The Approaching Darkness
[Editorís Note: Though some of the terms in the following article are strong, they are reflective of the harsh conditions that some believers are facing in the world today.]
A chill ran up my spine as I considered the possibility of going to a country where terrorists had decapitated an American journalist. The stakes could not have been higher. Seven of the men sitting around the table had counseled me when I had previously faced this kind of darkness, but it was the first time for the other five to give input about how to deal with this horrible evil.
I cleared my throat as I spoke to the Board of Directors of our ministry. "I am willing to die for my faith, but I Ė " My lips trembled. "I donít want to go through what I have been reading about and seeing in the media." Sudden tears welled in my eyes. "I love my wife, and I want to spend many more years with her. I want to watch my grandchildren grow up." I didnít know what else to say. The silence that engulfed the room demanded that Godís wisdom chair the remainder of the meeting.
My last visit to Pakistan had been nearly ten years prior to sharing those thoughts with the Board of Directors of our ministry. During that time, I had spoken about Jesus to large crowds in Faisalabad, Lahore, and Karachi, and many responded to the Gospel. It was a wonderful season of encouraging Christians and explaining the love of God. Christian leaders were excited about the possibility of my return to the country.
After I left Pakistan, Christians translated and produced many of my messages in a digital format and distributed them throughout the nation. Christian leaders utilized the messages to teach in villages and communities surrounding the major cities. One Christian leader translated them into Pashto, a major language in Afghanistan, and many Afghans readily embraced the Gospel.
A year later, my Pashto translator felt his life was in danger and asked us to hire a bodyguard. We agreed and made plans for a staff member to travel to Pakistan and provide technical assistance. We found a safe house for the work, but our staff member never made it to Pakistan. A couple of weeks before he was scheduled to leave, I received a phone call that left me stunned. Terrorists had kidnapped my Pakistani colleague along with his bodyguard and demanded a large ransom. I didnít know how to respond and was left speechless. Before I could make a decision, I received another call. Our colleague and his bodyguard had been brutally murdered.
My stomach knotted. I was overwhelmed with a sense of grief and guilt Ė grief over the barbaric murder of a friend and colleague and guilt because he had likely been killed because of his work with our ministry. The terrorists had taken the laptop that held all my translated messages. Pakistani pastors sent me an urgent but simple message: "You are on their radar. Donít return anytime soon. Wait until things settle down. We will let you know when itís safe."
I waited Ė for seven years. Then Pakistani Christian leaders contacted me, asking me to come back. They felt enough time had passed and that my ministry was needed. After finding an agreeable date, we decided I would come during the first part of October 2013.
Our Board of Directors was scheduled to meet on September 23, 2013, the week prior to my departure for Pakistan. The day before the Board meeting, two suicide bombers approached a crowd of Christians gathering for a luncheon and detonated their bombs, killing nearly 100 and wounding many more. It was one of the largest mass murders of Christians in the recent history of Pakistan.
After much prayer and a couple of Skype calls with Pakistani Christian leaders, we decided it was Godís will that I travel to Pakistan for the pastorsí conference and large outdoor evangelistic meetings. The pastor who thought we should continue with our plans felt this was a critical moment for Christians in the nation. Darkness had covered the land, and they needed the light of Godís Word to dispel the darkness. We decided to move the pastorsí conference from a public place in the center of Karachi to the Marriott Hotel. The hotel had many layers of security and would make it a much safer venue for the pastors. It would also give us time to assess the situation and determine whether we should continue with the large public evangelistic meetings.
Trusting in Godís Protection
On October 6, 2013, I boarded a flight to Karachi, Pakistan. There was no travel companion, only the indwelling presence of Christ. I stared out the window as the flight rose above the clouds and wondered if I would ever see my family again. I set my jaw and pulled back my shoulders. God gave me peace and direction through our Board. I took a deep breath as I stared out the window. Oh, God, I trust You to lead every step of the way and every minute of the day.
A large ballroom was packed the next day with pastors and Christian leaders. The Spirit of God swept through the crowd. Hearts were renewed and spirits restored. Tears ran down the faces of the Pakistani Christian leaders. A spark of revival was ignited in hundreds of hungry hearts. I knew I had made the right decision. God had shattered the darkness enveloping the hearts of these Pakistani leaders. Fear turned into faith, and a sense of helplessness was transformed into a feeling of hopefulness. God visited His people.
The real test came during the evangelistic meetings that followed the pastorsí conference. I didnít know if anyone would attend the public meetings because of terrorist threats against Christians throughout the country. Would people risk attending such a public forum in which the Gospel of Jesus was proclaimed? Again, I was surprised. Thousands gathered on the grounds of the Church of Pakistan in the center of Karachi. I preached and many responded to the message, placing their faith in Jesus and making commitments to follow Him.
The Light Shatters Darkness
After returning to the Marriott from the first evangelistic meeting, I spent time in prayer Ė then called my wife, Tex, to let her know I was safe and give a report on all God had done. The adrenaline ran high, and it was difficult to sleep. I tried to make up for the lack of sleep with a strong cup of coffee on Friday morning, October 11. The aroma made me feel like I was back home in a local coffee shop. That feeling quickly dissipated when the waiter handed me a local English language newspaper. The headlines screamed across the top, "Bomb Blasts Rock the Four Provincial Capitals." The subheading continued, "10 killed, 60 injured, three suspected terrorists die." After reading the article, I asked the waiter if he had another English paper. He brought me three others. The headlines were the same.
