What holds you together as the world falls apart?

Sometimes I will ask people I meet “What holds you together while the world is falling apart?” The answer I receive tells me instantly if they are followers of Christ or not, because only those who really follow the Lord have a “light and hope which never goes out.” This present world is in a terrifying state, but are Christ’s followers in despair? Are they unduly worried or concerned? By no means! They see world events unfolding just as predicted in Scripture and know that they have the promise of the Lord’s continual help and support no matter what lies ahead. They know that the uplifting promise of Psalm 46v1 applies directly to them; “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid.”

Devout Christians sometimes describe this feeling of inner joy and hope as being like the sun shining in their hearts even when it may be “raining” outside. They have a sure and certain hope and peace which the troubles of this world cannot harm. And why are they so confident and reassured? Because they have come to know the Lord personally and have a real and living relationship with Him. They took repentance seriously, they took obedience seriously, they took Bible reading, praying and Church attendance seriously and now they reap the reward of His closeness and comfort. It doesn’t take “rocket science” to have the Lord close and near, on the contrary it is very simple, “Draw close to God and then He will draw close to you.” (James Ch4v8)

Those close to the Lord know for sure that He has not abandoned this world and that He never will. They also know for sure that God will never allow evil to triumph over good, so they never despair at world events. Scripture teaches that God is continually and actively at work behind the scenes intervening here and giving a nudge there, making sure that the Christian message to a lost world is never totally silenced.

Recently I came across three outstanding examples of this Divine Intervention which are an encouraging reminder that God is indeed continually at work opposing evil and upholding what is good and pure and lovely. With so much bad news around, these inspiring stories deserve a wide circulation.

The first story is about the work and ministry of the Rev David Wilkerson. In his best seller “The Cross and the Switchblade” the Rev David Wilkerson recounts the extraordinary manner in which the Lord called him to work among teenage street gangs in New York. He had begun church ministry as a country preacher in a farming community and had never actually been to New York. Sitting in his rural home one evening, he happened to be reading Life magazine. As he was flicking through the pages his attention was drawn to an artist’s picture of bewilderment, hatred and despair in the eyes of one of seven boys on trial for the brutal murder of a fifteen year old polio victim. Wilkerson was revolted and he found himself crying involuntarily.

Suddenly like a bolt of lightning, the following words came into his mind, “Go to New York and help those boys.” He immediately dismissed the idea as being ridiculous. But then it came again. “Go to New York and help those boys.” The thought became vivid and persistent and seemed to be completely independent of his own feelings and ideas. “I’d be a fool” he rationalised. “I know nothing about kids like that. I don’t even want to know.” It was no use. The idea would not go away and after much prayer and reflection he realised that this was indeed a genuine call from God. His book vividly describes the ministry he had among those street gangs. It is full of courageous acts, hardships and miracles and shows how God’s call to this work changed the course of numerous lives.

The Lord also famously used Wilkerson to ready and prepare his church in Times Square, for the terrorist attack which took place on 9/11. Six weeks before the attack on the Twin Towers, Wilkerson and every member of his pastoral team were struck by a deep conviction that a tragedy was shortly to occur and that God wanted them to prepare for it. The conviction was so overwhelming that he and his team cancelled all major church events in the weeks prior to 9/11 and replaced them with four prayer meetings every week. At these meetings they sensed that God wanted them to pray that the consequences of this coming event would be lessened from what otherwise might be the case. This forewarning explains why his church was ready and prepared to set up relief tents at ground zero, to comfort survivors and rescue workers.

The second story is every bit as moving and concerns the call of Karl Johanson to the mission field. Karl was born in Sweden in February 1868 and as a young lad found work on a farm. One day, during a time of religious revival in Sweden, this devout Christian lad was out in the fields ploughing with oxen. The oxen were moving steadily before him when he suddenly felt himself surrounded by a heavenly Presence. He wrote “I thought of stopping the oxen but I couldn’t utter a word.” An unseen Hand seemed to touch him and he then heard a clear Voice ask “Will you go as My messenger to Africa?” “My whole being trembled and I longed to run home to my employer who was a Christian. I knew however, that a personal reply was required of me. I then answered with fear and trembling; ‘Yes, if You Yourself will go with me.’ At once the Voice replied; ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ With that the Heavenly Presence withdrew as suddenly as it had appeared.”

