Monday, November 1, 2010

Even if it doesn’t happen like we expect

Down through the ages, the devil has always sought to destroy God’s people. From the time that Cain murdered Abel this has been happening. History shows that God has continually delivered his people from evil. Yet at other times, we see bad things happen to the people of God and we do not understand. We need to go to God’s Word to gain wisdom and understanding about all this.

Delivered from the mouths of lions
When Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, he was protected and no harm came to him.

Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions' den. When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?" Then Daniel spoke to the king, "O king, live forever! "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime." (Dan 6:19-22)

Delivered from mass murder
When Jesus was a baby, King Herod the Great had all the babies in Bethlehem killed in his attempt to rid the earth of the newborn Jewish King. Yet Joseph was warned of this and he fled to safety in Egypt.

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON." Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE." (Mat 2:13-18)

Guided back to Israel when it was safe
After Herod died, and it was safe again for Jesus, Joseph was guided by the Lord to return to Israel.

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, "Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. (Mat 2:19-21)

Delivered from danger
Yet even after Joseph brought Mary and Jesus back to Israel, he was supernaturally warned about Herod’s successor, his son Archelaus.

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene." (Mat 2:22-23)

We know from history books that the ten-year reign of Archelaus was a brutal one. Yet, once again, Jesus was protected from danger.

Delivered from assassination
One of the greatest examples of deliverance is when Jesus was protected from an angry crowd that tried to throw Him off a cliff. “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.” (Luk 4:28-30)

Beware of men
Jesus warned his disciples to beware of men, who would seek to put them to death. This same warning applies to every believer today.

"But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. "But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” (Mat 10:17-23)

Even though we know that everyone who seeks to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, Jesus instructed us to flee from persecution. He said that when you are persecuted in one city, you should flee to the next. And this is what He Himself did when He was persecuted. He stayed away from areas where people were seeking His life, until the time came for Him to be glorified.

Do not fear men
Even though Jesus taught us to flee from persecution, He also taught us not to be afraid of men.

"Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. "So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Mat 10:26-31)

Some people will seek to save their lives but Jesus taught us not to do that.

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. "He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Mat 10:34-39)

He said that if we lose our life for His sake, we will find it. Yet most of us don’t think of that as deliverance. We don’t think of that as a successful ending. That’s why we need to have a radical change in our perspective, so that we can begin to see things the way God sees them.

Delivered from prison and death
In the book of Acts, we see numerous instances where God delivered His people from prison and death. In Acts 4:23, the apostles were delivered from prison. They were threatened by the rulers not to preach in Jesus name, but the apostles refused to stop. They knew they must obey the Lord.

Another time they were thrown into prison and an angel opened the prison gates and delivered them.

But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, "Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life." Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, saying, "We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside." (Act 5:17-23)

At another time in Phillipi, Paul and Silas were put into prison for casting a demon out of a fortuneteller. Yet the Lord opened the doors and they were ultimately set free.

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. (Act 16:25-26)

And when Paul was on a ship, being taken as a prisoner to the emperor in Rome, his ship was wrecked. Yet God delivered him and everyone on the ship from death. And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land. (Act 27:44)

When a crowd was seeking to kill the apostle Paul, the Lord sent Roman soldiers to rescue him.

While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. At once he took along some soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander came up and took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; and he began asking who he was and what he had done. (Act 21:31-33)

Delivered from the fiery furnace
We know that during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, three Hebrew men refused to bow down to the idol the king had made. They were threatened with death, if they did not bow. The king swore to throw them into the fiery furnace.

Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, "Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?" They replied to the king, "Certainly, O king." He said, "Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!" Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them. (Dan 3:21-27)

The three Hebrew men were delivered from the fiery furnace. And God promises His people He will do it for us, too.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. (Isa 43:1-2)

His angels will guard you in all your ways
There are many pslams that speak of how the mighty hand of God protects His people from all harm. One of my favorites is Psalm 91. It says in part:

I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes And see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the LORD, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. (Psa 91:2-11)

The destruction will not approach you. No evil will befall you. God promises angelic protection from all harm. You need to lay hold of these promises in your spirit, because they are certain. God does not lie.

Even if it doesn’t happen like we expect
God will always deliver His people who call upon the name of the Lord. Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:13). But it doesn’t always happen like we think it should. Just listen to the wisdom of the three Hebrew men before they were thrown into the fiery furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. "But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Dan 3:16-18)

Do you see what they said? When they were faced with execution, they said the God we serve is able to deliver us and He will deliver us. But even if He does not, we won’t bow down to your idol. They feared God more than the King. They refused to give up. They refused to give in. They refused to give themselves over to evil. And God did deliver them as we have read. But they were prepared to die, rather than bow to the idol. They were prepared for the possibility that God might choose not to deliver them from the fiery furnace. This has to be our attitude as well.

We need to understand that God is not in our little box. He doesn’t always operate like we think He should.

It pleased the Lord to crush Him
A perfect example of this is in the life of Jesus. So many times people cannot understand why bad things happen to decent people. Yet look at what happened to Jesus. Isaiah prophesied of the sufferings Jesus would one day endure. And at one point, the prophet says, “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief.”(Isa 53:10). See, that’s the part we have a tough time understanding.

