Preaching in the Devil’s Playground

When I wrote Twice a Slave, I didn’t realize how relevant much of the story would be to what is transpiring in our world at this moment. In the novel, I wrote about Joseph going into what had been dubbed The Devil’s Playground. People were fearful of the area because it was inhabited by “outlaws, Indians, and runaway slaves.” However, that’s exactly where Joseph went and planted churches. He was fearless as the perfect love of God cast out all alarm.

So, what does Joseph’s ministry in The Devil’s Playground have to do with what is transpiring in America today?

Terror flooded the hearts of many Americans as pictures of a beheaded journalist were displayed on social media this past couple of weeks. It had the intended affect the terrorists desired. The very definition of terrorism means their entire strategy is to inflict terror into the hearts of their intended targets. They can only rule by fear and intimidation.

There are many ramifications to what has happened, both militarily and politically. However, my concern is primarily with the attitudes of Christians. The target of much of the terror is the Christian church. Many in ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have openly and blatantly said they want to destroy the infidels (Christians) and that they will take their fight to the West.

This is not a time to back off. It’s not a time to allow fear to paralyze us. It’s a time to understand that God’s glory always shines brightest in the darkest places and at the darkest moments.

When I traveled to Pakistan almost a year ago, terror had filled the church. Many Christians in Peshawar had been murdered by a suicide bomber at the close of a church service. I was scheduled to conduct a major evangelistic event in Karachi, Pakistan a few days following the tragedy. I didn’t know whether to continue with our plans.

In the end, I knew God wanted me to go. I couldn’t operate out of fear. I needed God’s wisdom and leadership. I didn’t want to act foolishly, but I also didn’t want my life driven by terror.

By the time I left the country, thousands of Pakistanis gave their hearts to Jesus. Pastors and leaders were encouraged. God’s glory was displayed. I learned one great lesson. The glory of God is manifested in the darkest places. There’s no wonder Joseph Willis went to the “Devil’s Playground.” It was the place where God’s glory would shine the brightest.

During the dark days, fear must not rule our hearts nor determine our decisions. Let courage rise. Allow the Holy Spirit to cast out every ounce of fear. Be of good courage. The Lord, your God, is with you. As the Apostle Paul said, “If God be for us, who then can be against us?”

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