The Spiritual Battle Was Intense:
I knew this short-term mission trip to Honduras was going to be met with resistance but wasn’t sure how until the week before we were supposed to leave. There were eleven people signed up for the trip, including my wife (who had been to Honduras previously) and my two daughters (who had never been on a global mission trip before). One by one, I kept hearing reports from the team members about various challenges and struggles they were experiencing that were quite unusual.
One woman, on her first mission trip, had raised the full amount. She was in the middle of preparations for the trip when her father was diagnosed with cancer. Her family (who had not been supportive of her going because they were afraid for her safety in Honduras) told her she should not go to Honduras but stay in Pittsburgh to care for her father. Another woman suddenly could not sleep very well in the days leading up to the departure. In one night of restless sleep, she dreamed she was going to be killed violently in Honduras. Another trip member’s brother was diagnosed with cancer, and her mother broke her hip; she would ordinarily have been the primary caregiver for both. She decided to go on the trip to Honduras anyway. Just about every person scheduled to go on the trip shared dramatic situations at work, family tensions, relational struggles, financial strain, fear, anxiety or health problems in the days leading up to the trip.
I sensed it in my own family. My wife and I were at odds with each other much more than normal and knew right away that it was spiritual warfare. I knew we had to pray. I prayed with my wife a lot. We prayed with our family a lot. Our team gathered for a team meeting and prayed a lot. We started an email chain where we prayed for each other a lot. Do you know what happened? God was victorious! We were victorious! The more we prayed, the more resistance we met. The more resistance we met, the more encouraged we were that God was going to do something amazing with this group in Honduras!
And, wow! Did God do something amazing in Honduras! Not only did our team not experience death and destruction while in Honduras, we experienced life! We experienced life to the fullest! Lives were transformed within our group members and also with the host families, leaders, camp counselors and children from the urban ministry that we partnered with in the capital city of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. The enemy wanted to obstruct every part of our trip, but our team had full access to God’s authority! And we were privileged to be part of an amazing movement of God in Honduras!
In response to resistance, we lived passionately on mission. In response to divisiveness and turmoil, we embraced each other and the calling God had given to us. All of the team members experienced freedom in Christ. And many of the children and leaders that we worked with in Honduras experienced freedom in Christ. In the end, all the spiritual battling that we partook in was worth it. As God’s sons and daughters, we took Jesus up on the authority that He so freely makes accessible to us. Jesus received so much glory from our time in Honduras! In spiritual battles (and in life), God’s authority is real!
The Great Commission
One of the most well-known passages of Scripture in the Bible is Matthew 28:16-20, often referred to as the Great Commission. After all the drama throughout the biblical narrative (and especially the Gospel of Matthew), the climax of human history takes place in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then, Matthew ends his Gospel with this compelling vision that has inspired millions of Christians throughout the past two thousand years:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” – Matthew 28:16-20, ESV.
We may sometimes have doubts, but Jesus passionately compels us to follow Him. Jesus lives, speaks and leads with authority. And He passes that same authority on to us as we live our lives and seek to participate in God’s redemptive mission. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God. We are most fully alive when we are fully living in the authority that God has given us in His kingdom. We will face many challenges because we live in a present evil age. However, we need not shrink in fear and anxiety when faced with evil. We can engage the world with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the authority that comes with being children of God because of what Jesus has done for us.
That’s A Lot To Take In!
We have unimaginable authority in our lives because of Jesus’ profound love for us. As it turns out, this was God’s plan all along. God gave Daniel a vision of Jesus’ authority in the sixth century B.C., around 600 years before the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed – Daniel 7:13-14, ESV.
Daniel’s prophecy describes Jesus. Jesus often referred to himself as the Son of Man more than any other title. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy, establishing a new kingdom defined by God’s glory, power, dominion, and authority with all of mankind and the entire creation for all time. Everything and everyone exists to love and serve God. The good news is that the Kingdom of God is here now. We don’t have to wait for eternity. All of God’s authority and power is available to us now during these beautiful lives that we have been given!
We live in the now, but not yet. The Kingdom of God is here. But we will face tremendous resistance and persecution because we have an enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy us. There is a cosmic battle that we are intimately caught up in between the forces of good and evil. And, in the battle, God has chosen to work through His Church to accomplish His mission. He wants to work through us. And He desires to work through us because He loves us so much. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. We are not mere mortals. We have infinite worth in God’s eyes. And, God chose not to leave us ‘out to dry’ in these tough times we face. God gives us His full authority to live lives of victory and perseverance.
We can participate in God’s Kingdom and victory now, but there will still be many ‘ups and downs’ in this epic adventure that is God’s grand narrative. Sometimes, it helps to know the end of the story when we get discouraged while we’re living in the midst of the sin and brokenness that is rampant in this world. Thankfully, God has already showed us how all of this ends. It’s a good ending! And, Jesus’ authority is right at the heart of God’s plans. We see this clearly in the book of Revelation:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords – Revelation 19:11-16, ESV.
This is such a powerful picture of Jesus and His ultimate victory over evil, sin and death. Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will lead His people and hosts of angel armies to the ultimate victory. Jesus is able to do these things because He has been given that authority, and He is trustworthy with that authority. And Jesus loves to give His authority to His children in order for us to become all that God has in mind for us and for His Story.
Why Do We Fail?
So, if all of this is true, and we all have access to the authority that Jesus generously and freely gives, why do we fail to live lives of purpose and meaning and courage and power and victory? So often, we live small and are overcome by our circumstances. Or, sometimes we misuse the authority that God has given us. We try to control it and use it to gain advantage over others. We try to dominate them instead of radically loving them. The truth is that both passivity and overly aggressive, dominating behaviors are sinful, representing gross neglect of the authority God has given us to accomplish His purposes.
God gives us full access to His authority so we can use it to radically love others. That radical love includes not just our own friends and family members, although that is important. God gives us His authority to radically love people who are far from Him and even our enemies. That is the central message of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus modeled for us how to live and how to love. Not by being people who passively stand by while others participate in God’s Story or by overpowering others with our words and actions but by utilizing God’s authority to give ourselves away to other people through prayer, service, humility and joy in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Are you living life like you have been given full authority from the Most High God? Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection did not occur just so that we can get into Heaven. Jesus desires we experience life to the fullest now and throughout all of eternity. Just like the short-term mission team to Honduras, we may experience tremendous spiritual and physical battles in life. But, we will not be deterred. Through the authority that comes through Jesus, we can thrive and overcome in order to fulfill the unique callings that God gives to us all. Let’s choose to live in that authority every day of our lives!
~Dr. Bryan McCabe