There was finally some good news in the war in Israel when Hamas released two US citizens it was holding hostage. However, the conflict is threatening to escalate as Israel engages terrorists in Gaza, clashes with Hezbollah in northern Israel, and responds to threats in Syria and the West Bank.
There have been multiple attacks on US forces as well; the US defense secretary announced over the weekend that American forces are increasing their presence in the area to “bolster regional deterrence efforts.”
As you follow the news, if you’re feeling anxious and even overwhelmed these days, you’re not alone.
Five threats that could fuse into one
Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus is warning that there is a very real chance the Middle East conflict could escalate significantly. What’s more, the battle between Hamas and Israel is dividing world opinion, pitting nations against nations in ominous ways.
According to former US Defense Secretary Bob Gates, America is facing the most crises since World War II ended seventy-eight years ago. None can be solved; all could spiral into something much worse:
- The war in the Middle East
- China and Russia’s growing military and economic collaboration
- A malicious Iran
- The unhinged leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un
- A massive spread of doctored or wholly fake videos to manipulate world news and opinion.
US officials are especially worried that all five threats could fuse into one. The State Department recently issued a rare “Worldwide Caution,” warning US travelers abroad of “increased tensions in various locations around the world” that raise “the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against US citizens and interests.” This at a time when the US House is without a speaker, a government shutdown may be looming, and another toxic presidential campaign with rising domestic unrest is on the horizon.
“I will not refuse to do something I can do”
Helen Keller was stricken deaf and blind after contracting a high fever at nineteen months of age. Nonetheless, she went on to graduate from college cum laude and later became the first woman to be awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. She wrote numerous books, became a tireless advocate for those with disabilities, met with twelve US presidents, and was awarded the highest American honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
She explained her life’s passion this way: “I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.”
One practical way to respond to the rising anxiety and fear of our day is to adopt her motto. Like those who rebuilt the gates of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 3, we each have a kingdom assignment, a thing we can uniquely do to serve God and others. Using our influence to share God’s love and grace is not only vital to our personal well-being—it is absolutely crucial for our broken world and every lost person we know.
Pastor and author Paul Powell once invited readers to imagine a graph of human progress with regard to technology, economics, standard of living, and so on. Such a graph would be easy to draw and largely positive. Then he asked them to graph moral progress.
That would be a different story, as Hamas’s recent brutality makes clear.
“The heart of the problem”
Max Lucado observed:
For all our medical and scientific advancements, for all our breakthroughs in technology and medicine, do we not battle the same inclinations as did our Bronze Age ancestors? Women are still objectified: almost one in three women worldwide is a victim of physical and/or sexual violence. How is it that the twentieth century was the most murderous in history? Wars and genocides took more than two hundred million victims in one hundred years.
According to Jesus, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander” (Matthew 15:19 NIV). The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
Here’s the good news: God can “give you a new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). When we turn to him by faith, he promises to “put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (v. 27).
Imagine a world in which every person truly made Christ their Lord and thus experienced such godly transformation. Crime and war would end as we follow the leading of the Prince of Peace who calls us to mutual love (John 13:34–35). Lust and adultery would be replaced with love and fidelity (cf. Matthew 22:39). Lies would cease as we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
We would still struggle with temptation, of course, but when Christ is our Lord and his Spirit empowers and controls us (Ephesians 5:18), there is no temptation we cannot defeat in his strength (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This is why Oswald Chambers’ assertion is so vital for our souls and our broken world: “There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfill his purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes, and yours may be that life.”
Will God “fulfill his purpose through your life” today?