In my last blog, I referred to the times we are now living through as being like ‘the days of Daniel’. Back in 1997, Robin Mark’s brilliant song ‘These are the days of Elijah’ had believers singing with joyful anticipation of the coming again of the Lord, and preparing for the days of harvest before His return.
The powerful lyrics and memorable tune impacted a generation of believers. But there is no obvious sign yet of a great end-time harvest being reaped or, more significantly, of a church that is ready and equipped to be strong in the face of mounting opposition to the cutting-edge truths of the Kingdom of God. I wonder why? With no harvesters to go out into the harvest fields, there will be no harvest reaped. It’s not hard to discern the grief of God’s heart, expressed by Jesus when He said “the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37).
Even in the short time that has passed since I wrote my last blog, the world has moved on, with ever-increasing distress and trauma at the events unfolding before our very eyes in the middle east. This is no longer a localized, horrific, terrorist attack on Israel, but the groanings of a world that is moving inexorably towards the days prophesied in Scripture, and emphasized by Jesus, when He said, “such things must happen” (Matthew 24:6).
Jesus went on to say that in these times “many will turn away from the faith” and “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10 & 12). And in our lifetimes we have seen this happen, as long established churches have faded into insignificance on a tide of compromise, which has swept away the foundations on which faith adventures are built.
The steel-like cutting edge of the Gospel has now become a piece of soft plastic, that allows itself to be moulded to the social pressures of society in an increasingly godless and woke world – a world where the church is controlled by the fear of being noticed – the very reason for which the church is supposed to exist!
Jesus said that if the salt has lost its savour “it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown down and trampled by men” (Matthew 5:13). And that is exactly what has happened, the church is seen to be irrelevant by both society and the world at large. It has been thrown down and trampled under the foot of cynical, humanistic thinking. Anyone who dares to put their Christian head above the parapet in the corridors of power or the public place is immediately shot down in flames of hostility.
Those who do not compromise their beliefs, and let their Christian faith be the arbiter of what is right or wrong in the workplace, face an avalanche of vicious attacks. There is not just a physical war on in the middle east, but there is an ever-increasing world war on for the hearts and minds of society, starting with the very youngest in the increasingly godless world of educational and gender amorality.
All of which brings me back to Daniel! For these are days for which Daniel has a powerful three-pronged message for God’s people today.
Firstly, the very reason that Daniel finished up in the lions’ den was because he refused to compromise his faith and bow to the law of the land. His jealous enemies in Darius’s government concluded that “we will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel, unless it has something to do with the law of his God” (Daniel 6:5).
There were no holes in Daniel’s defences, which would have given them an excuse to report him to the King. “They could find no corruption in him” because “he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (Daniel 6:4). So they persuaded Darius to approve a law which required all citizens not to pray to any God or man for a period of thirty days, except to the King.
Daniel was trapped. He was not going to betray the God he loved and worshipped. So he continued to pray on his knees three times a day. His jealous rivals brought Daniel to the King, who was now heart-broken at what was going to happen to the man he depended on in government – but ‘the law of the Medes and Persians cannot be changed’ and the lions’ den beckoned. Love for God and faithfulness to Him had brought Daniel to the edge of eternity!
Satan’s tactics to undermine the faith of believers who are a threat to his kingdom remain unchanged down the centuries. The days we are living in truly are the days of Daniel. There may not be an actual lions’ den awaiting those who choose to obey their God rather than compromise their faith, but there are many Christians working in the public arena (in the UK) who have been, as it were, thrown to the lions and lost their jobs for refusing to compromise their faith in, for example, the worlds of health and education.
Secondly, what happened to Daniel? As with his friends Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego who, earlier, had been thrown into the fiery furnace, Daniel was willing to trust God with the outcome, whatever that might be. And when, the next day, the distressed King visited the lions’ den to find out what had happened, Daniel was still there, alive and well, and able to tell him, “My God sent his angel and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not harmed me because I was found innocent in his sight” (Daniel 6:22). And scripture tells us that “there was found no wound on him, because he had trusted in his God” (Daniel 6:23).
What a testimony! The angels had been deployed to protect Daniel as a direct consequence of the godliness of Daniel’s personal walk with the Lord. The enemy had no hold over Daniel and the angels came to his defence. Can there be any greater inducement to demonstrate your love for God by choosing to live a godly life?
Paul expressed it this way, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6). Daniel’s godliness certainly brought him great gain – not only being saved from the mouths of the lions, but after his release he prospered even more under Darius, who then sent out an edict to the nations that Daniel’s God is the living God and everyone “must have fear and reverence for the God of Daniel!” (Daniel 6:26).
In the book of Malachi we read, “The Lord listened and heard . . . those who feared the Lord and honoured his name. They will be mine . . . I will spare them . . . you will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not” (from Malachi 3:16-18). Darius certainly saw the difference between Daniel, who served God, and his accusers – all of whom ended up in the lions’ den without any angelic protection!!
Daniel’s courage and obedience transformed the King’s view of Daniel’s God and as a result a powerful witness went out into the nation. Daniel’s story is a remarkable example of the principle, expressed by Joseph in Genesis 50:20, that what the enemy intends for harm God can reverse and use for good.
