“The eternal God is thy refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).
“Who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?” (1 Peter 3:13).
Most of my life I was comforted by scriptures like Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 91:1; and 1 Peter 3:13 because they taught that we were sheltered in the arms of God. But recently I ran into an anonymous statement variously rendered “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you” … “sustain you” … “protect you.” After chewing on it a bit, I decided it must have come from the “positive confession” people, who held that nothing negative should happen in the Christian life, and I’d lived long enough to know that sometimes it did. My immediate thought was the multiplied Christians in Africa and Asia currently being slaughtered for their faith. Was the statement saying they were murdered because they were out of the will of God? this wouldn’t have happened to them if …? thereby blaming their falling into the hands of the enemy on their own failure?
Well, right there was the problem: the statement made the will of God a condition for protection. Why not just “God will never take you where God cannot protect you”? There was no need to personify “the will of God” and “the grace of God,” as if these were separately operative. God Himself was the agent, not His will or His grace.
I thought of the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:13-30), Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:3-27), Jeremiah in the miry dungeon (Jeremiah 38:4-13). God delivered them. And Daniel even gave the cause: “My God shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me” (6:22). Or, “I was delivered because I was innocent.” So, those examples weren’t applicable to my rebuttal. Then, there was Job. He lost his children, his friends, his wealth, his health. Yet God restored him. That was good. What about others?
That Abel was murdered (Genesis 4:1-15) shows bad things can happen to good people. Zechariah was stoned (2 Chronicles 24:1-27; Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51). John the Baptist was beheaded (Mark 6:17-28), and Jesus even eulogized, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28). The deacon Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:51-60). James, the son of Zebedee, brother of John, one of the Inner Circle, was beheaded (Acts 12:2). But the Church prayed, and Peter was spared (Acts 12:3-17) showing prayer can mitigate circumstances. All of the Eleven eventually, we are told, died a martyr’s death. And many of the Old Testament prophets.
Jesus, weeping over Jerusalem, said: “Behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify. Some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city. That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom you slew between the Temple and the altar. Verily I say to you, All these things shall come on this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:34-37), showing God let His envoys be killed!
Paul was “in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prison more frequently, in death often. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Three times was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). Until, at last, beheaded in Rome.
Some of the heroes of faith “were tortured … had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented: of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts, in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35-38).
Jesus died on a cross (Matthew 27:26-54).
Jesus forewarned the disciples: “Beware of men. They will deliver you up to the councils. They will scourge you. You will be hated of all men for My name’s sake. When they persecute you in one city, flee to another. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call them of His household?” (Matthew 10:17-25).
After escaping Damascus over the city wall, Paul added, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“The Early Church was married to poverty, prison, and persecution. Today the Church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.” ~Leonard Ravenhill
Copyright © 2017 Alexandra Lee