Dispelling Spiritual Darkness
By Lois J. Stucky
As Jesus was nearing Calvary, He knew well that there would be tumultuous days ahead for His disciples as well as for Himself. His love for His disciples seemed to know no limit as He spoke to them words of hope and comfort, and as He unveiled wonderful promises of the coming Holy Spirit who would be their companion and helper. As He could not spare Himself the cross, so He could not spare His disciples the suffering they were to face as His followers. But He sought to still their troubled hearts and to assure them that even though out of their sight, He would be nearer to them than ever before in the indwelling Holy Spirit. That would be their power for the tremendous task He was giving them to do.
Among the strengthening words Jesus gave them, He said: "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Do not we Christians of this generation need this encouragement as well as we experience the intensifying battle of good against evil, righteousness against unrighteousness? Satan strives to keep us involved in personal tribulations – ourselves, our family, our church, our community, wearying us and diverting us from taking part in God’s greater program of reaching with the Gospel into all the world. Triumphing in our personal lives strengthens us to be effective in God’s worldwide purposes.
Few followers of Christ in this land have "resisted unto blood, striving against sin," as did our Savior (Heb. 12:3-4). And too few of us have taken an active, effective part in prayer in the battle against sin and evil. As Ruth Paxson writes in her article on pages 6 and 7, there is a wrestling in prayer about which many Christians know little. The apostle Paul knew much about this conflict. In heartfelt exhortation to his beloved disciple Timothy, Paul wrote: "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus...endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." And more, he urges, do not entangle yourself with the affairs of this life that you might please Him who has called you to be a soldier (2 Tim. 2:1-4). Is not this a good exhortation to us as well? We, too, need to gird on our armor and take our place on the battlefield for Christ and the right and for the salvation of souls.
Arousing Ourselves to the Task!
The Great Commission, which Jesus gave to His disciples just before He ascended into Heaven, gripped His devoted followers. It is a high honor to be given by God the task to "teach all nations…to observe all things" that Jesus had taught. And it requires great effort. Our generation can look back upon a wonderful groundwork laid in many places by an army of sacrificing Christian workers of former generations. We must thank God over and over for those whose love He won and whom He inspired and endued to devote themselves to penetrate lands of deep spiritual darkness with the Gospel. Many paid a high price to do so. In India, Africa, and elsewhere, are numbers of graves of young missionaries whose zealous, loving labors for their Lord were cut short by cruel diseases or by martyrdom. Thank God for others who bravely rose up to take their places. What a noble example they set for us!
And the battle is by no means over. Many fresh graves of martyrs are to be found around the world in our day. Continually we read of Christian brothers and sisters in lands far and near who are courageously choosing to follow and serve Christ, knowing opposition will be great, and the supreme sacrifice may be required of them. Many of the places remaining to be reached are in remote areas, where darkness is deeply entrenched and where Satan has a firm grip and where he fiercely opposes.
An idea of how much yet remains to be done in evangelizing the world is brought to our attention by Dr. J. Paul Nyquist, president of Avant Ministries. Writing in the Avant publication (No. 2 2005), he tells that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005 there will be an increase of 73,285,608 people in the world population, which figures out to about 200,000 each day. Most of this population growth is taking place in the southern hemisphere and the fastest growing countries are Islamic. We are falling behind, Nyquist writes. "While the Church is growing in the world today, it is being easily outstripped by the increasing population."
Lest the immensity of the task cause us to grow fainthearted or the abounding iniquity around us stifle our faith that God is able and longing to reverse that losing situation, let us rejoice in what we see God doing. Gospel tapes are being recorded in very primitive places by dauntless missionaries for pre-literate tribes which most of us have never heard of, and souls are being saved as a result. "JESUS" films are being viewed in remote places by millions who are captivated by a story more wonderful than any they have ever heard, and responders who receive Jesus as Savior are being gathered for discipling.
Radio and television programs are being watched in the privacy of the home in countries where it is almost impossible to hear the Gospel otherwise, and believers are being added to the family of God. Massive literature campaigns are being conducted by scaling mountains and crossing rivers, going by foot or bicycle if bus or auto are not available, reaching into slum huts as well as high society homes in an effort to reach every home in the given area.
Young people are bowing before the Lord of the Harvest and enthusiastically giving their lives to Him to hold forth the Word of Life wherever He directs. Others in the prime of life are leaving lucrative careers to use their skills in spreading the Gospel to places where the comforts of life they have enjoyed will lessen considerably. Still others are leaving the ease of their retirement years to further the cause of Christ in distant lands far from their families. Praise God for those whose hearts God has won to Himself by His love! Praise God that His faithfulness will outweigh the sacrifice and hardships they endure for His sake. How inspiring is the devotion and dedication of ones such as these who give themselves to the advancing of God’s Kingdom. Still – we are "falling behind."
The Bible tells us that in Heaven there will be high praises offered to our worthy Savior by those who sing, "…Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9). Let us not doubt that God is able to deliver captives from areas which have been steeped in spiritual darkness for centuries. His love knows no boundaries and His power is unlimited. The weakness lies with us whom He has called to be the hands and feet, the heart and lips to go and to proclaim the Gospel.