to the far reaches of the earth are often facing challenges, of danger to life and limb, and to their loved ones. Tribulation is aplenty and it is deeply encouraging to see it counted ultimately as joy in our heavenly Father’s business. They need our prayer. They need our support and encouragement. Let us be on bended knees often to pray for them. Pray too for strength and courage for those of whom the message of salvation in Jesus has found a lodging place in a repentant heart. Let us too be inspired to be engaged in bringing the good news of Jesus to our local community. We are soldiers of a raging spiritual war, but there is hope for peace because Jesus has already won this battle over sin on our behalf. Until He comes again, and brings about true, everlasting peace, Jesus leaves us with this grace for a troubled heart:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27