‘… more than conquerors …’


Earlier this year on the day before Valentine’s day, my Bible study at that time was on the subject of ‘witnessing’. It included a text from Luke I considered to be appropriate, given the task I was about to embark on. In the text, Luke quotes Jesus, saying:

‘And he said to them, “The Harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”‘

Luke 10:2

The following day, I met with some friends at our church to hand out Valentine’s Day roses to passers by. Attached to each rose was a brief greeting and invitation to attend our church services.

I explained to one of my friends that I’d felt unwell that morning and almost declined to attend. I reasoned I was probably being coerced into feeling that way. Satan wanted me to stay at home.

My friend replied that this was to be expected. While we remain inside our churches, singing our happy songs and enjoying fellowship, Satan leaves us alone. But once we venture outside – to witness or spread God’s word – we become a threat.

This threat is also reflected in Luke as he continues to quote Jesus:

‘… behold I am sending you out as lambs into the midst of wolves.’

Luke 10:3

Matthew also refers to this quotation in his own gospel:

‘Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’

Matthew 10:16

The wolf metaphor intrigued me so I reflected on why it should be used. Why wolves? What was it about wolves that prompted Jesus to choose them? Among those things I found were these:

  • Wolves are relentless predators
  • They hunt in packs
  • They begin to devour their prey while it’s still alive

It’s fair to say I’ve often felt as though I’m being devoured at times – sapped of spirit or wearied by a world changed beyond all recognition from the one of my youth. A world in which we’re assailed by an endless parade of headlines that appear to have one of two agendas:

  • To divide us
  • To make us ever fearful

Now, it is the Coronavirus ‘pandemic’. Before that we had:

  • Sars
  • Bird Flu
  • Ebola (1 & 2)
  • Aids

As a backdrop to this we have ‘climate change’ and numerous terrorist events and other acts of mindless violence, all of which – to those with eyes to see – appear to follow a defined playbook.

Today, evil activities and agendas previously conducted covertly have breached the surface, visible for all to see.

Satanic symbolism is flaunted openly, transgenderism encouraged, abominations and perversions applauded and countless thousands of children and babies murdered by traffickers and abortionists alike.

What happens to the bodies of these innocent victims? The victims of wolves in the form of men and women? Here the word ‘harvest’ takes on a new and horrific connotation.

We all know what a wolf looks like.


How do we recognise a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Truth about our world is far more horrible than we could ever imagine. But truth will out – it always does. And when that happens, we need to be ready.

One thing the Bible teaches us, however, is that we’ve been here before.

The previous quote from Matthew took me to the book of Ezekiel, chapter twenty-two. In it, Israel is being judged and found wanting. The wolf metaphor is used once again.

‘Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing their prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain.’

Ezekiel 22:27

Destroying lives for dishonest gain.’

This paints a familiar picture. One has only to consider today’s geo-political chess-game, the perpetual wars, terrorism and misery. The text continues:

‘The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted the sojourner without justice.’

Ezekiel 22:29

If this image isn’t yet familiar, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary provides clarification:

‘All orders and degrees of men helped to fill the measure of the nation’s guilt. The people that had any power abused it.

It bodes ill to a people when judgements are breaking in upon them, and the spirit of prayer is restrained. Let all who fear God, unite to promote his truth and righteousness; as wicked men of every rank and profession plot together to run them down.’

Matthew Henry’s Concise Comentary

Where am I going with this?

I’ve painted a picture of a small number of Christians going out, roses in hand, into enemy territory. It is a territory of ravening beasts tainting God’s creation with their evil, perversions, greed and corruption.

Under such circumstances it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, except God has left us with numerous reassurances scattered throughout the Bible. Such as:

‘No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’

Romans 8:37

On Valentine’s Day there were three ‘conquerors’ manning the front line.

This has since put me in mind of the TV series, ‘Band of Brothers‘. In one scene depicting the eve of a battle one officer warns another: ‘Looks like you guys are going to be surrounded.’ To this the series’ hero replies: ‘We’re paratroopers, lieutenant, we’re supposed to be surrounded.’

In another, the film ‘We Were Soldiers‘, Mel Gibson and his troops face off against the Vietnamese in a Hollywood account of the first major land battle of the Vietnam War.

In one scene, the situation is dire as Mel’s boys are about to be overwhelmed by advancing Viet Cong. All appears lost when Mel snatches a radio mike, contacts HQ and calls in an airstrike, saving the day.

As Christians we not only man the front line, but we operate behind enemy lines, surrounded and vastly outnumbered – on the earthly battlefield. But, just as Mel Gibson could rely on his wireless link to headquarters, we have a direct link to God.

We need no radio, microphone or antennae. We simply pray.



I delivered this piece to my church in February 2020, little knowing the degree to which the ensuing months would increase its relevance.

The First Ten Words

Genesis 1:1 – From a Writer’s Perspective


Christians, perhaps more than most, know well the power of words.

‘Remember the word to Your servant,

Upon which You have caused me to hope.

This is my comfort in my affliction,

For Your word has given me life.’

