Leadership In Not for Cowards-Part 2
Heart to Heart

Leadership Is Not for Cowards (Part 2)
by Candy Summers

 Many years ago during one of our battles to maintain a righteous and holy calling on homeschooling, John Chalfant had called to ask how we were doing. In response, I briefly shared the constant battles we faced with so-called Christians who continually fought hard to wrest homeschooling from God, especially emphasizing my distress over those who called themselves Christians yet cleverly deceived, lied, manipulated, slandered, and vied for some kind of power I did not understand. John Chalfant responded, “Sweetheart, you are too tenderhearted. You need to toughen up. Leadership is not for cowards!!” Simply put but profoundly meaningful, these words not only changed the way I perceived leadership, but also the way I personally handled battles.
 And what Jon and I have discovered over the years is that actually most leaders struggle with these same issues. In fact, leaders from groups, organizations, and churches have come to us for counsel because of those slandering them and causing dissension in their ministry. Shock and unbelief are followed by questions like, “Why are they slandering us; we haven’t done anything to hurt them. What do they want? What are we supposed to do?” Thus, our book Leadership Is Not for Cowards is our labor of love to help and encourage other leaders through their battles by sharing what we have learned from our own. This article, however, is merely addressing a few of the topics covered in the book, but it is our hope that this strengthens and encourages each family to run the race with endurance.

The Struggles Godly Leaders Face

 So why are we astonished when others who call themselves Christians try to destroy us? Quite frankly, because we have not been trained for battle or even told that there was a battle going on for that matter, much less the truth that if we proceeded to live our lives for Christ that we would be reviled and hated by men. Not that God didn’t try to prepare us, quite the contrary in fact, for the entire Bible is a preparation for spiritual warfare. Unfortunately, however, by the time our generation was old enough to learn anything, the enemy had rendered the church impotent, which in turn kept most of us from receiving a thorough knowledge of God’s Word. Instead we were indoctrinated with the enemy’s lies that God is a God of love—period; that man is inherently good; that God is a God of diversity so to each his own, because what works for one person probably isn’t right for others; that we should not judge, but instead, needed to live and let live; and so as not to offend anyone, we were told not to talk about religion or politics. Furthermore, we were misled to believe that we have a right to what we want, and of course, prosperity was the mark of success that could only be obtained through a college degree; while the fullness of life came in working for six figures, two stories, two kids, the camper, and the boat.
 Even if many of us didn’t believe all of these lies, some of them still permeated our thinking and adversely hindered us in beginning the race in top condition. Besides, we weren’t even told that this was a race; hence, we didn’t have directions on how to proceed, so that once we realized that it was a race that we needed to enter, in mid stride we were turning to see where God really wanted us.

Lead? Who Us?

 Amazingly, most people still believe the false notion that only pastors lead. Where did this come from? If you wanted to thwart God’s work, the surest way would be to make everyone think that only a few, ordained and licensed pastors were called to lead, while the rest of us were supposed to go on with our daily affairs with no regard for ministry, for after all, God’s work was the pastor’s job. Furthermore, we were led to believe that what the rest of us do affects no one but ourselves. Right? Isn’t this exactly how we have been brainwashed? And to lend credibility to the enemy’s plan to silence Christians, what better or more brilliant campaign than to cleverly use authoritative voices from the pulpit all in the name of Christianity. Throughout the ages, the enemy has exercised tremendous energy to transform the thoughts of man so as to suppress the truth. Even in our own lives we can easily see how effectively his lies have defined our thinking and altered the course God ordained for us. In fact, these lies, when accurately measured, have produced significant obstacles in our way to returning to God’s course, even when we diligently determined to get back on track.
 The truth is that to lead means “to guide by the hand, to draw, to conduct by showing the way; to direct, to introduce by going first; to influence.” And are we all not called to influence others to be reconciled to their Father who art in heaven? In Matthew 4:19, Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And He goes on to say in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world…. Let your light shine before men.” And then He goes on to command us in Matthew 28:19,20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”

