This is a wonderful sermon preached by my husband, Pastor Richmond Leigh!
During this Sunday service, Pastor Richmond Leigh preached from the Book of 2 Corinthians: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2Cor 10:3-6)
Recently, church leaders advised that the Christians should carry guns and defend themselves against their enemies. For some years, Nigeria has experienced a lot of troubles. The Muslim extremists have attacked the Christians especially in the North of the country. Tragically, many people have died during these attacks, not only Christians, but many Muslims and even unbelievers. People are divided on how to approach the issue of warfare. In case of an attack, as children of God, how do we defend ourselves? What is the Bible’s answer to this question? Pastor Richmond Leigh said that the answer is found in the Word of God. He said that this is a hard matter to consider and a difficult sermon to preach. But truth must be told for truth sets free! When attacked by armed terrorists, what shall we do? Common sense tells us to retaliate; get armed and fight back. But Christianity is not based on ‘common sense’ or tribal culture. Christianity is Christ and it is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Christianity is supernatural and as children of God we must use spiritual weapons to fight our battles. When confronted by evil, we take our inspiration from the Bible.
The story of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is very instructive (Daniel 3). They refused to bow to the king’s idol knowing that they may be killed for that. They told the king that their God, Jehovah, is able to deliver them from death. But just in case He wants to glorify Himself thru their deaths, they are ready to die for their faith. King Nebuchadnezzar got furious, bound them with ropes and threw them in the fire. The Babylonian men who pushed them into the fire got burnt and died. But the three Hebrews did not die. Inside the furnace they were met and welcomed by ‘The Forth Man’ who is the Lord Jesus Christ. Their clothes and bodies did not burn. It was only their ropes, that got burnt. They were sent into the fire in bondage and they came out alive and free. The King and everybody bowed down to the God of the Hebrews who alone can save from death. “Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!” (Dan 3:28). What is the lesson? In times of trials, persecution and religious wars, it is good to renew our faith in our God who alone saves His people from death, those who trust in Him to the end!
Geographically, during the months of December to March, Nigeria experiences two different winds. There is a wind that comes from the North, blowing from the Sahara Desert. It brings a season called ‘The Harmattan’. It brings cold weather and much dust. The atmosphere is hazy, and planes cannot fly. This North wind stands for the power of flesh and worldliness. The unbelievers are the people who do not wait for God. They worship God in the flesh. They are like King Saul who offered unacceptable sacrifices to God (1Sam 13). From time to time, this wind of intimidation and persecution seems so strong. But remember, it is not forever! Later, another wind, called ‘the South wind’ coming from the Atlantic Ocean overpowers the North wind and pushes it back. The South wind clears the air, brings warmth, rain and refreshing to the plants. In the same, prophetically, there are ‘two winds’, better said, ‘two spirits’. The North ‘wind’, with its coldness, dust and death will not blow forever. The season of fear and religious fanaticism will be replaced by another, the season of peace and revival of the Holy Spirit. The South wind people are like King David, true worshippers of the Living God who know how to wait on Him. They worship God in Spirit and in truth! The South wind stands for the power of the Spirit and of much needed revival. This is what we pray for! Revival of the Holy Spirit is our desire for Nigeria! God will do it!
This is a spiritual law: The people of the flesh hate the people of the Spirit. The worldly people hate the born-again believers because Christ is in them. They want to kill them thinking that they offer God a service. Before He died on the Cross, our Lord warned and in the same time encouraged His disciples concerning these things. He said: “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (Jn 16:1-3). No matter how many prayers they pray and how much they fast, the religious extremists do not know the only true God! Knowing the truth will prepare us to face all persecutions, and even death, standing for Jesus to the end. The news of wars and rumors of wars should not make us ‘stumble’ in our faith! We are called to live and die for Jesus. Some of us will be martyred. But even if not, we must be ready to stand faithful to the end declaring: “Jesus is Lord!”
What is the reason why many Christians stumble and backslide from the faith? The main reason is the fear of death! If they believe that heaven is their destination, then why are Christians afraid to die? These are some of the answers: Many who call themselves Christians, are not truly born-again. They are Christians only by birth. Others, who are born-again, are not baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit. Their spiritual eyes are closed. They have not seen the reality of the Kingdom of God. But the true believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit is free from all fears, including the fear of death. This is the Word of God: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2Tim 1:7). Apostle Paul wan not afraid of death because he ‘died daily’. He says: “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Cor 15:31). This is Paul’s testimony: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2Cor 4:8-11). The Christian ‘carries’ in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus. But the power of resurrection also works inside him, to ‘quicken his mortal body’.
In life or death, this is the testimony of all true believers: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11). This is our confidence that life in Christ is stronger than death. We do not fear those who can only kill the body and after that they can do nothing more. We fear only God, who alone can destroy body and soul in hell (Mt 10:28). At the Cross, Jesus removed the ‘sting’ of death and silenced the boasting of the grave! Praise His Holy Name! Our weapons are not ‘carnal’. We do not fight with guns and spears. We see the battle as spiritual and we use spiritual weapons against the devil, the enemy of our souls. Our weapons are faith in the Word of God, fasting and prayers! These ones can never fail! In all situations, let’s make this confession: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (Phil 1:21).
This is a partial list of the Christian martyrs in the first century: Stephen (Ac 7:54-60), James, son of Zebedee (Ac 12:1, 2), James, brother of Jesus, Apostle Peter, Apostle Paul, Mark, Philip, Apostle Jude, Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna and so many others. Since then, even up till today, many others died for their faith, killed by those who did not know the true God.
We are living in what the Bible calls ‘the last days.’ Perilous times shall come. Persecution shall come! We shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. Many shall be deceived and distracted from the way of faith. But the Lord commands us to stand firm and not to fear. We are soldiers of Christ! No matter how dark it may be, we shall lift the banner of Jesus! Unbelievers may seem stronger. False religions may seem to succeed. But remember, no unbeliever shall be found in heaven! Come what may, heaven is our eternal home!
Our Lord warned us that during persecutions we should not be deceived, and we should not be troubled with fear (Mt 24:4-14). We should be prepared spiritually and mentally in event of attacks on our faith. These are difficult times. He said that “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake”. This is a prophetic statement! The world will hate us all and kill some of us. This is the truth! The love of many will ‘grow cold’. ‘But he who endures to the end, shall be saved’. During the fire of persecutions, the true Christians alone will be able to ‘stand to the end’ proving to be Christ’ disciples. They shall shine like the stars in the dark night! During these periods of trials, one thing will remain constant: against all odds, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel will be preached! Nothing and nobody can stop the advance of the Kingdom of God! Our Lord promised that “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it!” (Mt 16:18).
Finally, we remind ourselves that Christianity is always associated with the Cross. We die with Christ! We die to self, to sin, to the world and to the devil. Paul said that: “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil 1:20). This should be our desire too! Remember that you cannot stop people hating you and planning to kill you. If you can run, the run to safety. God will help you. If you cannot run, then stand firm and faithful to the end. God will help you too. May these words strengthen your faith and encourage you, soldiers of Christ! His banner over us is Love! Worship the Lord!