Contend Earnestly: When to Stand; When to Flee

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When to Stand; When to Flee

I have been teaching through the book, "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper to our youth. We are really hitting our stride in the book and I find it very interesting the different points that Piper makes.

We all know that we are going to have persecution as Christians, it is like saying, "if you are a human, you have a soul."

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:12

I always ask myself, in times of peace, "why am I not being persecuted?" Usually the answer is because I am not standing for Christ as I ought. We know we will be persecuted as we live out our lives for Christ, but the question then comes, "Does this mean that I run into an angry Muslim mob in Iraq and tell them that Muhammad is a false prophet and Jesus died for their sins?" I don't think so. Well, I hope not. Well...maybe?

We know that through persecution that Christ will give us grace that is sufficient for us (2 Cor 12:8) which is a great comfort, but the gray area comes in "when do I take a stand and when do I flee?" Missionaries have to answer this question most often as their lives are often at stake in hostile communities. They must know when to run, when to stand. But, whatever the case, they must bathe their decision in prayer and ask God for wisdom in it. Paul understood this. Paul understood that a Christian life lived is not a life lived for the sake of self, but for the sake of Christ's fame. This means that if you flee for the sake of your safety and not for the glory of God, that is sin. Also, if you take a stand for the sake of your name, so that all will hear how great you are in your standing, and not for Christ's glory, then that is sin. Both can be sin, both can be in the will of God. Is there a perfect answer for how this should take place? I think not.

The one standing within these options must plead to God for wisdom and power to do what is in His will and not their own. This might mean teaching in Iraq and it might mean running from Iraq. It might mean standing against your boss, it might mean shutting your mouth. But, there is no chapter in the Bible with a laid out plan. What I found very interesting is how John Bunyan thought of this, the pastor who spent twelve years in prison and wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. He could have been released from prison if he had agreed not to preach. His wife and children needed him. One of his daughters was blind. It was an agonizing decision. “The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the Flesh from my bones."

Here is what he wrote about the Christian’s freedom to stay or flee from danger.

May we try to escape? Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly: if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Any thing but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Exodus 2:15; Moses stood, Hebrews 11:27. David fled, 1 Samuel 19:12; David stood, 1 Samuel 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jeremiah 37:11–12; Jeremiah stood, Jeremiah 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 9:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Corinthians 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23.…

There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly.… Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word. Matthew 10:23.… If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.


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