To Disciple, One Must Be a Disciple

 Disciples are “learners who receive instruction; followers; hence all Christians are Christ’s disciples as they … learn and receive His doctrines and precepts.” Moreover, disciple means “to teach, to train, to make disciples of; to convert to doctrines and principles.” Imagine what we could do for furthering God’s kingdom if all God’s children seriously heeded their ordained calling. Unfortunately, most just want their ears tickled, choosing only those scriptures with which they are comfortable. For really, who wants to be reviled, hated, slandered, or crucified like Christ? However, this aspect of Christianity was quickly squelched, and more people decided that Christianity wasn’t such a bad idea after all, since they were told that they could receive so many rewards and blessings here on earth if they would just believe. This in turn greatly increased the church population and the desire for more and more activities, and a whole new opportunity made itself available to the enemy as he now had more people’s attention than ever to spread his lies through endless avenues within the church.
 Misconceptions about leadership abound because we have not been instructed in the Word of God, nor taken it upon ourselves to study His Word. But before we become too hasty and start heeding God’s call to disciple others, let us be totally honest with ourselves. We are not equipped to teach anyone until we ourselves become serious disciples of the Word. To confirm the folly of this significant point, let’s look at the unequivocal consequences that have arisen from the present church, which typically allows all willing souls to fill the many vacant positions produced by the ever increasing push for more programs—to teach Sunday School, lead Bible studies, sing with the worship team, or become elders—without any concern about their own knowledge of the Word, their memorization of the scriptures, or their commitment to teaching God’s Word to their own families every day.
 We are all called to disciple, but to fulfill this calling, we must first become a disciple of the Word ourselves, for otherwise we become the blind hopelessly leading the blind. How many people do you know who are teaching or going on mission trips to evangelize but do not know God’s Word? Or more importantly, do you know the Word well enough to know? There couldn’t be anything more dangerous than having a host of people running around evangelizing the world in the name of Christ when they don’t know the Christ of whom they teach. In truth, going to church doesn’t make anyone a Christian or capable of teaching the Word of God any more than working in a hospital makes someone capable of performing surgery.
 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity … For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned…. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 5:12-14; 6:1-12).
 For “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16,17). “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God … preach the word … reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine … and will turn away their ears from the truth” (2 Tim. 4:1-4).

When We Began the Race

 From the very beginning of our leadership of our own support group back in 1987, God gave His vision to Jon and I for training generations for God’s throne room. Within months, meetings of fifty turned into eleven years of meetings that averaged from 150 to over 500 people, with each meeting like a revival. God’s Spirit was moving mightily upon our families as He was laying a firm foundation for families in raising children up in His Word and way. Thankfully, those years were joyous, easy years filled with an outpouring of families whose lives were being changed for God’s kingdom. We were deeply grateful to God to see so many lives impacted for His kingdom and get a glimpse firsthand of the great work He was doing through parents who embraced their covenantal duty.
 Before we took over the leadership of CHEF, however, we had no idea the battle that was already going on at the state level and the ensuing battles that would follow in CHEF here at home. Prior to the time we took over the leadership of CHEF, homeschoolers’ battles came from without, which only caused all of us to rally together. So when that line of attack proved ineffective, another measure of attack was needed to stop the advancement of God’s kingdom. Therefore, Satan did an about face, pulled all the stops, and engaged in an all-out attack from within, doing what he does best—divide and conquer—through men of compromise and dissension. At the time, little did we see the ferocity of the battle that was about to be waged in state organizations and support groups all across the country.
 Twice in prior years, we had turned down the CHEF leadership position because we were already consumed with responsibilities for our group of over 500 families. We even intended to turn the third offer down until we found out that if we refused, the position would be given to a couple who did not want the CHEF leaders’ meetings to open in prayer because they felt that Christianity and homeschooling had nothing to do with each other. Isn’t it amazing the measures God uses to motivate our reluctant spirits into doing what He wants? Upon finding out this information, Jon immediately accepted the position, for CHEF had always been Christian, and we were determined to keep it that way. For we knew that homeschooling was a mandate from God, a covenantal duty that each family needed to heed. However, it soon became evident that others were determined that it should not remain Christian, all in Christ’s name of course, as battles were waged continually to destroy godly leadership. But we were not alone, for these same battles were being waged from one corner of the country to the other.
 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self … ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous … holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these” (2 Tim. 3:1-5).

