Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fight the Good Fight of the Faith: The LORD is Victorious

As we continue our way through the book of Joshua, we come to ch. 10, and, as I mentioned in the previous post, after this passage, we will skip ahead at "warp speed," covering twelve chapters of material in two posts: last Friday's and next's.In this story, we learn something important about the Christian life: God is always victorious, but sometimes His plan of achieving victory is quite peculiar.

If you have read much about Church history, you have probably read about the great persecutions of the Church in the first few centuries AD. There are many, many stories of the brutality that Christians endured, but in my opinion, one, in particular, stands out. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, persecution was not yet empire-wide, but it was quite heavy in certain areas. One of those areas was Gaul (the geographic region that would later become France). From that area, the church historian Eusebius recounts the story of a slave girl named Blandina, who suffered unthinkable tortures over the course of several days because she would not deny Christ. Eusebius reports:
Blandina was filled with such power, that those who tortured her one after the other in every way from morning till evening were wearied and tired, confessing that they had been baffled, for they had no other torture they could apply to her; and they were astonished that she remained in life, when her whole body was torn and opened up, and they gave their testimony that one only of the modes of torture employed was sufficient to have deprived her of life, not to speak of so many excruciating inflictions.
He goes on to describe how Blandina was next thrown to the beasts in the arena, along with a boy, whom she encouraged to remain faithful to his death. Finally, Eusebius says, “And, after the scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull,” and that is how she died.

We might look at that and think, “Is that really worth it? What good does enduring that suffering bring? Wouldn’t Christ’s blood cover her if she gave in?” Absolutely, for Christ’s blood covers all our sins, but Blandina’s suffering was worth it, for Eusebius tells us that several of her tortures turned to Christ after they saw her unwavering hope in the gospel. And, who knows how many more thousands of pagans came to Christ because of how Christians, like Blandina, showed them hope in suffering. This is why Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” God used their hope in suffering to draw those who assaulted them to Himself. And, while that plan of God seems quite strange to us, His victory was complete. William Durant writes in his 11-volume work The Story of Civilization:
There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials by a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the Word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has ever known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena and Christ had won.
God’s plan may have been strange and His methods foolishness to the watching world, but they worked and His victory was complete: the Roman Empire died but the Christian Church continued to grow.

As remarkable as it is, that basic story is not unique in the history of God’s people. In fact, it is really quite common. We see it in our episode of Joshua for today, and, as we talk along the way, we will see it in our own lives. Again, this is why this book is so applicable to our lives today: It is a story of God’s redeemed people having to fight by faith in God who truly fights the battles for them, using God’s ways to possess rest in the Promised Land, which is exactly a mirror of our lives today, although spiritually; not physically.

If you want to hear more, you can listen to the sermon here or read the transcript here.

I pray that God will use it to magnify His glory in your heart and fortify you for the battles of this Christian life.

By His Grace,

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