Whenever I get a chance to spend time with Sam (not his real name), I come away filled with excitement and a kind of deep joy. This morning was no exception. He travels the world, visiting and encouraging small outposts of Jesus’ followers in some of the most unlikely places. Like Lebanon, Syria, or Egypt. He was bursting with enthusiasm and told me, “All over the world, people are coming to know Jesus in amazing numbers. More than that, Christians of all different denominations and backgrounds, many of whom have been stuck in centuries of dead tradition, are waking up with renewed life and working together in creative ways to spread the good news.” And then, with the same gleam in his eye, he said, “And everywhere this new life in Christ is cropping up, the opposition is really ramping up. It is an exciting time!”
Sam is not exaggerating. We are good friends and I know him well. I’ve traveled with him on some pretty wild adventures. When he says the new life of the kingdom of Jesus is popping out all over, you can take that to the bank. And, when he talks about opposition that naturally follows, he does so with the same credibility. You might think the opposition, much of it extremely violent – churches being torched, Christians hauled off the bus and shot in the head because they cannot quote the Koran – would discourage him. But he justs gets more excited.
Reminds me of Paul’s attitude when he wrote:
…I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1 Corinthians 16:8b-9)
Sam understands something Paul knew: The greatest opportunities for introducing people to Jesus frequently lie in the midst of your greatest opposition. He knows his enemies are not any of the people who attack him, but rather the spiritual forces in league with Satan who have them in their grip. The more someone fights against him, the more he knows that person needs a Savior.
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. (Ephesians 6:12)
In the previous post, I wrote about Jesus giving us Real Joy. If you met Sam, you would see what that joy looks like. It isn’t dependent upon how successful or tough his circumstances seem to be, but emanates from the thrill of walking and working with a powerful Savior. And it is infectious!