Salt and Light

 Let there be no mistake! Regardless of what we were told or what we want to believe, all of us are leaders, either leading those around us to heaven or to hell. Our words and our actions demonstrate to everyone what we believe, whom we believe, and how to get where we are going. We are living examples either of Christ or Satan, for every word that proceeds from our mouths and every action we take reflects the master of our hearts. To His own He says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:13-16).
 Instead, this nation on the whole is very much like that of Haggai’s time, where each man was attending to his own house while God’s remained desolate. Wherefore America is filled with large edifices that bear the cross, few are filled with godly leaders who are discipling others in God’s Word. Yet God commands us to be about our Father’s business. If we are Christians then, we are to be bold to “work the works of Him … as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4). And it is our responsibility to “go therefore and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19)! But be forewarned though, God’s work is not for the weak, soon discouraged, and fainthearted. For Jesus Himself said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues [For who did Jesus call vipers but the religious leaders. For almost all the persecution of Christians has been in the name of God.] … And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matt. 10:16-22).
 Boy, they didn’t tell us that in church, did they? Yet this is crucial to our understanding of our role in the kingdom and to our survival as Christian leaders. Quite frankly, I think this should be taught right up front, in close proximity to “not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6). For it is these truths that will cut out the imposters that make life so difficult for the true believers whom they call radicals, legalists, fanatics, and alarmists.

The Heart Is Wicked

 There are many things that Satan uses to discourage us from leading, but none that causes more leaders to quit than discovering that those who called themselves Christians who appeared to be co-laborers, but were really wolves in sheep’s clothing. Unfortunately, most of us really want to believe that man is basically nice and inherently good, but accepting this lie as truth destroys more leaders than any other. After all, when a leader places his trust in someone who later betrays him, it is understandably hard to endure. Betrayal is hideous, yet we must remember that Jesus, who loves and gives more than any of us, experiences this from most of His children. Betrayal deeply hurts, yet Jesus feels this pain every time one of His, whom He personally formed, turns away from Him. Should we expect better than what God receives?
 Are people nice and good? To the contrary, God’s Word and history are replete with examples that prove that “the intent of man’s heart is evil” (Gen. 8:21). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). It is only fallen, gullible, rebellious man who would look upon the outward appearance of himself and others and think that man is good, while his wise Father looks upon the intention of the heart and sees how corrupt we really are. “Do not look at his appearance … for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
 Remember how God likened us to sheep? Well, from afar, sheep look all soft, nice, and cuddly, but upon closer examination, their fleece is matted with dung; they smell; and they are really rather stupid creatures who like to fight, butt, and bully each other, sometimes to the death. Left unattended, they often choose to eat and drink things that are poisonous and polluted, even though good grass and water lies all around them, and if that isn’t bad enough, they will follow one another, without thought to the consequences, over a cliff, one right after the next. Easily panicked and quite helpless in the face of their enemies, without a shepherd’s guidance and protection, they cannot survive.
 Like sheep, all of us are followers who need the Good Shepherd, but remember, God says that few will actually follow Him. Seasoned leaders know that some follow leaders just because they are leaders and desire the advantage it could bring them. Others follow to go along with the crowd. Some follow like lions wishing to tear apart and devour the leader; while some follow anything that moves. Few, however, follow to glean wisdom and co-labor for the kingdom of Christ. God even tells us that though “the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few” (Matt. 9:37). It is of the utmost significance that we fully embrace God’s methodology that He always works through a few. And in view of what it costs man personally, doesn’t it stand to reason that only a few would take up their cross daily to follow Him?
 Truly, the greatest downfall of many churches today is that they have denounced His Holy Deity by compromising His own Words so as not to offend those whom they desire to draw in to their body. So instead of building up Christ’s Body, so that they can in turn fulfill God’s commission, the church has relinquished its responsibility to disciple believers in the Word of God in lieu of filling their huge quarters with large numbers of bodies, clearly demonstrating their willingness to pursue their interest in numbers over fulfilling God’s interest in truly saving souls. And, so to keep these great numbers, the church has had no choice but to continue to maintain its lower standards. Ironically, the very thing they propose, in bringing more into the kingdom of God, actually keeps people from entering because they have not instructed them in the whole Word of God.
 Did you know that it has been estimated that there were somewhere around 800,000,000 to 3,000,000,000,000 people alive at the time of the catastrophic flood, yet out of these millions, possibly billions, there was only one man who walked with God. Staggering isn’t it, at least to our way of thinking, yet Jesus tells us that “the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matt. 7:14).
 If God isn’t into numbers, why is the church today? If God is interested in His people following Him in all His ways, why isn’t the church teaching His way? Who is the present church working for anyhow?

