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Friday, 12 August 2016

Who will be the Captain to Steer your Ship?



It seems to me that one of the key principles to be learned from the life and witness of Hudson Taylor, a biography of whom I just concluded, was his whole-hearted devotion to his Master. His single-mindedness was displayed in his willingness to give up every earthly thing for the sake of the Kingdom and in his total trust and reliance on God in any and every situation. He remained calm in the midst of crisis, both in the mission and when things affected him personally. He prayed about everything in what some would say was a childlike manner knowing that he was weak but his God was strong. He was not only professing Jesus as his Saviour, but was clearly following Him on a daily basis as Lord. How many of us are doing this? Is it Biblical or does God instead demand less of us because of grace? 

The central issue here is: Who is in your driving seat? or Who is steering your ship? David Cameron recently came to the conclusion that he was “not the 'captain' to steer our country to its next destination.” His emotional speech came after a shock decision for Brexit. Because we live in a democracy, Cameron was not in sufficient control to guarantee that his desires came to fruition. He presumed that he was steering the British ship, but he ultimately only had the power that God allowed him as an elected ruler for a time. The same is true of current and future Prime Ministers, Presidents and leaders around the world. Let us not forget Who is really steering the ship.

I was amazed by the number of Christians who voted against Brexit in the UK because they feared for their jobs, their homes, their future lives and the future of their children. Although I personally voted for Brexit, this is not a political post. The real point is why are Christians voting for something because they are afraid of the consequences if they vote in another direction? What does that say about their faith in God? Is God in control and working everything for the good of those who love him or is He idle and watching in dismay as things spiral out of control? Whether we support Brexit or not, surely our decision-making process should begin with: “How would God want me to vote?” or even, “What are the likely consequences for Christians and religious liberty if I vote one way or the other?” But some Christians seem to have hung their faith on a coat rack when making their decision or looked at the whole matter from a purely selfish point of view---how it might affect them personally. They are now terrified of the economic outlook for the UK.

I think it comes back to whether we are Sunday Christians or whether we are trying in our imperfect and failing way to follow Jesus all of the time. Do we give Him access to all areas of our life or do we have areas that we want to manage ourselves? Do we think we can do a better job in those areas without God or do we recognise our weakness and utter dependence on Him in everything we do? Is it hard for us as intelligent beings to even acknowledge the need of God. I mean Christianity is a crutch, right? It is common to hear atheists making comments like that. But sadly, although most Christians are saying the right thing (“I do trust God and am following Jesus as Lord.”), the way we are living our lives tells a different story to those looking on. Why would others be persuaded to submit themselves and their lives to God if they can see that we are not even doing that ourselves? Why would they be willing to trust God if we do not?

My last post was about “Easy Believism” and “Decisionism,” or making an instant, on the spot decision to “accept Christ” without considering the cost. This practice again speaks to the heart of the issue and may explain why so many people profess Christ but are not following Him as Lord. They are not truly saved and are carrying a false assurance of conversion. Those who are saved know that the Bible teaches that things on earth will get very tough, one passage from Matthew 24 vs 6-13 details what we should expect: 

“And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Is that not what we are seeing now with the frequent terrorist attacks, and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, to name just a few. There is palpable tension on the world stage and relationships between countries are strained. Those who are hoping for peace are going to be disappointed as the Bible tells us that there will not be peace, at least not for Christians. The world is heading towards the final magnificent event when Jesus will return and take all those who have believed in Him to heaven forever. But before that, we will face some terrible times.

Did God include these things in the Bible to scare us? Maybe they should be seen as a warning that we need to be ready and not put off a decision about salvation to another day. Jesus could return at any time. But note the text clearly says, “See to it that you are NOT alarmed.” If we are true Christians, these verses should cause us to sit up and pay attention. They should cause us to pray and to trust God more in times of crisis. We have been told what will happen to allow us to prepare and to make ourselves ready. Why are some professing believers terrified of terrorists?  Isn’t God bigger than these things? Doesn’t He have the power to stop it all if He so desires? Since He allows it we must conclude that it is part of His plan. Who are we to question God who is so far above us in every conceivable way?

God knows when each of us will die. It is predetermined. We cannot die by accident or at the hand of someone else unless God wills it. Perhaps you are afraid of the pain of death, I can relate to that. It’s not death itself I fear but the pain and possible suffering is obviously hard to envisage. But we can pray for the strength to endure whatever we might face knowing that God knows how much we can bear and that He alone is faithful. Some of the missionaries of long ago were tortured and martyred but they stood strong in the face of this and even prayed for their persecutors. 

As global events propel us towards a final conclusion one day. We don’t know the day or hour---no one does. But we can observe signs and events which are fulfilling those things long ago predicted in the Bible and know that we are living in the end times. We need to be asking ourselves whether we are truly Christians. Are we trusting in Jesus death and resurrection for our eternal salvation? Have we confessed our sin and received forgiveness? Are we now following Jesus as Lord of every area of our lives? Does our faith impact every decision we make and everything we do? Is Jesus in the driving seat or are we battling Him for control? Are we afraid of the consequences, of Brexit, or the atrocities committed by terrorists? Or are we confident that God has a plan and is in control?

Who will be the Captain to Steer your Ship? Let it be God with Jesus at His right hand!