The god of Mystery Babylon is portrayed as marching through the mainstream current of history. The Judeo-Christian God, while exercising sovereign supervision over all of history, focuses His plan into a counter-cultural current. God moves “against the grain.” God utilizes what I call the Elijah Principle with those He loves as His program for sustaining them and exalting them in due time. In 1 Kings 18 Elijah has a contest with the false prophets at Mt Carmel. Elijah would call upon God and the false prophets would call upon Baal. The God who answers by fire is the true God of Israel.
The deck is horrendously stacked against Elijah. He is outnumbered 850 to 1. The false prophets are given most of the day to do their thing. When it is Elijah’s turn, God tells Elijah to further stack the deck against his own self. Elijah drowns the sacrifice with water. There is no possible way for Elijah to win this contest unless his God is God. God then answers powerfully.
What happened to Elijah is the pattern for the saints. There is an initial call to faith. After a ‘honeymoon’ season, the Lord will stack the deck against His own people for a season, so that He may be glorified through the victory of the saints. God uses the suffering and triumph of the saints to prove His mighty power to an unbelieving world. If you feel like the deck is royally stacked against you, then it may be that God is bestowing upon you the same love He has given the great saints of old.
We must through perseverance and tribulations enter the Kingdom of God. Enduring trials produces hope. Our assurance that hope is justified is that God loves us and has put His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Because God loves and has enabled us to love, we can hope for God to manifest deliverance with an expectation that God will come through for us.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”- Romans 5:1-5
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”- James 1:2-4
The reason that tribulations produce hope is that God pours His love into our hearts. Our assurance that God has poured His love into our heart is that He is treating us like the great saints. When one studies the lives of the saints in the scriptures, a clear pattern commonly emerges as they walk towards victory. There are three stages as they fight the good fight of faith. There is the initial move of faith followed by a season of trials in the wilderness. At the end of this season the child of God reaches the turning point where God brings the victory.
The Initial Call to the walk of faith begins when God reveals his vision to His child. Sometimes this call goes out in the midst of pre-existing trials. Other times it is immediately followed by trials. Usually there is a ‘honeymoon ‘ period where there are initial steps of faith towards the goal before the storm hits.
The initial call is followed by trials, tribulations, opposition, and Satanic attacks. Sometimes this can last for years. Much of the history of the saints involves God’s people waiting while enduring tribulations. These tribulations serve both a corrective purpose as well as the context through which God’s power is demonstrated.
After the season of tribulation, there comes a turning point where God brings the victory. Below are several saints whose lives followed this pattern. There are several examples of these three stages in both the Scripture and in subsequent church history.
Initial Call: God gave Joseph a dream that he would rule over his brothers.
Tribulation: Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery and for 13 years became slave and prisoner in Egypt. His leadership experiences as a slave and prisoner prepared him to become Prime Minister of Egypt.
Victory: Joseph became Prime Minister when he both interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and gave wise counsel to pharaoh.
Initial Call: Moses saved from death in order to be Israel’s deliverer. When Moses was a baby, his parents hid him for three months. When they could no longer hide him, they placed him in a basket. He grew up in Pharaoh’s house.
Tribulation: After killing one of the Pharaoh’s taskmasters, Moses fled into the wilderness and lived as a shepherd for 40 years.
Victory: God called him back to Egypt to deliver the Israelites. Through great signs and wonders performed by Moses, God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage.
Initial Call: Determined to follow Naomi, Ruth makes profession of faith in the God of Naomi. “ For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” was Ruth’s good confession.
Tribulation: Ruth left her home land and heritage to live as a beggar in a strange land. Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Israel at the end of a famine. The famine devastated the house of Naomi. She lost her husband and both her sons. The only thing Naomi had not lost was her daughter-in-law Ruth and her own life. Ruth took care of Naomi by gleaning wheat in the fields of Boaz.
Victory: She married Boaz and become mother to both the Royal House of David and the Messiah.