Lord of the Flies

 Have you ever been amongst horses on a hot muggy day in August when the horseflies swarm around the horses? If you have, then you haven’t likely forgotten those swarms of flies that bite and suck the horse’s blood with a vengeance, often leaving a trail of blood while on their way to find another part of the body to bite. Miserably tormented, the horses spend all their time swishing their tails, tossing their heads, and shaking their bodies in a desperate attempt to rid themselves of their enemies.
 In Luke 11:15 the Jews were accusing Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul, ruler of the demons, the most despicable name of all names, for this meant “lord of the flies” and was the epithet the Jews gave Satan. What a vivid description of our enemy and how he works to distract, hinder, discredit, and destroy us so as to keep us from God’s work, and if we are to succeed in battle, we must understand the nature of our enemy and how he works.
 To clearly illustrate our enemy’s plan of attack to keep each of us distracted from studying God’s Word and doing His work, consider the following methods he uses for each type of individual. For some it is enough to tempt with worldly pleasures. But for those who love church fellowship, he tempts with activity upon activity and responsibility upon responsibility within the church. For those who love to read but find God’s Word a little too boring or seemingly difficult, he offers book upon book or class upon class about God. Then for those who are serious about studying God’s Word, he tries to hinder through trial upon trial. Finally for those who are mature believers who are effective in discipling others in God’s Word and way, he discredits and destroys through betrayal and malicious slander.
 But make no mistake about it, the greatest enemies to God’s work are those who call themselves Christians who attempt to destroy God’s work by destroying God’s children, all in the name of God. When at all possible, we should avoid such men as these for God tells us in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self … ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous … holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.”
 God then warns us through Jude 4-19 that “certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness … But these men revile the things which they do not understand … These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead … These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage…. ‘In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ … worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.”
 But to us, God goes on to say in Jude 20-25, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever.” See, God is warning us of these enemies of the cross, but telling us to trust in Him while we continue in the work He has called us to—to make disciples.
 Do you know what God actually thinks of evildoers’ plans? He laughs at them because all authority rests in Him. In Psalm 2 He says, “Why are all the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed…. He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury: ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’ … He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.’ Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”
 God has a purpose, and nothing can stop God or His plans. So we can either be a part of them or apart from them. The most important truth to remember is that all power lies within our Lord, for He is sovereign over all things, both in the heavens and upon the earth, and He is the ultimate ruler! But until we fully grasp the fullness of His power and might, which empowers us to go forward in His name, we will be hindered by our own fear.
 So exactly how does God address this mode of attack? Through commands given to direct our attention off of the tormentors and back to Him who has proven Himself faithful, time and time again. To our right and to our left, God’s voice resounds with, “Do not fret yourself because of evildoers” (Prov. 24:19). “Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence” (Prov. 3:25,26). “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). “Taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). “Be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thes. 5:8). “I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you…. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law … This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night … then you will have success…. Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:5-9).
 If we are doing God’s work, tormentors are inevitable; and the more effective we are for God’s kingdom, the more we will be attacked. For the enemy’s goal is to use everyone and everything he can to drain the blood right out of us, so that we will grow weary from doing God’s work. God, on the other hand, wants us to trust Him completely so we can wholeheartedly allow Him to work through us to accomplish His plans. This Jon understands so well, as he repeatedly tells me, “Candy, we are running a race and cannot afford to waste our precious time addressing our tormentors, setting people straight on the truth, and putting out brushfires. Sweetheart, let us go on with what we do best—ministering to God’s people, encouraging His people, and leading them to the land of milk and honey. Let God take care of His enemies.”
