by Pastor Skip Heitzig
I was watching the election news coverage of the Iowa Caucus during the recent Presidential primary here in the United States. As the network camera filmed a reporter with his microphone, a large crowd gathered in the background. Directly behind the crowd was a huge sign with a single word that read, “Change.”
The reporter used the sign as a prop and said, “The word behind me sums up what then nation is looking for, we’re looking for change to occur.” But what if ‘change’ happened without your awareness?
If that sounds impossible, here is an illustration of what I mean: In the 1912 elections, Woodrow Wilson was elected President. He went to visit his elderly aunt, who he hadn’t seen in a long time. When he walked into her room, she said, “Well, Woodrow, what have you been doing lately?”
He paused for a moment and said, “Auntie, I’ve just been elected the President.”
In a surprised tone, Auntie said, “Oh? Of, what?”
“Of the United States of America,” President Wilson said.
At the words, she bristled back, “Oh don’t be silly.”
In our day with 24 hour news, it’s hard to imagine that everyone wouldn’t have this information. Yet with President Wilson, his own aunt didn’t know about his election. In this context, it is cute and innocent but what if the change involves warfare or a battle? If you are in such an armed conflict and don’t know your enemy, the change could be fatal.
A few years later in 1917, Lawrence of Arabia conquered the city of Agaba at the port of the Red Sea over in the Middle East. The Turks who ran the city at that time, considered the port city of Agaba impregnable because they had these huge naval guns positioned in the hills behind the city and pointed out toward the port. Any ship which came into the harbor to attack would be annihilated. Other than the water, the rest of the city was surrounded by inhospitable barren desert. They thought no one would attack them from the desert. To their surprise, Lawrence of Arabia came through the desert with his warring tribes of citizenry. He flanked them on the north side or their blind side, swept past the naval guns, attacked and defeated the city. The Turks made two mistakes. First they didn’t identify their enemy and second, they didn’t choose the right weapons.
Until a few years ago, no one in the United States was talking about a war on terror and the word al Qaida wasn’t in our vocabulary. A day in September 2001 changed everything and a new enemy surfaced. Now it’s common to consider that some people in the world don’t like us and even want to destroy us.
In the aimless times, like we currently live, how do you think clearly and live with faith and peace in the midst of turmoil? I boiled this starting process into three positive commands to use in threatening times. First, realize, second, recognize and finally respond. As believers, we want to realize our position then recognize the perils which are around us. And finally armed with this knowledge, we do something about it or respond to that prospect or the opportunity.
Realize Our Position
God isn’t necessarily looking for the Phi Beta Kappas, the politicians, the nobility, the world-famous athlete or the statesmen. The Lord will take anyone and he can use those people as well. Understand that God is not saying, “I hang my hat on that kind of person.” Instead he is saying, “I just want anyone who as my son or daughter will step into this arena of insight and vision and doing something about it.” So that’s our position, while we are sons of the flesh, daughters of the flesh, but more importantly we are sons and daughters of the living God.
Recognize the Perils
After realizing our position in Christ, we must recognize the perils people face in our Christian walk.
Let’s begin with the most important that tops the list. I call it eternal insecurity. The majority of people who surround us don’t really care about their eternity. Instead their focus is on their kids or college for their kids or their future plans or their physical security. I doubt anyone except for a few people is even thinking about eternity.
The second greatest area of homeland security deals with the family. If it weren’t bad enough that we have eternal insecurity, we also have family irresponsibility. You don’t have to look far to understand that for some time your family has been under attack. As I consider the family, I fear some of us are caving in to the pressure. As a country, the government is worried about border security such as who is crawling over the border fence or under it. Don’t get me wrong because these are viable concerns. But when we look at the issue of real homeland security, we’re not worried enough about our homes, our families and our marriages. The family ought to be to us more than the border of the nation.