Terrorists had killed and maimed innocent people in every Provincial Capital, except one: Karachi, the city where we were conducting our evangelistic meetings. They had attempted to set off their bombs there, but the three suspected terrorists were killed when their bombs exploded on the way to their intended target. I slowly shook my head as I read the account. Who was the intended target? No one had the answer to that question, but it was certain that our meeting would have been high on the list. The terrorists hated Americans and Christians. Our meeting definitely qualified as a target.
What transpired during the next few days went far beyond what I could have ever imagined. Thousands of Pakistanis heard the good news of Godís love and responded to the message of the Gospel. My heart was deeply touched by the large response of young men between the ages of 18 and 30. Many hundreds of them were the same age as those the terrorists recruited for the jihad. However, the Holy Spirit captured their hearts, and they placed their faith in Jesus and followed Him. The darkness attempted to keep the light out of the country, but the light shattered the darkness. God moved in a mighty way as the radiance of Godís glory was seen in the nation.
When I returned to the United States, hope engulfed my heart. I knew the darkness could never extinguish the light dwelling inside the followers of Jesus. I had witnessed light in one of the most dangerous places on the planet and at one of the darkest moments. I met believers who continually faced persecution, and I learned much from these dear Christians.
The Darkness Moves West
Nearly a year after my trip to Pakistan, I once again prepared to host our ministry Board meeting and report about the glorious light I had witnessed in Pakistan. As I prepared for the gathering, I watched in horror as reports of the beheading of an American journalist by Islamic terrorists filled the Internet and television. I listened intently to seasoned scholars, politicians, and military strategists talk about the threat of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and Al Qaeda and the needed response of the Western world.
I respect every view and thought on the matter and believe that intense debate and actions are needed. I am not a politician, or military expert, nor an expert on Islamic terrorism. However, I have become increasingly burdened that all of the discussion has missed one of the most important elements of the terrorist movement. It is a deeply spiritual crusade, which has wrapped itself in darkness for centuries.
There are certainly military, political, and ideological elements of the jihadists that must be addressed. However, if we donít come to grips with the spiritual dimension of this looming worldwide darkness, I am concerned that our children and grandchildren in the Western world will face barbaric acts of persecution we never imagined possible. The children of many of my friends and colleagues in other countries already face such terror. Smart bombs, ideological debates, and political correctness canít shatter the darkness dwelling in the human heart. Only a display of the glory of God has the ability to expose and enlighten such hearts. We need a supernatural visitation from heaven Ė a revival much like the ones that our forefathers built as the foundation for Western civilization.
However, such a need exposes a great problem for the Western world. While the darkness of radical Islam grows, the church has been rocked to sleep in the bed of apathy. We have pulled the covers over our heads and said, "Night is approaching. We need our rest. All will be better in the morning." Others have gone the opposite direction and joined a choir that sings only one song: political power and military might.
However, we must never forget the bright and shining light that has been the foundation for Western civilization. Itís that light which has guided us through the darkest nights and will lead us victoriously into the future. The United States was birthed in a mighty spiritual revival, which many historians have called the First Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening followed at the beginning of the 1800s, and the Great Prayer Revival engulfed the major cities prior to the Civil War. A minor awakening occurred during the late 1960s and early 1970s during what the media dubbed as The Jesus Movement. Each one of those outpourings of Godís Spirit came at very critical moments in American history.
This may be the most pivotal moment not only in the history of Western Civilization, but also the entire world. That may sound like an exaggeration of the situation. However, if you understand the goals of groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, then you realize the barbarianism we have seen in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, and Somalia could easily spread throughout the Middle East and quickly engulf the entire planet.
The Approaching Darkness
At the time of this writing, itís believed that thousands of jihadists with ISIS have come from Western Europe and hundreds from the United States and Canada. The great concern for Western Law enforcement officials is that these terrorists carry Western passports, which enable them to move easily throughout Europe and North America. The United States and Britain have already seen savage murders on our streets and in our workplaces by those claiming to be jihadists.
If Christians understood the purpose and goals of these terrorist groups, we would be driven to our knees to cry to God for a mighty outpouring of His Spirit. ISIS terror leaders have claimed to establish a "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq. Conceptually, a caliphate represents a sovereign state of the entire Muslim faithful ruled by a caliph under Islamic law (sharia)." The ultimate goal of the caliphate was and is a world under the control of Islam, and one in which Sharia law is the way of life.
The Christian Response
Many Christians find themselves confused about the needed response. Most seem content to sleep during this dark hour. [My premise] is that darkness lies at the core of the situation we face today, and followers of Jesus possess the light that can shatter the darkness. We have dwelling within us the hope of the glory of God. The Christian community in North America and Western Europe must rally in prayer for a great outpouring of Godís Spirit at this critical moment in history.
As we see the darkness swiftly approaching, [we must] put on the "whole armor of God" and let [our] "light shine." A battle is raging for the hearts of women and men around the world. We face those who march to the drumbeat of hate. However, hate surrenders to those who carry weapons loaded with love. Our weapons are not filled with bombs that wreak death and destruction. When we use the weapons given us, love spreads so rapidly that it brings life to all in its path and transforms the course of history. Darkness is dispersed, and the light of Godís glory rises. Heaven visits earth. Revival descends. The world is changed. Hate can never defeat love when that love is exercised in the power of the One whose nature is love. The light of Godís love will dispel the darkness.
Taken and condensed from Light In The Darkness by Sammy Tippit. Copyright © 2015 by Sammy Tippit. Used by permission. For more information about Sammy Tippitís books, visit www.sammytippitbooks.com.