 Believe me, this has undoubtedly been the hardest lesson for me to learn because while I detest lies and work hard at being totally accurate in all things myself, I am also a seeker of truth and want everyone to know the truth, as well. Therefore, every time I hear that lies are being spread, I want to run and speak the truth, yet God tells us that we are running a race and that we should run it with endurance. Jon continues to reiterate this by telling me, “Candy, keep running, keep your focus on the mark, do not look to the right or left, and absolutely do not get off the path to make things right. It makes no difference what people think. People will believe according to who masters them, be it God or God’s enemy. Besides, it has nothing to do with us, for it is truly a battle between God and Satan. God is sovereign, and nothing we do will alter the final outcome because regardless of what we do, God will have His way.”
 And you know what? I really do believe that God’s children will be able to discern good from evil, regardless if they have the truth or not, because the Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth. For God says in Proverbs 28:4,5 that “those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them. Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand all things.” And in Hebrews 5:13,14, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
 To better understand what Jon means, and what I have finally learned, is exemplified so clearly in Nehemiah’s wisdom when dealing with the lord of the flies when he was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Thankfully, God not only tells us how to handle our battles on earth, but also clearly shows us through the lives of men like Nehemiah, as well.
 As the enemies of God continued to mock and attack and entreat Nehemiah to meet with them, Nehemiah in his great wisdom responded with, “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right, or memorial in Jerusalem…. I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop? … For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done’” (Neh. 2:20; 6:3,9). He prays to God, “But now, O Lord, strengthen my hands” (Neh. 6:9). And he then exhorts his workers, “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome” (Neh. 4:14).
 Nehemiah’s arrival had obviously posed a real threat to the governor’s control of Judea, but Nehemiah did not care what his tormentors thought about him or his actions. And he did not care if his presence did offend them. He knew he had a job to do for the Lord; that God would succeed with His plans; that God’s people would help him; and that men who were more concerned about their personal jealousies than about God’s work would not have a portion, right or memorial in it! He had discerned them to be enemies and told them so. Nehemiah definitely understood the battle, the enemy’s purpose, the importance of continuing to build the wall for God, and God’s faithfulness to His servants. This leader had it all together.
 Tormentors, mockers, and slanderers, like us, are mastered by a master planner, but the goals and their outcome, and ultimately their master, are literally worlds apart from ours. Remember, this battle is not about us; it is not really even ultimately against us. Satan is battling God, and if we just pray to God for His deliverance like Hezekiah did, God will fight for us.
 Hezekiah “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah … For he clung to the Lord … [and] kept His commandments … And the Lord was with him; wherever he went he prospered (2 Kings 18:5-7).
 So when faced with the possibility of total obliteration from the fierce king of Assyria, Sennacherib, Hezekiah prayed, “O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou alone, O Lord, are God” (2 Kings 19:19). Then the Lord answered him, “Because you have prayed to Me … I have heard you” (2 Kings 19:20). And then the Lord responded to that fierce king who mocked and scorned God’s servant. “This is the word that the Lord has spoken against him: ‘Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? And against whom have you raised your voice, and haughtily lifted up your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel! Through your messengers you have reproached the Lord … But I know your sitting down, and your going out and your coming in, and your raging against Me. Because of your raging against Me, and because [of] your arrogance … therefore I will put My hook in your nose, and My bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came…. And the remnant … shall take root … and bear fruit…. For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake …’” (2 Kings 19:21-34).
 All rebellion is against God. All battles are against God. All battles are God’s. All victories are God’s. And all the glory is God’s! So “be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 5:8-11).
 As Jon always says, “Suffering for a mere 70-80 years for Christ’s namesake is nothing compared to an eternity with Him. Think of the martyrs, Candy, who while they were burning at the stake were still boldly preaching the gospel of Christ. I want to be that kind of Christian. We want to be that kind of Christian, don’t we, Candy? Let us pray that we can continue to be true to our Lord and Saviour and stand up to the wickedness of this world, regardless of what it costs us.”
 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity … For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me…. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead … for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Tim. 1:8,9,12-15; 2:8-10).
 “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). We must not abandon the task given to us by divine authority. Godly leaders are the standard bearers whom God uses to turn the hearts of men to Him.

