November 13th, 2015 … ISIS has made its voice known yet again.
In fact, they have not only made their voice known, but they have captivated the attention of even the most powerful countries. What started as a small dot on America’s radar that we have ignored for so long has now grown into a threat that we have yet to prove we can contain. If there’s one thing history teaches, it’s that in order for us to fight our enemies, we must first acknowledge them as such. However, to note the fear ISIS commands even amongst those who profess Christianity is astonishing.
Amidst the storm that our world is currently facing, have you noticed that everyone is still searching for a solution to ISIS? Have you noticed the number of people suddenly living in fear? Do you see the angst and worry riddled among those who profess Christ? It is astounding, no? What we’re starting to see are many choosing to place their hope and expectancy upon a new or pre-existing governmental foreign policy. Others have chosen to provide their own “unbiased” assessments and solutions to the multifaceted issues plaguing the Middle East, attempting to oversimplify very complex issues. I’m not just referring to government officials. All of these are noble attempts, but it’s ignoring a very simple historical truth.
ISIS is a new enemy, but “ISIS” has and will always exist.
Stretching back years into the past, we see instances throughout Scripture where enemies have risen to power and slaughtered innocent peoples, including Christians. Let us not forget that those of us united in Christ are bonded by the same blood that saved us. We have an extensive history of ancestors in the faith who endured hardships, persecution, and were sometimes even forced to flee for their very lives. This persecution and opposition that ISIS presents is not new to the Christian faith. The early Christians experienced their own sense of persecution and opposition throughout the Bible, most notably in the book of Acts. It was at this time that a very prominent figure was garnering prominence within the ranks, earning a reputation from a lifestyle of persecuting the church of Christ. He is arguably one of the most notorious persecutors of his time, well equipped, and, in his mind, completely justified in his actions. His name: Saul.
But to the people of God at that time, that was their “ISIS.”
In the wake of Saul’s conversion, the ruthless Roman Emperor Nero became a new face of persecution for Christians. Whereas Saul sought to imprison those who professed Christ, history tells us Emperor Nero enjoyed inflicting a slow, torturous death upon Christians. Simply killing them was a second-tier mission; inhumanely eliminating them became a sport for Nero and company. With his heavy hand bringing forth such harsh persecution, among many Christian circles, Nero quickly became characterized as an anti-Christ. This was not a term Christians used flippantly. In fact, it speaks even more to the level of terror he caused. For believers, the very name of “Nero” struck terror in the hearts of believers.
For the people of God at that time, that was their “ISIS.”
By acknowledging the inevitable existence, I am in no way condoning the actions of ISIS. However, the Bible continually teaches the people of God that there will always be an “ISIS.” Their existence has shadowed across millennia, and as history has revealed, they are not going away in the year 2015. Though ISIS may eventually be defeated, “ISIS” will always exist in opposition to the people of God. Scripture continually repeats the theme that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”  However, at the same time, “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” 
I believe there are three things we, as the church, have done in the past and can do now in light of our modern day “ISIS.” It is during these times that the people of God must do the very thing that has brought us through even the darkest of times. For we cannot continue to be a generation that believes simply retweeting, sharing a post, or liking a picture is going to stop children from being beheaded or families being gunned down.
- Specific, intentional, expectant prayer
Prayer is the act of offering our petitions to a mighty God who wants to listen. However, let us approach the throne boldly in our prayers! Is it truly out of God’s ability to change the hearts of those affiliated with ISIS? Do we think that God could save their already condemned souls? Is it too hard for God to raise up another Paul out of ISIS? Certainly their hearts are not so far away that even God Himself cannot capture them. Even so, more glory to God!
We have brothers and sisters in countries that are currently being terrorized physically, emotionally, and/or mentally. There are missionaries who have literally sacrificed for the purpose of sharing the saving Gospel message with the lost. We can not only keep them in our prayers, but we can find ways to cooperate with organizations, churches, and other entities that are funding these missionaries. Missionaries are currently surrounded by people with broken hearts searching for answers. Let us join alongside and help equip our brothers and sisters to care for the brokenhearted and provide them the hope that is in Jesus Christ.
Our hearts must assume an appropriate posture against the fear nurtured by ISIS. Remember what it is that God truly judges in a man. I am writing to you as a humbled brother in Christ, heartbroken and saddened by what is going on in our world. But there is one simple truth that allows my heart to find comfort through the storm and it is this – Christ is coming back. May our hearts also keep the same perspective as Paul, who endured the glorious agony of bearing Christ on the frontlines of spiritual warfare. Like Paul, let us not continue to look behind, let us no longer look at the chaos around, but instead let us place our hope in the future coming of our Lord! For where does our help come from? Our help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 
May we always remember the sovereign God we serve amidst the storm. Amen.
 2 Timothy 3:12
 1 Peter 4:16
 Psalm 121:1-2
 Philippians 3:13-14
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