By spring 1812, Napoleon controlled most of Europe, from Spain to Russia. England, however, controlled the seas. Napoleon wanted to control India, which was then a British colony. But, because of Britain's superior naval strength throughout the world, his only hope was to take India by land, which meant gaining control of Russia. More than 600,000 men marched towards Russia under the command of the diminutive Corsican, but only about 30,000 survived. The fate of Napoleon's Grand Army was sealed long before the first shot was fired. On the route to Moscow, the army passed through Poland and found the region filthy beyond belief. The peasants were unwashed, with matted hair and ridden with lice and fleas, and most of their wells were fouled. Soon thereafter, men began staggering out of the ranks and collapsing at the side of the road. Typhus had struck and his army was suffering from severe headaches, high fever, rash, and delirium. The problem? His army was infected with lice! The typical French soldier was dirty and sweaty and lived in the same clothes for days. This provided the perfect environment for lice to feed on his body, and find a home in the seams of his clothing. In the end, Napoleon’s Waterloo came not so much by the Russian army nor the merciless Russian winter, but rather the fatigue and death from battling with lice.
One of the signs of the last days is the fact we will see a “falling away” from the faith. A Pew Research poll shows that 75% of the U.S. population considers themselves Christian, but only 25% of them actively practice their faith. For some, it may be an inherent weakness of character that lures them back into the world. For others, new philosophies may be preferred over old, solid doctrine. Still others may simply have worked themselves into burnout. But, there may be another explanation we have overlooked. When Daniel had his vision of the four beasts, he noted of the Antichrist in Daniel 7:25, “And he...shall wear out the saints of the most High...” The idea is that from continuous oppression, harassment, and persecution, he will wear down and wear out the people of God. While this is speaking of the tribulation period, John wrote in 1 John 4:3 that the spirit of Antichrist is already in the world. Satan’s method is to use a worldly system of small, daily irritations of people, pressure, problems, and persecution to tap against our soul like Chinese water torture until we give in or give up. Author Jerry Bridges wrote, “Trials always change our relationship with God. Either they drive us to Him, or they drive us away from Him.” The classic example of this truth came from the life of Peter. During the Last Supper, Jesus told Peter that Satan had planned a sifting for Peter in which he would be shaken and rattled. It was Peter’s responses in this process that reveals a similar pattern we are witnessing today. What are the warning signs of a life being worn out?
Our praying becomes silenced. Perhaps an hour later, Jesus is in Gethsemane praying with His most intimate disciples; Peter, James, and John. As Jesus paused from praying, Luke 22:45 notes He came to them and “he found them sleeping for sorrow.” The storm of worry and fear had done its job and Peter, along with the others, had cried himself to sleep. As Peter’s praying ceased, the vulnerability of his life would increase. Jesus then said, “Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” No man will ever rise any higher than his prayer life. The lives that have made the most memorable impacts for God are those who know how to storm heaven with their prayers. Prayer is not a ritual to them, but rather a desperate hunger of the soul for God. It is out of this preoccupation with God that strongholds are pulled down, captives are set free, miracles are wrought, and victories are won. I like what Samuel Chadwick wrote, “Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God.” Prayer is a mighty weapon because it invites and ignites the omnipotence of God into the mix. The moment we drop to our knees in prayer, God is as prepared to move the mountain as He is the molehill. For every dilemma or challenge we face, God already has the answer. Perhaps that is why the prophet said in Isaiah 59:16 that the one thing that surprises God is why no one is praying!
Our performance becomes Spirit-less. Within a matter of minutes of Jesus concluding His prayer in the garden, soldiers came to take Jesus. In an effort to defend Jesus, John 18:10 tells us, “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant...” While the motive and intention was honest, Peter was now going to work in the energy of his flesh. Maybe since he had walked briefly on the stormy sea and was a member of the “inner three,” he thought he could take this one by himself. We can expect nothing but frustration and failure when we undertake God’s work without God’s power. By such effort, we will never impress God, nor will we turn the world. The world is waiting for a demonstration of Christianity that cannot be explained apart from God, but all our generation can deliver is worked-up manifestations of flesh. A skeptical world will never be convinced that our faith is real when it lacks supernatural power. God searches for weak lives that He might provide His strength and do the impossible with them. Hudson Taylor said, "Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little and they always fail. All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence to be with them." To possess zeal without power is nothing more than a fanatic. But, when God sets a heart ablaze with His glory, a mighty weapon has just been formed.
Our profession becomes secretive. After the arrest of Jesus, Peter stood around a fire warming himself when one of them recognized him as a disciple. Luke 22:57 records his response, “Woman, I know Him not.” With the fear of persecution ever-present, Peter’s inner worry had shut down his outward profession. With the rise of militant secularism and atheism, we are now said to be living in a post-Christian culture in America. What makes this such a tragedy and woe is the fact God’s people have gone silent. The world is screaming for answers and, at best, we stutter and look at one another. Nothing would turn our nation back to God any quicker than lives that make Jesus desirable, and who make it easy for others to believe in God. A Spirit-filled Christian can never be a secret Christian because what he possesses will ultimately betray itself. We have the cure for all that ails the world, but we do not live conscious enough of eternity to share it. No doctor worth his salt would hide a cure for cancer and smile while watching a patient die. The self-promoting faith and social gospel may draw applause, but they stir no conviction nor win any converts. Scottish minister James S. Stewart said, “The real problem of Christianity is not atheism or scepticism, but the non-witnessing Christian trying to smuggle his own soul into heaven.” We must never forget that this world is racing towards an appointment with judgment. And, for us, time is running out to reach them.
The further I go down this road in my journey, I have come to realize it truly is “the little foxes that spoil the vines.” The daily grind of irritations, great and small, take their toll over the long haul. But, I am reminded of the words in Judges 8:4 which describes Gideon’s 300 men as “faint, yet pursuing.” Although the battle may grow hard and the burden heavy, I want to cross the finish line still climbing and still reaching. There will be plenty enough time to rest from this weary world in eternity. George Whitefield said, “How sweet is rest after fatigue! How sweet will heaven be when our journey is ended.” To let a few little things shut me down before I get there will just be the making of my own spiritual Waterloo.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2016 Alan Stewart