How could a loving God be pleased to crush His Son? In order to answer that, we need to understand God’s end goal. In the end, by crushing His Son, Jesus became a guilt offering for the many, including you and me. And in the end, God raised Jesus from the dead, seating Him at His own right hand. Jesus is on the throne of the universe and will rule and reign forever. So He has been very prosperous through all of this. But it happened after His earthly life ended. That’s the part we struggle to grasp. It’s hard to see how you can call it deliverance when the person’s earthly life comes to an end.

Beheaded for Christ
Aside from Jesus Christ, John the Baptist was the greatest man that ever lived until the day he died. "Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Mat 11:11)

Yet he was thrown in prison and eventually beheaded by Herod upon his daughter’s request.

Having been prompted by her mother, she *said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist." Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. (Mat 14:8-10)

Killed with the sword
The same was true of the apostle John’s brother James. Herod later had him put to death with the sword. (Act 12:2).

Immediately after this, Herod had Peter arrested and planned to put him to the sword also. But God sent an angel to release him from prison.

So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and woke him up, saying, "Get up quickly." And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he *said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me." And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." (Act 12:5-11)

So it boggles the mind how God so powerfully delivers some of His people from harm and then allows others to be left in prison and even suffer death.

Looking for a better country
Yet we’re not looking to make a permanent home here on this earth anyway. The country we are looking for is in heaven. We’re just pilgrims and strangers passing through this place. And even those who were delivered during their earthly lifetimes, life on earth eventually did end.

This was true for Peter. Even though he was delivered from prison and death, his earthly life eventually came to an end. Tradition tells us that he was crucified on a cross. And he felt he was not worthy to die the same way Jesus did, so they crucified him upside down.

The same was true of Paul. In spite of the many times God delivered him from danger, he ended up a prisoner until the end of his life. And tradition tells us that he was eventually executed as well.

Many godly people have been martyred for Christ. And as the writer of Hebrews said about them,

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. (Heb 11:37-38).

These people all had faith in God to deliver them, but while they were on earth, they did not receive what was promised. Foxes Book of Martyrs is full of stories of such people down through the ages from the days of the Roman Colosseum to the nineteenth century foreign missionaries tortured and killed in third world countries. This world was not worthy of them, and it was not their home. They were looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Heb 11:10)

The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil

The prophet Isaiah had a revelation from the Lord that helps put it all into perspective for us. He wrote:

The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.

So the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. That’s deliverance! Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. You can’t get any better than that, if you have fulfilled God’s purpose for your life on earth.

Raised from the Dead
You see, even when a believer does die, that’s not the end. There is one day going to be a resurrection of the dead. The righteous will rise to eternal life and the unrighteous to eternal shame and contempt (Daniel 12:2).

And if Jesus wants to, He can even raise you from the dead before that. He has done so many times, such as with Lazarus. He had been dead for three days and his body had begun to stink. When his sister Martha spoke to Jesus she told him how she wished he had been there to heal Lazarus before he died. She was sure that Jesus could have delivered her brother from sickness, but she didn’t yet know of Jesus power to raise the dead.

Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. "Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." Jesus *said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha *said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (Joh 11:21-26)

If you believe in Jesus, you will live even if you die. And everyone who lives and believes in Jesus will never die. The one who has given his life to Jesus has already died. For the person who believes in Jesus, death no longer has any sting. It’s impossible to kill a disciple of Jesus Christ. You may kill the body and terminate the disciple’s human vital signs, but he is still alive.

Jesus *said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, *said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." Jesus *said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. "I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." (Joh 11:39-44)

Lazarus was delivered from the grave when Jesus raised him from the dead. And there are many other instances in Scripture where Jesus raised the dead. This is the biggest foe that man can face and Jesus has proven time and again that He has the power to deliver us from it. He has power over death, hell, and the grave. Yet even Lazarus eventually died again and is with Jesus now in heaven awaiting the resurrection of the dead.

Some people do not believe in destiny. But we all have a purpose in life and all our days are written in God’s book before one of them comes to pass. The psalmist wrote:

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psa 139:16)

We need to rest in this knowledge that our lives are in God’s hands. During the last days when the antichrist rules the earth, he will be allowed to make war with the saints on earth and overcome them (Rev 13:7). And here is the admonition to those who have ears to hear:

Whoever has ears, let them hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people. (Rev 13:9-10)

So those saints who are destined for captivity will go into captivity. And those who are destined to be killed with the sword will be killed with the sword. That’s what God in His infinite wisdom and love has planned for them.

Putting it All Together

God is able to deliver us from any and every situation we encounter. There is nothing He can’t do. Yet ultimately it is up to Him how He wants to bring deliverance. For some people, they are delivered during their earthly lifetime. God does this in many wondrous ways, including through dreams, visions, miraculous protection, and the ministry of angels. But even these people eventually leave this world at some point once their purpose has been fulfilled.

For others, they are delivered by the Lord after their earthly life ends. And this is in no way inferior to any earthly deliverance. The Lord takes them away to spare them from evil. They receive a better country, a better body, and a better reward in the presence of the Lord, which lasts throughout eternity. If you believe in Jesus, you will live even if you die. And everyone who lives and believes in Jesus will never die.

We need to trust the Lord to do what He in His infinite wisdom deems best. So no matter what we may face in this life, we know that the Lord will deliver us one way or another, if we call upon His name. “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading The Afflictions of the Righteous, Overcomers in This Life, and The Glory of Martyrdom for Christ. You may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page for this blog, and you can also find my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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