By Hedieh Mirahmadi
Between the riots, looting, and closed churches, many Christians are frightened about “battle.” I often get this surprised look on people’s faces when they see how outspoken I am since becoming a Christ-follower, after 20+ years as a devout Muslim. I know they are wondering why I am not afraid? Throughout my professional career, I survived being shot at on the streets of Damascus, the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon, the Tsunami in Southeast Asia, and direct confrontation with more than a few suspected terrorists. Yet, being “battle-tested” is not where I draw my strength. It is the Holy Spirit’s power within me that gives me the strength and courage I never experienced before salvation. Most importantly, that power is available to ALL those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Alongside strength and courage, I am learning that a warrior for Christ must have the fruit of the Spirit, namely forbearance and self-control. Sometimes, the Lord signals us to stay quiet and let the storm pass. This concept was entirely new to me. Before my salvation, I was the first to retaliate for an offense, real or perceived. Now, I am waiting for a prompting from the Holy Spirit of how to respond. In this season of social and political unrest, the ability to hold my tongue has been incredibly valuable. So many people are reacting to world events based on their trauma, myself included. The Lord is teaching me not to react out of emotions. He is showing me through prayer and reading His Word, the reality of my situation, and how to respond with wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
With spiritual discernment, we can also determine who comes at us as an enemy and when its time to stand and fight. In Mathew 10, Jesus Christ said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” He warned us that we would face battles and hardships in our lives to prepare us, not scare us. We have many verses of the Bible that tell us how to protect ourselves when the enemy does come to attack. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds”1. We learn to draw on the spirit realm for strength and defense in the battle against evil forces.
However, Christ also made it clear that physical trials may come to us as well. Starting with the disciples’ gruesome fate to the persecution of Christians today throughout China, Iran, and the Middle East, the Church has faced physical trials. Jesus continues in Mathew:
“For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own 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 finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” 10:34-39
I often worry that the American Christians who have enjoyed being the majority for centuries are not prepared for persecution and hardship. Those of us from the Middle East or Africa have lived through bloody civil wars and lawlessness. Surviving persecution is a way of life. It is fascinating that the Lord in His infinite wisdom is calling so many of us into salvation for such a time as this. I strongly believe they will help strengthen the brethren through their experiences.
Jesus warned often enough about the difficulty that would come from confessing His name so it is unlikely that the American church would never face physical battles. So, He says in Luke 22, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”
Think of it like an earthly battlefield. There are soldiers on the ground fighting in hand-to-hand combat, but that doesn’t mean we stop diplomacy and negotiations, or that the military won’t use drones from the air. It is a multi-prong defense or offense in the theater in battle. The same goes for the individual. Though many of us would never battle physically, we should always be battle-ready in the Spirit. Every one of us should be praying for the hedge of protection, the full armor of God, and God’s warring angels2 to guide and protect you, including protecting you from dangerous places or people.
In my career, I listened to many potential terrorists who had one thing in common–how they described Christians. They would say Christians are “weak in spirit and discipline”, or “Christians don’t know what it means to die for God”. Now as a believer, I see how those words should NEVER be used to describe a follower of Christ!
Our courage comes from knowing that we have the Holy Spirit’s power3 and that Christ lives within us to overcome any kind of obstacle. Every man dies but very few really live. That’s the choice we have because Jesus Christ died for us to have life, and life more abundantly. We must choose to stand in the power of the Lord.
‘Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11
Whether it’s marching around Jericho seven times or Gideon defeating an army of 10,000 with 300 men, God’s people can and will be victorious if they have faith in Him and the courage to stand. Throughout time, God delivers the believers; but someone had to stand. The victory is ours if some show up.
God always defends His people when they uphold His commandments and stand for His truth. He didn’t promise it would be without suffering, but He did always promise victory. We have a righteous cause to advance the Kingdom against demonic forces, which are the enemy of souls.
As a Christian, the next time you are frightened by the news reports or wonder whether you should defend our freedom to gather for worship and defend the Gospel, remember the words of Jesus in Mathew 10.
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
1 2 Corinthians 10:4
2 Psalm 34:7, Psalm 91:11
3 2 Timothy 1:14