I am currently reading For the Love of Zion by Kelvin Crombie, which chronicles the contribution of the world’s oldest evangelical Jewish mission to the restoration of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. CMJ (The Church’s Ministry among the Jews), was founded in 1809 as “The London Society for the Promotion of the Gospel to the Jews.” In the late 18th and the early 19th centuries British evangelicals were keen on the restoration of the Jewish people to both God and the Land. CMJ and its supporters were pioneers of what was called the Restoration movement, helping to establish not only the first Protestant church in the Middle East (Christ Church in Jerusalem in 1849), but also spurred the establishment of all sorts of other institutions, such as hospitals and schools. They tended to the needs of both Jews and Gentiles in the midst of very challenging circumstances. Against all odds, the vision to reestablish the Land of Israel as a Jewish homeland was embraced by Bible-believing Christians long before anyone else did, including the Jewish people themselves.
What has struck me while I have read this account is the great amount of trouble these believers endured. Physical dangers, including mortal illness and war, and opposition from fellow believers and non-believers, including disdain on the part of the very people they sought to serve. It is difficult to picture from our vantage point what it must have been like to initiate this venture, when there was so little interest outside of their circles, and the Land for which they had great hopes was desolate and hostile. Yet they persevered through every trial.
My reaction to their tenacity has caused me to see how much I hate trouble and how I do whatever I can to avoid and escape it. Should I also mention my futile attempts to wish it away? Yet trouble is something Yeshua guarantees: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33; ESV). He warns us about trouble, so that we would know peace in its midst, without downplaying its inevitability or its intensity.
I don’t think I am alone regarding my apprehension towards trouble. Many of us go to great lengths to make life as smooth and easy as possible. Ever since God cursed the creation we have been fighting a battle against the thorns of life, doing whatever we can to overcome them. The pursuit of comfort and convenience, which generates a huge percentage of our time, energy, and money, is nothing more than trouble avoidance and escape.
But thankfully that’s not what the early Restorationists did. Nor is it what most people in history who have made a positive, lasting difference have done. Rather than being put off by trouble, people who make a difference are those who are willing to do whatever it takes no matter what.
But it wasn’t trouble that motivated the Restorationists; it was the Scriptures. As they embraced God’s unconditional promises regarding the Jewish people’s return to God and the Land, these Christians ventured into unchartered territory with little else to encourage them. What difference should danger, sickness, death, and opposition make when one is convinced of God’s direction? Should the impossible get in the way of a God inspired vision?
The Restorationists understood God’s words through Moses: “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3; ESV). As I explain in a recent TorahBytes message (Overcoming Evil), sin entered the world because Adam and Eve failed on this very point, and sin continues to have its way for the same reason. We were designed by God to serve his purposes on Planet Earth by carefully keeping in tune with his voice. What Israel was to learn in the wilderness, we still need to learn today—we must not be driven by personal desires or circumstances, but rather be led by the Word of God.
Keeping attentive to God’s Word enables us to live effective, godly lives in the midst of trouble. Just because we learn to accept trouble’s inevitability doesn’t mean that we don’t confront it. On the contrary, God’s will is often related to confronting trouble on several fronts. Yeshua’s encouragement regarding trouble reminds us that sin and its effects have not been eradicated. We will continue to face the razor sharp edges of life’s thorns, but do so as we extend Messiah’s rescue mission to the nations. We should therefore not be put off by the difficulties we encounter as we follow him wherever he leads.