Run the Race with Endurance

 Have you watched the movie Chariots of Fire lately? If not we would like to encourage you to watch it with your children, as it clearly portrays the difference between running the race for ourselves and running it for God, specifically depicting one runner’s pursuit of individual glory and another’s pursuit to glorify God.
 The first young man, Harold Abrahams, is a Jewish young man who has no purpose in life but to prove himself. For we know that without Christ every man is alone, helpless, and insecure, which Abrahams confirms when he admits to a helpless ache he feels inside, which we know to be the void that needs to filled by God’s Holy Spirit. The other character traits that often follow are also shown in Abrahams, who is arrogant, defensive, and angry and who carries a chip on his shoulder because he feels the world is against him.
 When he lost a race, he was crushed because it meant he was not the best, and without a higher purpose, his goal in life was to prove to himself that he was the best—which meant he had to beat Eric Liddell. Consumed with this, he could not see or hear anything else. Finally, he approached a coach whom he thought could help him beat Liddell and win an Olympic medal, and he begged him to help him take Liddell on. To him he said, “Such drive, such commitment; Liddell unnerves me. I want that Olympic medal! I can see it; it’s waiting for me.” Another time he says, “Contentment is your greatest secret. I’ve never known it. I’m forever in pursuit, and I don’t even know what I am chasing.” These profound words perfectly summed up a life with self on the throne and feet on shifting sand.
 The second young man, Eric Liddell, is a man of God who thinks of nothing else but glorifying his precious Lord and Saviour. His Lord is on the throne, and his feet are firmly planted on the rock of salvation. Content and at peace, he did not have to prove himself to anyone because he belonged to the Lord, and that was sufficient. Set on following his father in the mission field, he left his beloved homeland of Scotland to do God’s work in China. Honest, courageous, faithful, and fast, he was the possessor of God’s gifts, and therefore humble because he knew that all things belonged to God. Hence, he felt it his sacred duty to put these gifts to good use, which he expresses in, “God made me for a purpose. To give it up would be to hold it in contempt. To win is to honor God.” Running the race with endurance, he kept his focus on the mark, neither turning to the right nor the left, and when he fell, he got right back up, heading once again, toward the mark.
 Liddell provides the perfect role model for our children to run the race with endurance for God. To run the race like the wind, we must work out every day studying God’s Word and praying without ceasing. This in turn will define our vision of God as He really is and set us on His course headed towards the mark. We must be passionate about what we believe, and with dauntless resolution, courageous to hold to God’s principles in a world opposed to them. We must possess a keen sense of loyalty to our Lord, no matter what the cost. This requires a strong heart, but with each workout, it will become strong enough to carry us to the finish line. Then with concentration of will, totally focused, with a determination to run a straight course, we can run on the energy of His Holy Spirit within us. And neither looking to the left nor to the right to compare our position with anyone else’s, which would cost us the race as it did Abrahams, with our chest thrust out to the finish line (for the heart goes first as it leads us, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also), we will run until our heart crosses over that line.

The Battle

 For most men, once they reached the Olympic games, the race would not begin until the gun went off; not so for Liddell, who had been running the race ever since he had become a Christian, always running the race for His Saviour. So when he found out that his Olympic race was to commence on Sunday, there was no question as to which direction he would take. He was already headed towards the mark, and he was not about to stop in mid stride and run in a different direction. He was on course, and he would not budge. So when the Olympic Board tried to coerce him into running their race by stating, “All of Britain will be watching you. I don’t know that they will understand. We’re here for Britain,” it was no surprise that Liddell emphatically responded to them with, “God makes countries, kings, and the rules by which they govern. To run on the Sabbath will be against God’s law. I won’t run on the Sabbath and that is final. I run for God.” Compromise is the devil’s most powerful tool, but if we are running for God, then there is no room for compromise because His course has already been laid out. From Liddell’s response it was apparent that this had not been his first battle or his last. No, he had long been tempered by the fires of other battles.
 Surprisingly, however, one of the headlines after this encounter read, “Athlete Won’t Run on Sabbath—God Before King: Man of principle, we should be proud.” Surprisingly because this principle is contrary to the ways of the world, yet God’s plan will not be hindered, and we never know how God may use our actions to influence others. However, it made no difference to Liddell how others would respond, nor should it to any Christian. Opinions and outcomes are not our concern. Honoring God, regardless of the outcome, should always be our only goal. God’s plans will always be fulfilled; we can either be a part of them or apart from them. For Liddell, God had made him fast to honor Him, so He made a way for him to run on a different day.

The Race

 With a charm around his neck for luck, Abrahams summed up the sad essence of a life not possessed by God with, “I have 10 lonely seconds to justify my existence.” How we ached for such a desperate, lonely young man. If you have ever wondered what life is like without the Lord, that statement gives a clear description of the helplessness and loneliness that comes from living life on one’s own strength. Abrahams won his race that day, but he did not win the Lord’s. And although he continued to live on the earth a long time thereafter, as far as we know, he never entered into that blessed rest that he had chased after for so long, never at peace here or in the hereafter. How sad!
 Liddell, on the other hand, had the Holy Spirit as his strength, comforter, and assurance. He even admitted that when he ran, he could feel God’s pleasure. Can’t we feel God’s pleasure when we run for Him? But of utmost significance is the truth that he expressed in the following profound words: “Where does the power come from to see the race to the end; it comes from within.” The power to finish the race comes from within! The power to see the race to the end comes from within! May we never lose sight of this truth.
 Before the race, he was handed a note from another runner which read, “He that honors Me, I will honor.” Clearly, others had been watching his stand for righteousness. Others are always watching. What we do affects those around us more than we will ever know.
 Liddell won the Olympic race that day, but most importantly, he finished running the race for God as a missionary in China. He only lived another 20 years on earth after the Olympic games, but he entered into the Lord’s rest for all eternity. He was the real winner.

