Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the first couple of posts you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
Last time we learned that part of Satan’s Strategy is to distort the call of God. He has convinced many of us in North America that it takes some sort of a mystical experience with God, like a burning bush, to call someone to serve as a missionary. Instead, we are all responsible to be on God’s team, to glorify God among the nations for the rest of our lives.
This week we will see Satan’s strategy to erode the faith of God’s people.
The nation of Israel is an example of how the people of God can so easily be led astray from the mission of God. His calling and purpose for His chosen people were clear. In His providence, He had brought them to Egypt where, for four hundred years, they were protected and prospered and grew to be a mighty nation. He led them out of Egypt, delivered them from bondage, and set before them a mission to possess the promised land and become a witness to all the peoples of the world.
As Moses reviews their history in Deuteronomy, he reminds them of God’s commissioning, “See, I have set the land before you. Enter and take possession of the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants after them” (Deuteronomy 1:8).
When they finally reached the borders of the land of Canaan, twelve spies were sent in for reconnaissance. They came back affirming that it was a land flowing with milk and honey and even brought back fruit and produce as evidence of its prosperity. But they went on to report, “However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amelekites are living in the land of the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country, and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan” (Numbers 13:28-29).
They concluded the report with a dismal assessment, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are. . .The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size” (Numbers 13:31-32). In spite of the contrary opinion of Caleb and Joshua, in faithlessness, the people succumbed to fear and turned their back on the mission of God.
It takes faith to engage the nations.
Many churches today are like the children of Israel in that they clearly understand the Great Commission task, but they don’t have the faith to move out and give priority to personal involvement in fulfilling God’s mission. In fact, they cower in the security of their church building, enjoying the nurturing fellowship of believers, insulated from even impacting the cross-cultural secularism in their own community. Like Israel seeing the pagan tribes to be confronted in the land, we are made aware of the number of unreached people groups around the world. Media and our own travels may expose us to the massive cities of Istanbul, Cairo, Shanghai, and Sao Paulo, fortified by religious history and traditions that appear to make them impregnable to a Christian witness. We are overwhelmed, feeling we are like grasshoppers among giants. We figuratively throw up our hands in dismay, concluding that we can do nothing. We are too small; we don’t have the resources or know what to do. We will just try to be good witnesses where we live.
Such lack of faith to trust God and His promised empowerment (Acts 1:8) to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth is an obvious and devious tactic of Satan. It keeps the majority of God’s churches from unleashing the resources to storm his strongholds around the world and claim them for our Lord. The contrast was the minority report from Joshua and Caleb who believed God and said, “We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it” (Numbers 13:30).
We know that God was angry with the people for their faithlessness. The consequence was their meaningless wandering in the wilderness for forty years as He replaced a faithless generation. Many churches are wandering in the wilderness, trying to find their way, in futility searching for relevance and direction, because they have rejected the priority of their mission. God commended Caleb, saying, “But since My servant Caleb has a different spirit and has followed Me completely, I will bring him into the land” (Numbers 14:24).
All a church has to do is to pray for the peoples and nations of the world, and God has promised to claim them as His possession. “Ask of Me and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession” (Psalm 2:8). God is sovereign over the nations and will deliver them to the lordship of Jesus Christ, for either judgement or salvation; should we not intercede and pray for them that God would open their culture to a channel of witness and their hearts to His saving grace?
Such prayer is born out of compassionate hearts that are burdened for a lost world, stirred in response to the Great Commandment of our Lord.
Satan is clever. He knows if we prayed for the Baluchi of Pakistan, the Pamir in Tajikistan, the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq that enemy strongholds would crumble and these people would be penetrated with the gospel. Satan is a fallen angel, a messenger, who has access to our minds to distort our perceptions and values. So, if we are going to be a people of prayer, he influences us to concentrate our praying on our own interests, focusing on personal concerns - our needs, our family, our church, our community. How much time do we spend lifting up to the Father our pleas for the salvation of the Hazara in Afghanistan or the Bejas in Sudan? Not only does God work in response to our intercessory prayers; those prayers move us to be involved and do something about reaching a lost world.
It is not how big your church is or how many resources it has at its disposal but whether or not a congregation has the heart to follow God and His heart for the nations. Paul expressed concern for the believers in Corinth, “But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted from a complete and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Where is evidence of faith and devotion to Christ when we excuse ourselves as being too small and fail to trust Christ to guide, empower, and use us in whatever one’s place may be in fulfilling God’s mission?
So let me challenge you to consider adopting an unreached people group. Go to www.joshuaproject.net and find one to adopt. Learn about your people group. Find out all you can about them. And pray. Pray that strongholds would be broken, that workers would be sent into that harvest field and that the gospel would do its transformative work.
Let us know if you do adopt a people group. We would love to pray with you. Drop us a comment below.