The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Responding to Terror’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/22/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1Tc1oJs
Who’s Behind Terror?
We live in an incredible scary world. Jesus warned His disciples that in the last days, terror would increase. I have never been one to dwell on end-time prophecy, and attempt to predict exactly when this world will end. However, when one so much as turns on the news, it is abundantly clear and apparent that terror is increasing.
What should our response to terror be? Prayer. Terror is not new. The tactics have changed, and the instruments being used have never been seen before. However, Satan has always been the author of all terror. His goal has always been to scare us – God’s people – into backing down from using the authority of Heaven to pray God’s Kingdom reality over this earth.
On Friday, November 13th, 2015, 129 people were killed in a terror attach in Paris, France. On Friday, November 20th, 2015, another 21 people were killed at a hotel in Mali, in Western Africa. ISIS claimed responsibility for the first attack; Al Qaeda clamed responsibility for the second. At the end of the day, Satan is behind it all.
It has never been more important to pray for New York City. In a news conference after the attacks, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton noted that there had been over 20 terrorist attack attempts thwarted already this year in New York City. Our city remains one of the most prominent targets for terror in the world.
The only way our cities will stay safe is if we pray. God has clearly given us authority in Scripture to pray for protection over our cities. Psalm 115 says that, “…the heavens are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men” (Ps 115:15-16). It is our responsibility to pray for protection over our cities. If we don’t do it, who will?
Who Protects You?
We build our lives around security. We desire protection and consistency. In response to terror, we huddle around the things we can control. We revert to our instincts and surround ourselves with as much predictability as possible. I’ve talked to many people this week who plan to take the subway less often in response to terrorist threats in New York City. I’ve talked to others who plan to avoid rush hour traffic, and stay out of public places.
While I understand the attempts to stay safe, we must acknowledge that those attempts are misguided. Any security built in anything or anyone but God is false security.
As God’s people, we must trust in Him – and no one else – for protection. In 2 Chronicles 16, we see God remind King Asa, the King of Judah, that any attempt to build security apart from God’s protection and provision isn’t really secure at all. The King of Israel had declared war against Judah. In response, King Asa had turned to Syria for protection.
God sent His prophet Hanani to rebuke the king:
And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” – 2 Chron 16:7-9
King Asa had put his trust in man, instead of God. God very clearly reminded King Asa that if he had relied on God, Judah’s protection would have been guaranteed. However, because he had relied on man for protection, Judah would be overrun.
Some of the greatest calamities in human history have occurred when God’s people put their trust in man instead of God. Others came about because God’s people became so discouraged that they were no longer willing to pray.
Protection, Peace and Prudence
The greatest successes in history come about when God’s people are willing to pray – without fear, and without reservation! This morning, we are going to make a commitment to be those men and women of prayer. I believe God is asking us to pray for three things in New York City: protection, peace, and prudence. We see all three demonstrated as God’s people pray for His cities throughout Scripture.
God visits Abraham in Genesis 18. The Lord promises His servant a son, and then leaves to destroy a wicked city called Sodom. Before He takes action, however, he stops to clue Abraham in on everything He is about to do:
And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” – Genesis 18:20-21
Abraham could have resigned to let Sodom accept the fate the city deserved. He could have convinced himself that God’s will was to let the entire city perish. But he knew better. He knew that God desires that none should perish (2 Pet 3:9), and that all would come to know God’s goodness.
So, Abraham stood in the gap and asked God for the city:
Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” – Genesis 18:22-25
Abraham reminded God of His promise for peace for His people. He asked God to stay His hand for the sake of the righteous in the city. Abraham asked God to protect the people of Sodom with boldness: not because they deserved protection, but because he knew it was God’s will to save every man and woman.
So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” – Genesis 18:26
Sodom was saved because Abraham was willing to pray. He stood in the gap and refused to allow calamity to strike God’s people, no matter how sinful they were. God was waiting for someone to cry out for Sodom to be saved! Abraham was the only one willing to lift up his voice and ask God for their protection.
The conversation continues throughout the rest of Genesis 18. If God would save the city for the sake of fifty righteous, would He save it for the sake of forty-five? He would (v 28). What about forty? He would (v 29). Thirty? God would still save the city (v 30). Twenty? Done (v 31).
Abraham continued to explore the depths of God’s mercy. Finally, he asked the question he really wanted to have answered:
“Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And [God] said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place. – Gen 18:32-33
If Abraham had not been willing to stand in the gap for the people of Sodom, the entire city would have been destroyed. God is looking for righteous men and women to cry out and ask that New York City would stay protected from harm. Are you willing to accept that call?
In the year 587 BC, Jerusalem fell to Babylon. Men and women from Jerusalem were carried captive to Babylon. While in captivity, they craved a word of hope from God. When the message finally arrived through Jeremiah, its’ form was a little different than what they had come to expect:
Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. – Jer 29:5-7
Maybe you are living in New York City because you want to be living here. Maybe not. But whether you want to be here or not, your mandate is to pray for the peace of the city.
Whenever terror strikes, our knee-jerk reaction is to move somewhere “safe.” Scores of people moved out of New York City after 9/11. Your reaction to the attacks in Paris might be the same. However, the truth is this: either God is protecting you, or He isn’t. If He’s protecting you, His covering will follow you wherever you go. If He’s not protecting you, there’s nowhere safe! Deuteronomy 28 promises, “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country” (Deut 28:3). So, if you’re going to trust God for peace, trust Him right here in the greatest city in the world!
Unless you pray for the peace of New York City, you will not find peace in your life; but when you pray for the peace of this city, that peace will spill over into every area of your life. Are you ready to accept the call to pray for peace in New York City?
Prudence is cautious wisdom: the mental faculties required to deal with matters calmly and effectively. The primary way we can increase the wisdom to deal with terror in our cities is by praying for our leaders.
Paul reminded Timothy to pray for every man and woman in authority:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. – 1 Tim 2:1-2
His reminder still stands to this day. Every ruler makes mistakes. Every policymaker makes misguided decisions. Our response to a decision with which we do not agree is often to pull away and complain – to withdraw and convince ourselves that matters are out of our hands. If we withdraw and fail to pray, however, we open the door to more misguided decisions.
The only way the civilian and Law Enforcement leaders of our city will make wise decisions is if we support them with our prayers. Are you willing to support our policymakers every day with your prayers?
God Is Searching for Your Prayers
God is always looking to answer our prayers. The Psalmist said that God “inclines His ear” to us (Ps 116:2). But God cannot answer the prayers we don’t pray. In Scripture, God reminds us of the calamity that can strike when we forget to pray:
So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. – Ezek 22:30
We cannot be discouraged. We cannot forget to pray. God has put us in New York City to pray for this place. He has placed us here for such a time as this.
– by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.