Running the Race with Endurance Brings Us Closer to Our Precious Lord

 For Jon and myself, each of our battles has driven us closer to our Lord and Saviour, developing a far more intimate relationship with our Maker and Master than we would have ever had otherwise. There is no question that we grow weary of the battles at times, which only continue to increase in velocity as we get closer to the King, but we never grow weary of our Lord’s faithfulness to us, His generous outpouring of grace, and the contented joy He brings us for serving Him. Yes, we can thank God for every battle because we have seen firsthand that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
 Remember this! If you don’t run, you cannot win. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:1-3). “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Cor. 9:24). For “the Everlasting God, the Lord … gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power…. Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired” (Is. 40:28-31).

Raising Our Children to Be Martyrs

 Are we robbing our children of their rightful inheritance? Are we teaching them that to receive life they must die to self and be willing to physically die if need be? Are we raising our children to believe that life is one of ease and comfort, or are we raising them to be martyrs? Do they even know what a martyr is? It is hard to imagine when we live in such ease in this country, yet more martyrs died in the last century than any previous century since the beginning of time. Like Liddell, are we showing them the way by running the race for God, or are we, like most people who call themselves Christians, running the race for ourselves in the name of God?
 Again let us reiterate this important truth to our children that “not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:21-23). “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matt. 7:14).
 Few will enter because few are willing to truly die to self. We all want abundant life and the assurance of an eternal life in paradise, yet what does God say that we must do to attain these things? In Luke 9:23,24 Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
 God’s ways are certainly not our ways. In order to gain life, we must die so Christ can live within us. As Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Crucified, that is a painful word, but Jesus said that we were to take up our cross daily, crucifying our own desires for His purpose. “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).
 If we do crucify ourselves, making way for Christ to live within us, God says that we then can expect to be reviled and hated. Do our children truly understand this truth? Again we must teach them that Jesus says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves … But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake … And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved…. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:16-18,21,22,35-39).
 Want riches? God says in Matthew 6:19,20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth … But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” Want glory? Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
 Are we raising our children to be martyrs? Martyr means “to put to death for adhering to what one believes to be the truth; to sacrifice one on account of his faith. One who, by his death, bears witness to the truth of the gospel.”

Suffering for His Namesake

 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pet. 4:12-19).
 “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ … for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself. Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for is will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene…. The Lord knows those who are His … Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:2-26).
 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these…. always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith…. But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me … what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them … All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:1-17).
 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25).
 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11,12).

May Our Children Be Mighty Men of God

 A man of God sacrifices what he wants for what God wants, taking up his cross daily to follow his Master. He diligently reads God’s Word so that he can evaluate everything in the light of that Word that has become so precious to him. He is secure in his relationship with Christ and not out to prove anything but the Word of God. Confident in his Lord, he is determined in his purpose to seed both righteousness and holiness. On course, he neither veers to the right nor to the left, but continues to run the race with endurance regardless of those who persecute him because he cares more about what his Master thinks than what man thinks of him. He cannot be bribed with fortune or reputation among men because he knows that death comes to all men quickly, and that when he goes before his Maker, only upholding his Master’s reputation will secure his crown of life. He knows that fellowship with the world only brings suffering and eternal death. He knows that he is just passing through, for this is not his home; therefore, he is not committed to the pleasures and the things of this world; instead, he is committed to God and his eternal home.
 And when he is finally laid to rest, he takes with him his Sword. For in every battle with dauntless resolution he had held onto that precious Sword, as he bravely used it to fight the good fight in preserving the precious heritage that he had inherited from his father who had wholeheartedly embraced his covenantal duty to his Master, as well. So tenaciously did he hold onto that sword, in fact, that it could not be removed from his hand—for his bloody hand had become frozen to it. And on his headstone reads, “Men of God are forged through battles. Here lies a mighty man of God who sacrificed everything at untold cost to himself to follow his Lord in this life that he could be with his Saviour in the next.”
 “Where does the power come from to see the race to the end; it comes from within!”