And thirdly, in Daniel 11:32, we read perhaps the most well-known, but, sadly, the most misunderstood words in the whole of Daniel’s book. The last six chapters of Daniel contain a sequence of end-time prophecies which, broadly, set the scene for the warning words of Jesus about the end-times in Matthew 24 – days through which we are living. And right in the middle of these end-time prophecies, prophecies that will only be fully understood by those who live through the events Daniel describes, he comes out with these timeless words:
“But the people who do know their God will be strong and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32 KJV)
In one very simple, all-embracing statement, Daniel shares the key which had served him so well throughout his days. It is a key that if used properly, will transform the lives of believers so that they will be strong and do mighty exploits for the Kingdom of God in the end-times. Isn’t that what we should be believing for in these severely testing days?
When we see a weak church, with no strength and living in fear, there can only be one conclusion as to the reason. Even though they would say they believe in God – they do not know Him. Jeremiah expressed God’s heart about the situation when he wrote, “My people are fools, they do not know me” (Jeremiah 4:22).
A church whose members know about God but do not actually know Him is the most to be pitied – fools in God’s eyes – having the words of eternal life but, in ignorance, treating them with contempt. Reading the words of Scripture, but denying their life-transforming power. Talking of Jesus, but having no relationship with Him. It is so easy to flippantly talk about Heaven, but have no fear of Hell. Celebrating Easter but without entering into any understanding of the price which the sinless Son of God paid for our salvation. Swinging along to the tune of Amazing Grace, but without experiencing the impact, solemnity and meaning of the words “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
To prepare the Body of Christ to be the church that Jesus is coming back for, leaders must cease to be purveyors of head-knowledge and know for themselves that without a life-transforming heart relationship – a spiritual heart transplant – neither they nor their followers will be counted among the harvesters and be ready for when Jesus returns.
When I see the evidence of a powerless body, having little impact on a lost generation, I find it hard not to weep and feel the pain of God. I see a broken world and a god of this world who is deceiving even the very elect. Jesus clearly warned that the days to come would be like the days of Noah (Luke 17:26-27). I am not fear mongering, but against a backdrop of brokenness, a light must be held up. The prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-3 about the healing and salvation ministry of the coming Messiah is, indeed, GOOD NEWS! It is a message of redemption and restoration, setting the captives free, and bringing His comfort to those who mourn, healing for their pain, and beauty for ashes.
It is time for a faith-encouraging wake up call, for all believers, to take God at His Word and start believing and acting upon the gospel we received. Otherwise the thief will come in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2) and find us asleep. It is time to fill the lamps with oil and get ready for when the Bridegroom comes (Matthew 25:1-13).
In the eighteenth century the nation was on the verge of open rebellion – until John Wesley rode the length and breadth of the UK to preach an evangelical gospel that transformed society and, in time, established the Methodist Church.
In the nineteenth century Methodists William and Catherine Booth saw the utter degradation of the lowest levels of society in the East End of London. Their hearts were broken by what they saw and they abandoned traditional church activities to minister practical Christianity on the streets. Their message of ‘soup, soap and salvation’ gave birth to the Salvation Army – now a powerful influence for the Gospel in over 130 countries.
In the twentieth century God touched a young man called Billy Graham and gave him a heart for the lost. In time. Billy Graham preached to more people across the planet than any other evangelist in history, and through him God brought millions to repentance and faith as the Holy Spirit empowered his preaching, impacting the lives of eight Presidents of the USA and, even the late Queen of England.
I have read scores of biographies of pioneering Christian leaders – people who made a difference in the world in which they lived and, as with these three, I found there was one thing they all had in common.
They were all doing mighty exploits for the Kingdom of God because they had first come to know the God of the Kingdom.
The doorways of their hearts were ever open to the heart of God and as a result they were constantly empowered by the love of God for the lost and hurting. They not only knew about God, but they knew Him in a deep and personal way – their steps were directed by vision from God. And their love for Him propelled them into lives of service, walking in faith towards the destiny laid out for them – their names, and countless others, being added to the annals of faith adventurers recorded in Hebrews 11. I have personally been deeply impacted by the lives of those for whom obedience to God was a natural outworking of their knowledge of Him.
Sheep or Goats?
For me, therefore, the abiding question from Daniel for today’s church, in a broken, hostile and dangerous world, is Do you really know God? Do you really know the One who is the Lord of the Harvest, and are ready for His return. For Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him . . . he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32)
In this, the final end-times parable of Matthew 25, the sheep are the end-time harvesters who are bringing in the harvest. The ones who see the needs of the hurting and respond to their cry. And of which Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). To them Jesus said, “Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). There was no such reward for the goats. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment , but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:45-6).
I am passionate about the healing ministry because it touches God’s people – these “brothers of mine” as Jesus described them – at their point of need. It expresses God’s love in a tangible way. And it challenges the complacent to get out of their spiritual armchairs, for you cannot minister the depth of God’s healing love without knowing the Healer Himself.
Over nearly forty years of ministering healing, many thousands have come on retreats because of their personal need and many of these found that their primary need was to discover that their Healer was their Saviour, and were born again of the Spirit of God. Equally, thousands have come on training courses to find out about the healing ministry and have first discovered their own personal need of knowing Him.
It is the people of God who truly know Him who will be strong in the face of whatever circumstances they have to face, who will see the needs of God’s people and respond with broken hearts, touched by the Spirit of God and do mighty exploits for Him. These are the harvesters at the end of the age. No believer is excluded from the harvesting challenge or the possibility of doing exploits for the Kingdom of God, whether it be in their local situation or across the world.
The world awaits a new generation of faith-adventurers who truly know their God!