What in the World is Going On?
We’ve been walking through almost two years of “gloom and doom.” We’ve experienced very publicly displayed racial tension, one of the wildest political seasons most Americans have ever experienced, and to top it off, a worldwide pandemic. Many are understandably discouraged and confused. Our country is deeply divided. So, how is the Church to respond?
Recently, Pastor Rustin Rossello taught about followers of Jesus being “sheep among wolves.” His message was a sobering reminder of Jesus’ words to His followers about the “game” we now find ourselves in. In John 12, Jesus taught an important truth to His disciples that is relevant to us as well:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” – John 12:24-26
This teaching is a timely message for us today as our culture continues to become more and more secular. Interestingly, it comes right after the Triumphal Entry and just before a thunderous voice from heaven confirms that Jesus is the One sent from heaven and the One Who will bring God glory! (John 12:28) In His words to the disciples, Jesus is foreshadowing His own death and glorious resurrection that would follow, fulfilling God’s eternal plan to save His creation. By Jesus’ wounds, we will be healed as Isaiah 53 promises.
This teaching is a timely message for us today as our culture continues to become more and more secular.
Christ’s teaching also applied to His disciples who would continue following Him after His death and resurrection. They would further His teaching and start the early Church—at an incredibly high cost. They became intimately familiar with this teaching of Jesus and walked it out for the sake of the millions who would follow after them and believe Jesus is the Messiah, sent from the Father. Eleven of the original 12 disciples were martyred for following Jesus. John, who wrote the gospel of John and the verses above, was boiled alive in oil! This is the calling of following Jesus—the call to come and die to ourselves. Daily. Sometimes many times a day. Some are even called to physically lay down their lives for Jesus’ sake. To be His witnesses.
What is God doing? What is He calling us to?
As we experience a turbulent season in our nation and world, how are we in the Church remembering and walking out what Jesus taught in John 12:24-26? How am I doing this? How is Scottsdale Bible Church walking this out as a family of faith? And what about our brothers and sisters in the global Church who are being challenged just like we are? These are challenging questions that make me…all of us…feel exposed. But that’s exactly when God shows up—when we get to the end of ourselves.
In the most Unexpected Places…in Unexpected Ways!
During this time of national and global upheaval, we may wonder where God is in all the chaos. How is He moving in the Church in other parts of our world today? How is the Global Body of Christ “dying” and bearing much fruit? Did you know that Afghanistan, by some reports,* has the second-fastest growing Church by percentage in the world? Want to know where the fastest growing Church is? Iran! And the Afghan Church is growing because Iranians are the ones reaching out to them! Talk about being willing to follow Jesus at an extremely high cost. Our Iranian brothers and sisters are doing that today—in a country that has outlawed Christianity since 1979. “…but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
The Afghan Church is growing because Iranians are the ones reaching out to them! Talk about being willing to follow Jesus at an extremely high cost.
SBC has 57 global workers scattered around the globe. We have connections and relationships in dozens of countries. From Latin America, to Europe, to Asia, to Africa—we are hearing stories of how God is on the move. We are gathering on Zoom to pray with our global partners and hear stories from them directly. I’d like to share a few as an encouragement to you—and as a challenge and reminder of Jesus’ words in John 12 to all of us.
Encouraging News from Tanzania and North Africa
Frank Thomas, our Tanzania Project Director, has been to Tanzania eight times during Covid and we’ve seen our first group of graduates finish their “A Level” Secondary Education. In June, we enjoyed a wonderful celebration of these 13 exceptional young men and women who will be entering University studies this year! All of this resulted from a humble beginning at our two primary schools in Mairowa and Kondoa—thanks to faithful sponsors from SBC!
Additionally, our Tanzania Staff and Global Counseling Team began an exciting new “Internship” program for young ladies last April. It offers them jobs while they are home between school transitions and gives them job experience in the career areas they hope to pursue as they enter Vocational or Upper-level Secondary Schools this year. This is possible because others have sacrificed for these young women and helped implement this vison, and fruit is being borne. “Whoever loves his life, loses it….”
In North Africa, one of our global partners oversees teams who are reaching out to Muslims with the gospel. Recently, he traveled to a very dangerous N. African region and met a new Muslim-background believer in one of these countries. This former Muslim told how he came to believe in Jesus for his salvation and realized Christ was more than just a “Prophet.” At a meeting with a Jesus-follower from Egypt, this man said he “smelled the smell of peace”! He had no other way of describing it. It was a fragrance he had never smelled before. God gave this Muslim man a spiritual help to distinguish Jesus-followers from everyone else he had ever met. It was different and unique, and convinced this man that Jesus was the Messiah he had been searching for. He now believes in Jesus as his Savior! This is happening in one of the least-reached countries in our world because others were willing to go. “…and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
God gave this Muslim man a spiritual help to distinguish Jesus-followers from everyone else he had ever met.
Sealed with an Incredible Promise
Jesus’ words are challenging. His reminder to be “sheep among wolves” gives us a great image to hang onto. Jesus’ words in John 12:24-26 call us to follow Him, to serve Him, and to “die” in that process. This is the way of the cross. This is the way of Jesus. I praise God that men and women in Iran and Afghanistan are following Jesus and walking this path. I praise God that men and women here at SBC are walking this path.
I’m also reminded that Jesus’ challenging words include an incredible promise! Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” Can you even imagine that? That God the Father will honor those who serve Him?! That’s our payoff. Hard, challenging marching orders for Jesus’ followers. But sealed with a promise so unbelievable that we are compelled to keep walking. Be encouraged, brothers and sisters. Keep walking after Jesus. It is worth it; this promise is waiting for you! It is worth giving our lives for. Jesus is worth it.
*Operation World, quoted by the Gospel Coalition article, April 2021.