"Now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removal of what can be shaken— that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’" (Hebrews 12:26-29).
Since the Lord Jesus first called us to serve Him in Asia, we have been privileged to be a link between the Church in Asia and Christians around the world. We get to travel to various countries, and meet believers from a myriad of cultures and backgrounds. It has given us a fresh appreciation for the Body of Christ.
Over the last few years many Christians we have met have reported that they are going through a shaking process. The kind of shaking people are experiencing varies from place to place, and from person to person. Many are under pressure financially, through health crises, marital struggles, persecution and discrimination, church splits, etc. People’s moral and ethical integrity is being tested and shaken. Many of our Christian friends in Christchurch, New Zealand, have had their nerves frayed by continual physical shaking with more than 7,500 earthquakes and aftershocks in the past year.
It is not only individual lives that are being shaken. Many churches and ministries have been experiencing a great shaking also. One of the world’s largest mission organizations, which has a history of almost 200 years, has experienced such major financial difficulties in the last few years that they have had to bring hundreds of missionaries home from the field.
We tell you this not to depress you, but hope that if you are experiencing a difficult time in your life, you will realize that God is busy purifying those He loves. He does this for our own good, and for His glory. Jesus is not returning for a messed-up bride. He is returning for a beautiful bride, for the Lord "gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’" (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Because we live in a fallen world, much of the time we don’t feel too radiant, holy and blameless, but God loves His children so much that He patiently helps us to become all that He intends. A large part of that process is allowing the Holy Spirit to shake our lives. He wants to shake out sinful patterns and thoughts, bad attitudes and practices, false ideas and beliefs. He wants to set us free from both legalism and licentiousness. When the shaking process is complete, we will be better equipped to serve and glorify Him.
Once we heard on the news that a wealthy businessman gave a brand new $200,000 Ferrari for his son on his 18th birthday. Two hours later the teenager was dead. He had not been trained to receive such a gift and was unable to drive the car with the necessary level of skill and caution. Our Heavenly Father will not bestow His children with certain gifts unless they are equipped to handle them responsibly without disgracing His Name and hurting themselves.
One thing we have realized in our own lives over the years is that hard times and shakings are designed and permitted by the Lord for our own good. When things are comfortable we can easily slip into spiritual complacency. Lives that make a difference are often first tested in the furnace of affliction and difficulty. Times of ease, prosperity and idleness, on the other hand, often lead to sin. When King David chose to commit adultery and murder, Israel was experiencing a time of unparalleled prosperity and success.
The Church in China was feeble and struggling before Communism came to power. Decades of affliction have resulted in a strong and determined Chinese Church today, and there are now approximately 100 million more Christians than before their struggles began. It is not the persecution and shaking in itself that makes us holy. Rather, difficult circumstances drive us to God’s Word, and it is the "washing with water through the word" which makes us holy.
Take note of what the Almighty God once told Israel: "See, I have refined you, though not as silver. I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another" (Isaiah 48:10-11).
The same is true for Christians today. The all-wise God will not let His Name be defamed, and He is shaking the Church. It needs to be shaken so that false believers will either repent or be separated from the flock. In the American ‘Bible belt’ the divorce rate and the number of unwed teen pregnancies is reportedly now higher than the rest of the country. Recently we read a shocking study into the state of Christianity in America. Researcher David Campbell questioned thousands of Christians throughout the nation and found that 83% of evangelical Protestants agreed that "good people" of other religions will go to heaven.
Another study in USA Today reported that 52% of Christians in the United States believe that eternal life is not exclusively for those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
From these surveys, it seems that the majority of professing believers no longer think Jesus is required to get into heaven. There seems to be a growing consensus among church-goers that we can make it on our own, and all "good people" will go to heaven. Not only does this directly contradict the Scriptures, it is a direct slap in the face of God, who sent His beloved Son to die on a cross for sinful mankind. If it is possible to get into heaven by being good, then Jesus obviously wasted His time dying such a cruel and painful death for all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The Lord of Lords and King of Kings will not let His Name be defamed in such a disgraceful manner by a backslidden church, and so He is shaking His children all around the world. If you are going through a testing time, you need to realize that your experiences are common, and should be expected. The Bible addresses Christians this way:
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.... However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? ... So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" (1 Peter 4:12, 16-17, 19).
There are great changes going on in the world. The number of earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters seem to be dramatically increasing. The financial systems of the world are swaying back and forth, causing fear and trepidation in the hearts of millions. At such a time as this, God’s people need to rise up and live godly, uncompromising lives as we walk in His light. The Bible exhorts us to submit to God’s cleansing process so that we may be, "an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (2 Timothy 2:21).
This is a time for every Christian to make a decision about the level of commitment they want to make to God. Those who are content to keep one foot in the world will soon find such a compromised faith impossible to maintain.
For those who don’t want to be mere church-goers, but who desire to know and obey the Lord Jesus more than ever, be encouraged! The Bible says we should "...not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).