Acts 8 and 9 both begin by describing the intense persecution surrounding the church. Yet despite the constant threats upon their lives and families, the church, though scattered, thrived.
It seems likely that the persecution separated the serious followers from the casual ones. Despite the surrounding cultural climate, the church made great advances.
It appears as though tough times actually end up forcing the church to decide what its priorities are. While challenging situations seem to make or break us, they also tend to reveal our true motives and expose the depth of our commitments.
I was recently ministering for the first time in India and Sri Lanka with our national leaders, pastors and lay ministers. It was an eye-opening visit. The two countries, separated by the Indian Ocean, had once been provinces of Great Britain. Each of them won their independence in the 20th century.
Heavily influenced by Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism, these countries have become intense spiritual battlefields. The constant threat of imprisonment, harassment and even death are real. Our Foursquare campground in Sri Lanka was recently burned to the ground. In that country, you can’t even put up a church sign.
In spite of these real challenges, the church is thriving. Miracle stories abound everywhere, and the resolve of church leaders is inspiring.
Our movement in India has tripled in the last 15 years, and in Sri Lanka, we are seeing the Lord change the spiritual landscape of the nation, one family at a time. Both have huge challenges, but the church there is focused, full of faith and committed to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Sri Lankans are locating their people groups around the globe and planting churches where they are, including in emirate states such as Bahrain and Qatar.
During the evening services in Sri Lanka, blind eyes and deaf ears were opened. The testimonials went long into the night, with no one interested in leaving.
Habakkuk prayed this prayer: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known” (Hab. 3:2, NIV).
Book-of-Acts-like stuff didn’t just happen in places like Samaria in the first century; it’s happening now. It is taking place where people have the same hunger that the prophet Habakkuk did. When we covet the presence of the Lord more than we covet comfort or practicality, the stage is set for a mighty move of the Holy Spirit.
The current economic and political landscape has put us in a national crisis. The church could rise to be a voice of hope and reason. The church could provide a place of refuge and strength. Let’s not be shaped by our current culture. Instead, let’s influence it.
The church of Jesus Christ, this community of believers, has been called and anointed as God’s strategy for redemption on the earth. The cry of our hearts should be to see an awakening of the fame and deeds of God—in our day, in our time, in our generation.
We desperately need a divine visitation of the Lord, but are we willing to pay the price for it?
By: Glenn Burris Jr., president of The Foursquare Church
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