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Testing Times

Mon, 23 Mar 2009 - 3:56 PM CST

By Anita Koeshall

The police were sitting at my table, paging through our well-worn passports. We have lived in this country for 18 years and still we have imprinted on our 1-year residence permits, " sejour temporar." As they left, one said, "We will let you know in 20 days if you can remain in this country." One would think that we were in one of the more closed countries of the world, but no, we're in Western Europe.

We decided to move here in 1991 to encourage the efforts of student ministry on university campuses as well as train and oversee Students for Christ in the rest of Europe. We had no idea of the spiritual battle required to live and serve here, much less to stay here. Resistance blocked us at every corner: a totally atheistic university system that allows no group that teaches "revealed truth" on the university, problems with electricity, stolen vehicles, multiple house burglaries, children being struck by cars, and a 3-year serious illness of one of our daughters. It took 10 years to see a student ministry planted and a network of student groups and pastors across Europe established. Nothing was accomplished without tears and prayer. We quickly recognized that we fight against principalities and powers that at times are scarcely discernable from the political and social structures in nations.

How do you live through such testing times? We know that we need to stay in the Word and pray, but I would suggest you add these four items to your "spiritual weaponry."

1. A friend (or two or three) with whom you can laugh and pray. Since I tend to very thoughtful and serious, so some of my favorite people are those who have a delightful infectious laugh - and I connect with them regularly.

2. A song that becomes your heart song, one that you can sing with joyful abandon in the shower, the kitchen, the car, etc., proclaiming to all the world the ownership of and role of Jesus in your life. Two songs that have kept me steady and encouraged through the years are the great old hymns "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and "I Surrender All" - the latter being hard to sing at times.

3. An image. As we struggled to establish ministry, I often envisioned us as a pilot light in an oven keeping the little light burning until the Holy Spirit turned on the gas, believing that He would indeed do it in His time.

4. A stance. Often I want to fix the problems, avoid the battles, and protect my family so that we don't have to suffer the agonies of resisting evil. One of Paul's favorite terms when he was advising the Early Church in the heat of conflict was "Stand." Put on the full armor of God and take your stand firmly.

It is too easy to judge whether we are in God's will by the ease of life and the absence of resistance, but more than any other time, we need to stay steady, demonstrating by our actions our trust that we are God's children and He will indeed be our champion.

Anita Koeshall and her husband John are coordinators for Students for Christ in Brussels, Belgium. They have four grown children.

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