As one looks at the state of the church of Jesus Christ throughout Europe, one cannot but be alarmed – closing churches, dwindling congregations, apathetic listeners, lazy Christians, and uninterested public. The concerned Christian is troubled and anxious by what they see. The backslider, or more accurately unconverted, are not at all too bothered. They are more concerned with raising a family, building their careers, and enjoying the pleasures of the world. For such people we have nothing at all to say but – sleep on. For others, all be it the minority, we say the following.
PRAY. Without the Christian turning to God in prayer all our hopes and dreams will either be short-lived or fleshly driven. If we want to see real spiritual fruit we must pray about our condition. The problem we face is a spiritual problem. All moral breakdowns and related behaviour patterns stem from man’s spiritual bankruptcy. Cure his spiritual condition, and though by no means producing character perfection, many of man’s failings are at the least set on the road to recovery and repair as the Holy Spirit produces a sanctifying work. Sadly the least attended meeting in churches is the prayer meeting. It is, as CH Spureon said, ‘the engine room of the church.’
PREPARE. The growth of the church is in part the adding of new spiritually alive people to the body of Christ. That is a work that only the Holy Spirit can do. No preacher, pastor, evangelist, or witnessing Christian can produce spiritual life. Nevertheless, we are called to be active, not just in our praying, but also in our witnessing. Yes, the church in the community. If all the local church ever does is meet on a Sunday and midweek, don’t be surprised if no fruit appears. AW Pink once declared, ‘the church that does not evangelise will fossilise.’ There must be regular evangelistic activity if a church is to grow. Be that in the form of door to door visitation, open air ministry, children’s work, English classes, coffee morning, or some other evangelistic ministry.
PERSEVERE. This is most certainly needed. As praying and the preparing of the ground is hard work, and not a little demoralising, persevering is a must or we will simply just give up and throw in the towel. No true pastor would condemn a discouraged and worn down minister for giving up. Yet all involved in the spiritual battle must not give up. The task is too great, the labourers too few, and the value of a soul too high. If the wearied soldier is spurred on in the battle by a yelling NCO surely we, who are involved in a greater fight, need to encourage one another. Though not in the carnal way of the football coach, but more so in reminding one another of who we are in Jesus Christ and the calling He has given to all His children.
PROMISE. One of the ways we can encourage one another is to remind ourselves of the promises that God has given us. These are not the empty and vain promises of victory from a defeated general. Rather they come from a Sovereign who thunders, ‘I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail’ (Matthew 16:18). We are assured of the final outcome. Is not that what the book of the Revelation is all about? God wins! As the darkness closes in around us in Europe, with the forces of Satan snapping at our ankles, may we not slide and slip, but rather stand firm, seeking to push back the enemy through the preaching of the Gospel, commitment being shown to the local church and pastor, and faithful godly praying.
PRESERVATION. Why must the Christian pray, prepare, and persevere? The reason is given in our last two pointers – the promises God has made, and the action He will perform. All too often church has become all about US. We are so self centred and preoccupied with our own little happiness and enjoyment that we’ve forgotten, or more accurately were never taught, that it’s all about God the Trinity and not us. God has a plan and He will see it through to completion. He will preserve His people because they are for His Son. From before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) God had determined a people for Himself. If you are a Christian then you are one of them. If you are one of them, you are commissioned to go out and call in the others. It then is your duty to: Pray, Prepare, Persevere, and heed the Promises given, and all in the light of God’s Preserving a people for His name’s sake.