Initial Call: David was anointed as God’s choice for king. He began his career by killing Goliath and performed exemplary duty as a warrior. God gave David such great success as a warrior that the Israelites were saying ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Sam 18:6-8)
Tribulation: Because Saul was jealous of David, he pursued and sought to kill him. David lived for a number of years as a fugitive. During this time he softened his enemies and acquired skills that would benefit him as king.
Victory: When Saul died the House of David became stronger while the House of Saul became weaker. Finally the elders of Israel crowned David King of Israel.
Initial Call: Jesus Christ was chosen by God to be Savior of the world.
Tribulation: Jesus left the glory of heaven to be clothed in human flesh. He also suffered fierce opposition as He did mighty works of God. He eventually suffered an agonizing death on the cross.
Victory: His death on the cross conquered sin and Satan’s power. He conquered death by Resurrection from the dead.
Initial Call: The Church was chosen to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Tribulation: Christians suffered tremendous persecution at the hands of Jews and the Roman government for 300 years. Christianity is unique among the major world religions in that it was the only one to suffer multiple generations of persecution in its developmental stage.
Victory: The growth and triumph of the Church displaced the pagan culture of Rome.
The Church in Reformation
Initial Call: The Church that overcame Rome eventually fell into backsliding in the same manner that Israel had previously done. By the end of the medieval period, there was very little about what came to be called the Roman Catholic Church that bore any resemblance to Christ’s life and teachings. Human conventions had replaced the Scripture and the anointing of the Holy Spirit as the government of the church. It was in this context that God raised up John Wycliffe to call the church back to Scripture. Wycliffe’s followers were called Lollards.
Tribulation: In 1384, Wycliffe was burned at the stake. His followers, the Lollards, were driven out of England. The Lollards went to Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) where they helped John Hus start a reformation in Bohemia. After Hus’ death, the Hussite wars were fought until 1431. The forces of Reformation continued to endure in Bohemia, but the remainder of Europe was still in bondage.
Victory: On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis on the door of the church in Wittenberg. This caused a chain of events that led to a political paradigm shift. Those who revered the Bible as the infallible constitution of the faith and the written revelation of the gospel could now both be salt and light to the culture of the “West,” leading to its ascendancy and a growing capability to support a large, global missionary movement.
End Time Revival
Initial Call: While charismatic empowerment of the Holy Spirit has been manifest throughout church history, at the start of the twentieth century, a large scale awakening began in the church to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In 1906, God poured out His Spirit in a revival at Azusa Street. This revival jump started the largest move of the supernatural since the book of Acts.
Tribulation: The main issue that has arisen against this move of God is the clash against the very thing that cooled down the first revival: the replacement of the rule of the Word and the Spirit with human institutions. This can take several forms. It can be that of institutional authority rejecting or otherwise desiring to limit the flow of the charismata or the recognition of the apostolic and prophetic offices; it can also be self-appointed prophets who heed neither the correction of Scripture, the witness of the Lord, nor the witness of others who have the witness of God. They are like those lawless relativists, doing “whatever is right in their own eyes” rather than following the commands of the Lord (Deut 12:8).
Victory: In order for God’s church to shine in all of her glory, much of the existing man-made structures that frame the church must be tossed, and new structures instituted that more accurately mirror the New Testament church. The Lord Jesus instructs us that no one puts new wine into old wineskins or new cloth onto an old garment (Matthew 9:16-17, Mark 2:21-22, Luke 5:36-39). This is because the fermentation produced by the new wine will destroy the old wineskin and shrinkage of the new cloth will tear it from the old. Jesus is not thinking primarily about wine or textiles when He said this. He is saying that the old religious structures cannot contain the new work of God.
The Elijah principle works today
Just as Elijah stacked the deck against himself and put both the Lord and Baal to the test at God’s command, so God will stack the deck against the church. He gives her supernatural power to endure persecution and trial; when the time comes for a showdown between the church and the hostile cultural forces, He gives her the victory. In Jesus’ parable of the two houses, one built on sand and the other built upon the rock, it was the storm that revealed the house that was built upon the rock. A great social, political, and economic storm is coming. In fact, it has already begun. This storm must do its work in demolishing the old man-made structures so that the new wave of God’s work, and the new ministries that it will produce, can emerge.