The third element I want to point out is cultural conformity. As believers in the kingdom of Christ, we are called to live different lives. And in Romans 12:2, Paul wrote, “Be not conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Or the Moffit translation of Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t do what the world does. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mold.” If you are living differently then you are not conformed to the culture. How are you doing in that department? Consider your church and your Christian friends. Are we living different from our culture?
Here’s another element of concern, that I call spiritual animosity. Even for those of us inside the walls of the church, an aggressive, vocal group of people are even more aggressive and vocal against us. Persecution of Christians in the world is worse than ever before and in fact worldwide, it is worse in the 20th Century than all combined previous centuries. I’m speaking about the United States of America. Books like The God Delusion, God Isn’t Great, or the film The Golden Compass are engineered to dismantle anyone’s faith in God, especially in the Lord Jesus Christ.
One final issue: international instability. As believers in Jesus Christ, there really are people out there who want to destroy us. Jesus told us that we would hear of wars and rumors of war. What are we to make of these rumors and during that kind of time, where can we find peace, stability and security? Consider for a moment Islam. Does Islam have an agenda or is it fabricated? As Christians, what do we know about it and how can we respond with reason and righteousness?
Respond: Be Infomed, Equipped, and Engaged
Now that we have a general overview of some of the perils facing Christians, the question to ask is, “how do we respond?”
Generally, the answer is- we need to be informed, equipped and engaged. If you are informed, then you are reading. Remember that word? Read. In this country a long time ago, reading had a high value. Yet the visual image has usurped our value for the printed page. It’s true that people don’t read as much any more. I’m asking you to read more and find out what’s going on. Especially you need to read your Bibles and discover the big picture from God about what’s going on. Then we will be equipped to face our world and culture. We can protect ourselves and we will also know how to promote Christ.
I’m not asking us to just circle the wagons in the sphere of believers. We can’t just stop with a desire to protect ourselves and our family. That is a beginning but we want to move beyond this fortress mentality. We want to look for creative ways to insert the Gospel message into our everyday lives. Then we will be engaged in our world and know we are in this together. I often quote what Edmond Burke once said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”
Back in the 1950s, Tommy Bolt was a professional golfer with a name that resonated in the golf community. While in Los Angeles for a match, everybody in golf knew that Tommy Bolt’s caddy was a chatterbox who just talked throughout the whole game. Before Tommy teed off, he turned to his caddy and said, “Okay, in this game you don’t say a word unless I ask you. Then you say either yes or no. Got it?”
“Yes.” So Tommy swung, took his tee shot, and then he walked out to the fairway to find the ball. He located the ball under a tree and a bit off the fairway. To make the tough shot, he had to shoot underneath the tree, over a lake and onto the green. He looked at the shot and then turned to his caddy and asked, “Five iron, don’t you think?”
The caddy stood there and said, “No.”
Tommy Bolt said, “What do you mean, not a five iron? Watch this.” He grabbed a five iron and made the perfect shot which went under the tree, over the lake and on to the green landing about two feet from the cup. As he handed the club to his caddy and said, “What do you think of that? You can talk now.”
The caddy said, “Mr. Bolt, you just hit the wrong ball.”
Oh, can you imagine? He made a perfect shot with the other guy’s golf ball.
Today is the time for God’s people to get into the right game. Many of us are just swinging at stuff. Learn what you are to aim at, get into the game and evaluate your life. Some of you are very good at what you do professionally and in the community. I’m glad for that excellence. I’m asking that you to evaluate your actions in light of this question: Am I making an eternal impact? Am I informed, equipped and engaged to impact the world for Chirst?
© Skip Heitzig is senior pastor at Calvary of Albuquerque. In 1982, Skip began a home Bible study which eventually grew into Calvary of Albuquerque. In 2008 Calvary of Albuquerque was considered the 20th largest church in America according to Outreach magazine. Today, Calvary of Albuquerque ministers to over 13,500 adults and their children every weekend and has spun off over 40 churches internationally. Skip lives in Albuquerque with his wife, Lenya, and their son, Nathan.