“Never-Say-Die”
Our seventh President, Andrew Jackson, came by the nickname “Old Hickory” honestly.  His father died of an accident three weeks before his birth, and at age thirteen, he was captured by the British and left scarred by a sword because he refused to clean the boots of a British officer.  At age fourteen, he was left an orphan when his mother died from cholera.  However, with limited resources and education, he was determined to succeed.  From his childhood, there is a story that illustrates his perseverance.  The story is told that Andrew Jackson's boyhood friends just could not understand how he became a famous general and then the President of the United States.  They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded.  One of Jackson's friends said, "Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter, but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match.  But look where Andy is now."  Another friend responded, "How did there happen to be a fourth time?  Didn't they usually say three times and out?  Sure, they were supposed to, but not Andy.  He would never admit he was beat -- he would never stay 'throwed.'  Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner." 
It seems that in every epoch of Christian church history, there has been a determined effort to annihilate the presence of the church and to extinguish its influence.  During the first century, Nero made sport of the blood of Christian martyrs in the Roman Empire.  By the late third century, Diocletian commanded that the churches all be leveled to the ground.  As the church entered the Dark Ages, it was estimated that over fifty million lives were killed trying to suppress the advancement of the protestant church.  Yet, the church has demonstrated amazing resilience.   Some of the secret has to do with the courage and commitment of countless believers, but most of the secret lies in the purpose of God for the church.  While the world may fight the church and even kill its members, the Lord has stated clearly in Matthew 16:18, “...upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Now, Jesus did not say that there might not come some days when it would look like the gates of hell might prevail against it.  But, when the dust settles and the final analysis is calculated, the church will remain standing simply because the Lord wants it to last.  Empires have come and gone.  Rulers risen and fallen.  And there still stands the church having outlived them all.  Matthew Henry wrote, “When men are projecting the church’s ruin, God is preparing for its salvation.”  In these times of growing hostile and militant aggression toward the people of God, we are still armed with possessions that will assure our ultimate victory.
We have the indestructible Word of God.  In Matthew 24:35, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”  For thousands of years, the enemies of truth have sought to destroy the precious Word of God.  But every attempt has failed miserably.  The French humanist, Voltaire once said, "Another century and there will not be a Bible on the earth."  It is interesting to note that after he died, his old printing press and the very house where he lived was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society and made a storehouse for Bibles.  God’s Word has been minimized, criticized, and scrutinized.  Yet, it has passed through the critical fires and has stood the test of time to remain the plumb line of truth.  God’s truth is unchanging and is never negotiable under any circumstance.  Critics cry out that Biblical truth is an outdated antique which is out of touch with the times and simply old-fashioned.  For the record, so are air and water, but try surviving without them!  Winston Churchill said, “The truth is incontrovertible.  Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”  The men who stand in conflict with truth will always be those whose lives are contradicted by truth.  God’s truth is neither afraid of the darkness nor the storm.  It is merely a beacon that shines brighter against such backdrops.  Even if the world should burn or bury God’s Word, truth will always prevail if we ensure it is engraved on the tablets of our heart.  
We have the invincible Son of God.  In John 10:18, speaking of His life, Jesus said, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again... ” At His birth, Herod sought to kill Him.  During His years of ministry, the Pharisees and Chief Priests plotted how to take His life.  Once Pilate became the pawn to put the plan into motion, the world would forever be disturbed at the outcome.  Satan could not kill Him.  Death could not keep Him.  And the grave could not hold Him!  The resurrection of Jesus is the citadel of the Christian faith, and those that are His have this same power at work within their lives.  The world that cannot comprehend His resurrection power, but are mad with rage that Jesus is free and on the loose.  That is why any persecution we receive is simply the world attempting to get to the Jesus within us.  Time and again, the rationalists have declared that the church was dead or dying.  But, as long as His resurrection power is at work, there will always remain the hope of renewed life.  Nineteenth-century American Bishop, Edward Thomson wrote, “The world cannot bury Christ.  The earth is not deep enough for His tomb, the clouds are not wide enough for His winding sheet.”  The world may dream of a day when the church is in smoking ruins, but the Lord would still raise a flaming army from the smoldering ashes. 
We have the insuppressible Spirit of God.  In John 3:8, Jesus said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”  Jesus likened the Spirit of God to the moving of the wind.  Try as hard as he may, a man will never be able to manipulate the wind to blow.  Likewise, the moment the wind begins to blow, a man is powerless to stop it.  The Holy Spirit moves at will, and releases power that even Satan is unable to prevent.  When the Spirit moved upon Joshua, an entire city fell into his hands.  When the Spirit moved upon Elijah, fire fell from heaven.  When the Spirit moved upon Ezekiel, the wheels began to turn.    The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, management, or machinery, but rather through men.  And while Satan’s power is at work everywhere in the world, there is nothing he fears more than that of a God-anointed, Christ-centered, Spirit-powered church.  Os Guinness said, “The story of Christian reformation, revival, and renaissance underscores that the darkest hour is often just before the dawn, so we should always be people of hope and prayer, not gloom and defeatism.  God the Holy Spirit can turn the situation around in five minutes.”  As long as the Spirit provides gusts of wind there will always be the hope of a fire to spread.   
Years ago, Timex watches had this slogan, “It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.”  The same words may also suggest the reason why, after storms and splits, war and famine, trial and persecution, there is still such a thing as the church.  There are days when the battle is fierce and difficult.  In such times, it is easy to question the outcome.  If Andrew Jackson were here today, he might say to us, “The thing that counts is not how many times you are 'throwed,' but whether you are willing to stay 'throwed'."    
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2016 Alan Stewart

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