“The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But to the cowards… their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.” (Revelation 21:7-8 NET)
Satan is currently mustering an army of cowards that will one day champion his evil purposes. The people I am referring to are not outside the evangelical movement but within it. The Bible calls it the Great Apostasy. Whether one believes they will be professing Christians who were never truly converted or that they have known the Lord but will backslide into open apostasy, we can all agree that they will prove to be turncoats to the Lord before it’s all over.
The truth is that it often takes a crisis to prove the mettle of a person’s character. Heroes and cowards don’t always stand out in everyday life. It often isn’t until some calamity occurs that their true character emerges.
The movie, The Hiding Place provides a classic example of this truth. Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom would certainly have been considered unlikely heroines, but when terrified Jews began showing up at their doorstep looking for shelter, they threw themselves into meeting the need—in spite of the terrible danger it exposed them to. A contrast to their bravery was the spineless behavior exhibited by a local minister who showed up one day to get his watch repaired. Betsy saw him as a perfect candidate to care for a newly arrived Jewish infant, but the man did not have the spiritual wherewithal to look beyond his own interests. “It’s illegal!” he exclaimed. “I have a family to think of.”
What these three individuals experienced during the years of Nazi oppression is a portend of what end time Christians will face. “But you must realize, Paul wrote, “that in the last days the times will be full of danger.” (2 Timothy 3:1 PHP)
How will you and I react when facing overwhelming pressure to abandon our faith? The example of the Ten Boom family makes it clear that the kind of courage needed in such a time will not come from one’s natural disposition but from the life we have in God. Our relationship to the Lord will determine how we will handle the adversity and danger of that time. If this is true, then we should be able to predict how we will carry ourselves during those times that “will be full of danger.” I believe the issues reflected in the following questions can help us accurately assess the level of our readiness.
What is the level of my selfishness or selflessness in my interactions with other people?
One common characteristic of cowards (naturally or spiritually) is an inordinate preoccupation with themselves. When calamity strikes, the attitude that prevails within such people is “Every man for himself!” Yet, when you think about it, this statement reflects the way they live during normal times. If someone goes through life looking out for “Number One,” you can be sure he will do the same during a crisis as well.
On the other hand, adversity and persecution will also provide the opportunity for selfless people to show their courage. Such people typically have a long track record of putting the needs of others before their own. Why would anyone expect them to act differently under duress? It’s often common laypeople—such as the Ten Booms—who show real courage in dangerous situations.
How concerned am I about what people think of me?
One of the prevailing characteristics of false prophets—during both biblical days and modern times—is the need they feel for secular society and its leaders to accept them. That desire for acceptance is what motivates them to offer the teachings of “cheap grace” and “easy believism.” Such leaders are already traitors to the Cross.
This needy attitude can also infect laypeople. Those who are afraid to openly confess Christ or share their faith with family members and coworkers are also setting themselves on a course of spiritual disaster. Jesus seemed to be referring to such end time pseudo-Christians when He said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory…” (Luke 9:26)
The way we interact with the world today should serve as a telltale sign of how we will respond to the persecution of the future. If a believer cannot handle the world’s criticism now, how will he or she hold up under harsh and hate-filled persecution? (Jeremiah 12:5)
What is the quality of my devotional life?
It has been said that a Christian is only as strong as his prayer life. Jesus expressed as much when He said, “…he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” He went on to say, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:5, 18)
Whatever else one might say about Corrie and Betsy, they knew what it meant to live in daily dependence upon the Lord long before the Nazis showed up. Indeed, some scholars (i.e. W.E. Vine) would argue that reliance on God is the defining characteristic of saving faith.
Those who think they will develop a devotional life when things get bad are very mistaken. The time of crisis is not the time to institute a spiritual discipline such as ongoing prayer. Spending time in prayer and in the Word of God are signs of a healthy relationship with the Lord. Believers who are accustomed to going to the Lord about the issues of life in normal times will find that they will have a quick and solid connection to Him in the day of calamity.
The long and short of it all is that spiritual cowards are unwilling to fight for a real life in God. “Strain every nerve to force your way in through the narrow gate,” Jesus said; “for multitudes, I tell you, will endeavor to find a way in and will not succeed.” (Luke 13:24 WNT) That lazy, apathetic multitude describes the people of the apostasy. They are unwilling to deny themselves for the sake of others because it means they will have to give of themselves. They are unwilling to stand against the world’s criticism because they want everyone’s approval. They are unwilling to enter the struggle of a bona fide devotional life because it requires too much effort. Jesus called them “lazy slaves.” (Matthew 25:26) When the time comes that it will cost them something to be a Christian, they will—like all traitors—go over to the enemy’s side. This is the army that Satan, the greatest of all cowards, is currently assembling.
But God is putting together an army of His own, as well. His will be an army of heroes because Jesus Christ, the most courageous of all heroes, is leading them into battle. It is because of what He accomplished on the Cross that believers can live selfless lives, can endure the world’s disdain and can fight through in prayer to touch the heart of God. And by the time this protracted war is over, many of God’s people will have proven themselves to be heroes to His cause, to His kingdom and to His glory.