His account continues; “It is impossible to describe the situation I found myself in and the turmoil in my heart. My life’s plans crashed around me now that I had a call to go to Africa. Severe temptations from the evil one beset me and I thought at times my mind would give way. Moreover, I knew of no organisation through which I could go.” Karl’s family didn’t really understand and because the call was so sacred he was unable to share it with more than a few chosen people.

Karl however, remained faithful and steadfast throughout numerous difficulties and eventually he went out as a missionary to South Africa with the Swedish Holiness Union in 1893. In time he became director of the Swedish Zulu Mission. In South Africa he met and married a Norwegian Christian and the two of them and their family served the Lord faithfully until his death in October 1945. He was loved and respected by all. The message of the Gospel he was sent to proclaim changed the lives and destinies of countless individuals and families.

The third story concerns the well-known Dutchman, Brother Andrew who became famous for smuggling Bibles to those behind the Iron Curtain. His book “God’s Smuggler” provides numerous examples of how God intervened to prevent evil overcoming good. Here is one incident which is particularly fascinating, showing how he literally had to travel by faith, totally relying on the Almighty to guide him to the right people, at the right time behind the Iron Curtain.

After he was expelled from Yugoslavia he headed in his car for Bulgaria via Greece and Turkey. He had no idea where to go when he got there, except that on his final night in Yugoslavia, a Christian brother living there had begged him to contact his closest friend in Sofia called Petroff. Brother Andrew memorised his name and address not wanting to write it down lest it be discovered in the course of a police check.

Once across the border into Bulgaria, Brother Andrew sat down on a hillside to survey Sofia from a distance. He marvelled at how God had used the very last person he had spoken to in one country, to give him the first contact he needed in the next. At his hotel the clerk grudgingly allowed him a glance at a street map. He mentally noted the street he wanted-the only minor street included in the map.

The next morning, wondering how the day would unfold, he left the hotel and headed immediately for the address he had been given. He found the street with ease. It was now vital that he would find the right house without drawing attention to himself. If he appeared as a stranger to the area, it would immediately create suspicion that the person he was contacting was being visited by a foreigner. It would bring great danger to the man and his family. Brother Andrew prayed as he walked along. Suddenly ahead of him he saw a man coming down the street from the opposite direction. They drew abreast, just as Andrew reached the number he was seeking. It was a large house, occupied by several families.

Andrew turned up the path, as did the other man and they both reached the front door simultaneously. Andrew glanced at his face and in an instant experienced a common miracle among Christians. In his book he wrote “Our spirits recognised each other. Without a word we marched side by side up the stairs. The man reached his apartment, took out his key and threw the door open. Without invitation I walked in. Just as quickly, he closed the door behind him. We stood facing each other in the darkness of a single room which was his home. ‘I am Andrew from Holland’, I said in English. ‘I am Petroff’ said the man.

After giving thanks to God together, not a minute of time was wasted to reduce further any risks involved. ‘I’ve heard that both Bulgaria and Rumania are desperately short of Bibles. Is that true?’ In reply Petroff led me to his desk. On the desk was a typewriter and next to that a Bible opened at Exodus. He had been laboriously typing out pages from his Bible to complete another one.”

Andrew could hardly wait to show him the Bibles he had for him in the back of his car. That night, after
checking the street was empty, Andrew proceeded to carry inside the first of many cartons of Bibles he was to deliver to this man over the years. Petroff was an ideal person to meet because it turned out that he had Christian contacts all over Bulgaria and he was able to distribute these Bibles to them. Many of the churches he had contact with, had only one Bible to share between members of their congregation.

St Paul states that in this Fallen World Age there is a massive spiritual struggle going on between good and evil for the hearts and minds of men and women. In Ephesians Ch6v12 he warns “We do not wrestle against mere flesh and blood but against…spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places.” Let us never despair. God will not allow the powers of darkness to totally overwhelm this world. Divine intervention like these examples is going on privately behind the scenes all the time, day in and day out, across the entire world. Truly “The Eternal God is our refuge and underneath are His everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy Ch33v27).