By Doug Beacham
God has called the church to be salt and light in a dark world. He wants the gospel to advance in every nation. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and for all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (NKJV).
As a global movement, IPHC members live under a wide range of governments and religious policies. Many countries have official governmental departments of religious affairs. Other countries, like the United States, do not have such a department, and I pray that we never do! Consider this about many of our members in the IPHC:
- They faithfully serve Christ in nations where there is little to no public support for Christianity.
They live along the 10th parallel, the navigational line from North Africa across Asia that often marks the divide between Islamic controlled areas and non-Islamic areas.
- They serve Christ in “underground,” or unregistered, house churches.
- They serve Christ in secularist western European nations.
- They bring gospel hope to eastern European nations still spiritually recovering from the 20th century scourge of atheistic communism.
They feel the effects of recent Russian efforts to restrict evangelism.
- Cuban Christians often have a government official sitting in a worship service to monitor their activities.
In Canada and the United States of America public opinion, legislation, and courts are actively curbing individual religious freedoms.
The California legislature is about to pass Senate Bill 1146 that will interfere with the religious liberties of religious colleges and universities under the guise of protecting gay rights You can read more at www.opposesb1146.com.
As I reflect on these matters, I am encouraged by the witness of IPHC members and leaders in Eastern Europe. Here are a few examples.
First, I vividly remember the joy and love on the face of Lazlo, a Hungarian man in his fifties. I was in his home with Rhonda Pruitt, an IPHC missionary, in the spring of 1990. It was about 1 a.m., and Lazlo and his daughter had waited up for us and served us Hungarian goulash.
As we ate, I asked Lazlo about his life. He told me that he was unemployed, having been fired by the communist-run factory. I asked why. He told me that on his break he would read his Bible. But his employers told him that if he continued to read his Bible on the break, he would lose his job.
With humble joy, he told me that he told them that he would not deny himself taking in God’s Word and they would have to fire him. They did. Instead of bitterness and anger, Lazlo revealed to me the heart of a servant of Christ faithfully trusting Jesus in the midst of an ungodly system.
Second, on the same trip, I was with IPHC missionary Don Gentilini in Oradea, Romania. We attended church services and visited in one of those nondescript, architecturally boring highrise apartment buildings that characterizes so much of state planning.
Yet the Christians who gathered in that tiny apartment were so joyful. They were happy in Christ, and also happy that just before Christmas 1989, the oppressive ruler Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown and executed.
They had the front page of the local paper on the wall dated Christmas Day, 1989. The headline read: “The Anti-Christ is Dead, Christ is Born.” For the first time in decades, Christmas and its real meaning were celebrated in the press!
Third, in the Ukraine, Bishop Valery Reshetinskyi leads Christian Hope Church IPHC, a model of how people survive the darkness of the various manifestations of the anti-Christ spirit. Though a Christian since childhood, Reshetinskyi was protected by the Holy Spirit as he served in the Soviet controlled academic and military world.
When the Soviet Empire collapsed, he was positioned to take a small group of believers in Kiev and lead them to a movement that has expanded across Ukraine and other parts of the world. They prove that even in the darkest of times, either under Nazi terrorism in the 1940s or Communist oppression following World War II, God will preserve a remnant for the future. This thriving church is having an impact on the educational and social needs of Ukraine.
The apostle Paul wrote his disciple Timothy about how one serves Christ in a world that is in conflict with the kingdom of God. First, wherever we are and whatever the nature of our civic government, we pray.
We need to remember that when Paul wrote this letter, Nero was the Emperor of Rome. The empire had its own religious cults, and followers of Jesus were already being viewed as “atheist,” or “without god,” since they did not recognize the official gods of Rome.
Even Christian terminology about Jesus became a threat to the Empire. Who is Lord? Jesus or Caesar? Who is the Almighty One? Jesus or the Emperor? Who had the Good News? Rome or Christians?
I hope you will carefully read 1 Timothy 2:1 and notice that Paul used three different words for prayer: “supplications,” “prayers” and “intercessions.” His instructions to Timothy were not a casual call to prayer. Rather, the emphasis on different kinds of prayer reflected Paul’s recognition that the body of Christ is in serious conflict with the principalities and powers of this age.
Second, we pray with fervor, wisdom and in the Spirit, asking that the Holy Spirit will restrain Satan’s efforts to silence and destroy the influence of Christ’s body in the world.
In recent months efforts have been made to “shame” those who call for prayer when there have been local and national disasters and tragedies. May we not be “ashamed” to heed the advice of the apostle Paul and enter into serious seasons of prayer, especially in these dark and confusing days.
This article was published in the August 2016 issue of Encourage.