A Follower of Christ suffers the consequence of a sin, period. If you do not believe this, find a policeman and run a ‘stop sign’ in front of him. He will be obliged to give you an invitation to see the local Judge. Worse cross the yellow line into oncoming traffic and you may very well find yourself in the care of a Trauma Physician. And the list goes on and on and on. We pay for our sins now in a physical way and are able to find forgiveness from the Father. However, our earthly neighbor may not be so forgiving.
God’s Word contains many thoughts about the promise of God’s physical protection for those who are His followers. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 121:3, “He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.” In verse 7 we find this “The LORD will protect you from all harm;
He will protect your life.” Earlier in Deuteronomy 31:6 as the Hebrews were entering the land
God had promised to them, He speaks to His divine presence and encouragement, “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”
This seems to indicate that God will protect His children from harm. Now the question arises, “Why do we hear about all of these Believers around the world who are suffering in persecution, illness, loss, accidents, and injuries? Have those who are living in Islamic countries living in sin and without God’s protection? Is God’s Word inaccurate or are we missing something here?
No. I would suggest that we must interpret the Old Testament within the context of the old Mosaic Covenant. Israel obedience to the Covenant resulted in various material and physical blessings from Yaweh because of their faithfulness to Him. Deuteronomy 28 begins with this statement, “Now if you faithfully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all His commands I am giving you today, the LORD your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey the LORD your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. Your descendants will be blessed, and your land’s produce, and the offspring of your livestock, including the young of your herds and the newborn of your flocks. Your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.”
With Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 20:1–6 we find him pleading with God after Isaiah tells him of God’s decision to terminate his life, “In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’ Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Please LORD, remember how I have walked before You faithfully and wholeheartedly and have done what pleases You.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Isaiah had not yet gone out of the inner courtyard when the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of My people, ‘This is what the LORD God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the LORD’s temple. I will add 15 years to your life. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for My sake and for the sake of My servant David.’”
It is important for every Believer to understand that the New Covenant found in relationship with Jesus Christ is our faith guide and not the old Mosaic Covenant. God does not promise to keep Followers of the Christ from physical harm. There are moments, however, when His protection from injury is quite obvious. We find this true for Paul and Luke when they survived the shipwreck in Acts 27. In the next chapter we are spectators as Paul escapes death as he endures a poisonous snakebite, Acts 28. I would not advise anyone to step off the end of a boat dock secured to heavy weights or challenge a Diamond Back Rattle Snake. DO NOT DO THIS after asking God for protection. I am willing to say that God would not be on hand to observe…….just a thought.
As a reminder, there is nothing wrong with asking for physical protection from God, but we must also understand that He is not obliged to grant our request. He has said that His Holy Spirit is present in the life of the Believer to provide strength the trials that will obviously come our way. In this way we certainly are assured of His spiritual protection. Every Follower of the Christ can certainly concur with James, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8. The key word here being ‘wisdom.’
When one chooses by faith to Follow Jesus Christ for salvation the promised Holy Spirit immediately enters. That person is sealed for eternity and brought under God’s spiritual protection. No matter what future sins are committed or the attacks that old Slew Foot brings, Believers will not lose the salvation found in that faith relationship with Jesus Christ. We find this truth in Paul’s letter to his friend Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:8-11, “So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher, and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed, because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.”
We are also reminded by Paul that sin is unable to separate the Believer from God’s love, Romans 8:35–39. “Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”
This is so because the Apostle John encourages the Follower of the Christ in 1 John 1:5-10, “Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
Followers of the Christ are provided freedom from the dominion of sin. Paul writes in Romans 6:20-23 that we are no longer slaves to our sinful ways, but are born into a new life of holiness. “ For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from allegiance to righteousness. So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the end is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul encourages the church in Philippi that God continues to “guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5a-7), “The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul writes further in Ephesians 6:10-17 that God provides tools with which we can fend off the enemy’s spiritual attacks, “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.”
Jesus is Lord. BW