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.
In this chapter, the authors reference those nations which are ‘closed’ to the gospel as a strategy of Satan to rob God of His glory. They state, “It doesn’t matter who presumes to be in charge of nations and states or how restrictive government structures are; God is the ultimate authority, and His purpose will be fulfilled in His timing.”
This is very hard for us to grasp from a human perspective, especially when we know of all the people groups being held captive and without access to the gospel. So many places officially prohibit expressions of Christian witness. At the time this book was written (2010), researchers stated that in the first ten years of the twenty-first century, an average of three countries per year close their doors to missionary presence.
Satan is using the adversarial inclination of communist and totalitarian governments or those dominated by Islamic or Hindu worldviews to prohibit an open Christian witness. Paul’s accusation of the sorcerer, Elymas, on Cyprus, is descriptive of these nations historically. He described him as, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” But in the next chapter, Paul puts the opposition and resistance of nations in the perspective of God’s providence: “we bring you good news...a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave Himself without a witness” (Acts 14:15-17).
We need to be settled in our confidence in the providence of God. This word comes from two latin words, video meaning “to see,” and pro meaning “beforehand.” God is able to see beforehand all that happens in our lives and in the world, and He is able to establish a plan of how it can be used for his purpose and His glory. We are assured, “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name,”(Psalm 86:9). We are also told, “I will shake all nations...I am about to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations,” (Haggai 2:7,22). God is fulfilling that word of prophecy as He is shaking the nations and overthrowing powers of governments that have long stood in the way of His kingdom.
Can you picture Satan’s reaction to Jesus’ confident affirmation of victory for His coming kingdom and the fact that the gospel would be proclaimed in the whole world as a testimony to all nations? He is absolutely resolved to do everything in his power to inhibit such a worldwide witness from becoming a reality. That confident declaration in Matthew 24:14 continues to incite Satan to do all he can to keep nations closed to a Christian witness, to delay the inevitable final judgement and the potential of people from every nation and people being represented around the throne of God.
Globalization and technology are making it increasingly difficult for Satan to keep people groups hidden. Although there are massive population segments that have yet to be touched with the gospel and significant numbers of unreached people groups, there is no country that has not been penetrated with a Christian witness. The artificial boundaries of geographic, political entities cannot be fortified against emerging technology producing diverse and accessible tools of communication.
The Jesus Film is an example that was developed by Bill Bright, founder and past president of Campus Crusade for Christ. With a script based on the actual text of the Gospel of Luke, the film portrays the life of Christ in a dramatic and universally cultural presentation. Using technology, the film has been translated into more than 1,600 languages and is being spread throughout the world using each new technological advancement that is developed.
Satan can poison the minds of men and influence power-hungry, self-serving rulers, but his strategies to keep nations closed to the good news of the kingdom seems to be vulnerable to modern technology.
Globalization has also opened previously isolated peoples in closed nations to new ideas and concepts beyond their protected local worldviews. Travel and immigration have exposed the world to Western cultures and with it a Christian message. It would be difficult to find any people group not represented by a diaspora community in Canadian cities or on Canadian university campuses. Those who hear and respond to the gospel - and whose lives are changed by discovering a personal redemptive relationship with Christ - invariably carry the good news back to the network of family and friends in their place of cultural origin. In spite of government restrictions, legal barriers, and the lack of a missionary presence, God’s Word is reaching the nations in this globalized world.
Suffering and human need also open the door to the gospel witness. In so many of the nations where missionary work is not permitted, the people live under such oppression and social suppression. And when people, impoverished economically without anything to hope for in this life, hear about the hope and assurance that can be found in Jesus Christ, it readily overcomes religious and cultural barriers in which Satan has held the people in bondage for generations.
Satan’s strategy to use totalitarian governments and ideologies to keep countries closed to the gospel is not working. Government restrictions and persecution cannot prevent the advance of the gospel when, in God’s providence and timing, He determines to advance His kingdom among the nations.
Even natural disasters are being used to plant the gospel in countries and areas traditionally closed and hostile to the gospel. Many will remember in December 2005, one of the most destructive natural disasters in modern times occurred. An earthquake-spawned tsunami devastated the coastlines of eight Asian nations. The tidal wave was generated off the Indonesian island of Sumatra and killed up to 230 thousand people. Many of these were in the province of Aceh, a fanatical Islamic region of the country, relatively autonomous and restricted to foreigners. Historical efforts to penetrate this area with the gospel had proven futile.
However, in the aftermath of the tsunami, it was not Muslim communities from abroad that responded to provide relief and development but Christian organizations and churches. They did not sweep into the area in a desire to capitalize on this tragedy, take advantage of traumatized people, and proselytize them to the Christian faith.
No, compelled by the love of Christ, they reached out to comfort and minister to those in need. But, those selfless acts of sacrifice stirred the hearts of people. They wanted to know why they would come, freely disperse millions of dollars in relief supplies, and help them rebuild their homes and their lives. It opened the door to explain the love of God and the way to have a relationship with Him.
Sure, Satan tries to keep people groups hidden by closing borders to the gospel. But he also tries to do so by distracting churches from their Great Commission responsibilities for the nations. Many churches are so caught up in their neighbourhoods that they fail to see the nations, whether abroad or in their own cities. This is what we’ll look at next time.
Let’s not fall into the trap of the enemy and fail to see the nations, the unreached people groups that still have no access to the gospel. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that the gospel would be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. What is your part in fulfilling this promise?
Can you think of other creative ways to get the gospel to the nations that are closed to the message of Christ? Do you know of anyone who is working in such a place? How can you support the work they are doing?
Leave your comments below. We love to hear from you.