Psalm 119:49-50

The Psalmist tells us then that a word has the power to give life. A later confirmation of this may be found in the New Testament Gospels, in which John stated:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’

John 1:1

Here of course ‘the Word’ refers to Jesus Christ himself – who, as we know, declared himself as ‘The way, and the truth and the life.’ So once again we’re told, ‘Your word has given me life.’

Proverbs has several examples of a word’s potential:

  • A good word makes the heart of man glad.
  • A harsh word stirs up anger.
  • How good is a word spoken in due season.

My own favourite is Proverb 25:11:

‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold

In settings of silver.’

I love to see well-written text. I have done since long before I knew such gems could be found in the bible. This makes me a slow reader as, when I see a particularly well-crafted phrase or sentence I tend to read it a second or third time – as though I’m savouring its flavour.

When I was in my early teens I wanted to be a writer.

I’d been a keen reader for years and was amazed at the writer’s gift of transporting readers from an ordinary world to an extraordinary one of excitement and adventure.

When I began work I’d use my bus journey from Immingham to Grimsby to read and to be transported elsewhere. In the case of my Wilbur Smith novels, this was usually Africa. So entranced would I become that I would often literally be transported beyond my destination.

So, instead of getting off at my required stop I’d sail on several stops further and have to catch another bus to return to where I should be.

Years later, when I began to learn the writer’s craft, hoping to one day produce my own masterpiece, I quickly learned the importance of engaging the reader’s attention very early on.

This is especially important when submitting work to a publisher or editor. Most works submitted to busy editors are not even read. They remain on what is cruelly known as ‘The Slush Pile’.

Of those that are picked up, most of these are not read beyond the first paragraph. For if the editor is not immediately captivated, the precious manuscript is tossed into the bin.

It’s the same with books in a bookshop. If the prospective buyer isn’t quickly enthralled or their curiosity aroused, the work is returned to the shelf. It should therefore come as no surprise that the opening to a work of literature is referred to as ‘The Hook’.

Like fish on a line, readers must be hooked to prevent them escaping.

The opening needs to arouse curiosity if the work is to be read further. It must raise questions in the reader’s mind. Questions that simply have to be answered.

It’s perhaps easy to see that a question mark looks like a hook.

When I self published my children’s novel through Amazon in 2015, I opted for the simple ‘Question-type Hook’ to engage my 9-11 year-old target audience. I figured that if you ask a nine year old a sufficiently interesting question, he or she will usually hang around for the answer. Or in this case, will continue reading.

Here’s how I opened:

‘Is there anything that’s puzzled you? Something you’ve

never been able to find an answer for?’

It was a simple question but an unexpected one and Levi

frowned and glanced up at his uncle Seymour while he

considered a reply.

He would later come to reflect that it was on this day,

and with this question that his childhood truly died.’

‘The Door to Caellfyon’

So, whilst I began with a straight forward question, some authors open with a statement , worded in such a way that questions are raised.

Take Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ for example:

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’

Here, we have a statement that raises not one question but several:

  • Who dreamt the dream?
  • Where are they now? Not in Manderley … the phrase states ‘Went to’.
  • What happened in Manderley? Something did. Something significant enough to warrant dreaming about it. That much is clear.

This opening is not just a classic but has been highly successful. Sales of ‘Rebecca’ between 1938 & 1965 are estimated at almost three million copies.

Another book, familiar to all of us, opens with a statement that not only tells us a great deal, but engages us with a vital question.

Its sales have been vastly greater than, not only ‘Rebecca’, but every other literary work in human history. By far. No other work comes close in terms of copies published.

Whilst we must accept that not every reader will read this particular book cover-to-cover, all will read the opening sentence – or, in this case, verse. Therefore, the following ten words form the most widely-read sentence ever to have been printed.

‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’

Genesis 1:1

This leads me to another piece of advice I was given while learning the writer’s craft, and that is, a well-rounded piece of work ought to include five basic ingredients:

Who, What, When, How & Why.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, Moses managed to encompass MOST of these in his ten-word opener.


Who?
That would be God. ‘In the beginning God …’

What?
Creation. ‘…God created…’

When?
‘In the beginning …’

How?
God. This is explanation enough but the fact is validated repeatedly throughout the Bible.
In Matthew 19:26 Jesus tells his disciples:

‘… with God all things are possible.’

Also, whilst authorship of the letter to the Hebrews is uncertain, whether it was Paul, Barnabas or Apollos, the writer confidently stated in Chapter 11 verse 3:

‘By faith we understand that the universe was created
by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made
out of things that are visible.’

There can be no greater example of the power in words. In this case one word from God created all that is seen. Furthermore, in Psalm 33:6 we are told:

‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and
all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.’

So, in the ten words comprising Genesis 1:1 we have the Who, What, When & How of creation. Four of the required five.

That leaves us with why.

And that is the hook, right there in the Bible’s opening verse.

WHY?

Why did God create Heaven and Earth?

This must be the most profound question faced by Mankind. And to answer that one, readers have no choice … but to read on.