This is Day Twenty of our 21 Day Watch. I hope you’ve noticed God in ways you may have missed if you hadn’t been watching. I’ve become more aware His tiny whispers and answers to my prayers. And it’s made me wonder. How many times have I missed seeing God simply because I wasn’t watching? Watching takes energy. It requires alertness. But it’s so worth the effort.
We become more watchful when alert to danger. For Christians in many parts of the world, these are dangerous times. Kenya is still reeling from the Somali terrorist attacks on Christian college students that claimed over 150 innocent lives. Reports continue to pour in from Iraq and Syria where Christian communities suffer at the hands of ISIS. We’re tempted to become anxious when overwhelmed with so much bad news.
But we can learn to calm anxiety by enlarging our view of God. That’s why we’re asking God to open our eyes to His Word, His work, and His big picture. I remind you: God is not caught off guard by troubling world events. Nor is persecution of Christians a new thing. As Paul tells Timothy about the many hardships he’s endured for his faith, he reminds him: Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12) NIV). Now that’s a Bible promise we don’t often hear often quoted.
I have traveled to many countries where Christians are persecuted and I’ve noticed a curious thing. In places where believers suffer most intensely, their joy seems to be the most vibrant. For example, I was talking to a friend from another country whose ministry takes him throughout the Middle East. I wondered how he dealt with fear, since he faces danger daily. He was rather nonchalant as he answered, saying simply, “Oh, I’ve just learned to trust God for protection.” Then he went on to talk about his absolute joy at seeing so many in his part of the world who are meeting Jesus for the first time. I noticed the same joy and lack of fear among evangelists I met recently in India. These men and women were so filled with excitement as they watch the growing number of new believers, despite growing persecution. Do you suppose their joy in sharing the Gospel makes anxiety about personal issues seem small in comparison?
Their example has inspired me to become more watchful for opportunities to share God’s love with others. I have a friend who is getting to know Jesus for the first time, and I must admit. Seeing her faith spring to life gives me incredible joy. I suspect Jesus is especially close by when we’re telling others how much He loves them. After all, it’s what He’s called us to do. And as we’re faithful to His Great Commission, He promises to be with us. He gives us His Presence. We share in His joy. What on Earth could be better than that?
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).