War has broken out again on the planet. Don’t let your mind wander to whether or not this is a sign of the last days. A correct reading of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew lets us know that this world system will always do what this world system does. As we wait for His return, Jesus tells us what this world will look like: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:7-8). But all these wars are the beginning of the birthing process. Prophecy only makes complete sense in the rear-view mirror, not as we look out the window.
When Russia attacked Ukraine this week, it simply proved that the heart of man is evil and wicked. Therefore, man does evil and wicked stuff. Sinful man does what sinful man does. We all do. But what is the story being told underneath the headlines? Forget the politics and whatever you think should be the proper response. Take the emotion out of the geopolitical mess of this week.
What is really going on? Spiritual warfare. And what is a godly response? It is not fear. It is prayer. Maybe this week we should learn something about the true church in Ukraine. We are paying attention now, so let’s learn something.
I discovered that Ukraine has one of the highest numbers of evangelical believers in Europe (1.57 million or 3.62% of the population). Among those believers, they have sent out over 1,500 missionary units into Europe and Central Asia (to mostly Russian-speaking republics of the former Soviet Union). The evangelical church is alive and well in Ukraine. We must pray for our brothers and sisters there. Obviously, Satan wants to disrupt all this activity, so pray that the gospel would continue to be spread throughout Europe, Central Asia, and Russia.
Let’s dig a little deeper. Right after Jesus tells us of the fabric of life while we are waiting for His return, he says this about those who will follow Him: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matthew 24:9). Oh, but I read that Putin is supportive of Christianity, right? Not so fast.
Fred and Carol Lewis are our missionaries, living in both Ukraine and Russia in the past. Here is the response of the director of their Bible college in Ukraine to Putin’s support of Christianity: “The big concern [of Ukrainian believers] is that if Russia occupies Ukraine and does what it did in Crimea then churches and theological institutions will be closed. We need to pray fervently that that won’t happen.” Putin really is not “pro-Christian.” He’s pro-the Orthodox Church and opposed to evangelicals because they left the Orthodox Church. Evangelical ministries face his scorn.
So, yes, we should pray for the safety of believers in Ukraine. But even more important than their physical safety is the many Christian ministries of various kinds that could be shut down, or at least severely hindered by a Russian occupation of an independent country that posed no threat whatsoever to Russia.
Do not fear. Cast your cares upon Jesus, as always. Pray.