In the Presence of Mine Enemies:
The Release of American POWs
by Tom Stewart
May 1, 1999
Mankind has the tendency to think that his own thoughts are original,
but this is so untrue. "There is no new
thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Especially when
evil men conceive a thought, it is unthinkable to them that God directed or allowed
it. "I form the light, and create darkness:
I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things"
(Isaiah 45:7). Though the Almighty is not the author of evil, He sovereignly uses
it to accomplish His purposes. "Surely
the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain" (Psalm 76:10). In short, "He
doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the
Earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?" (Daniel 4:35).
Which brings us to the announcement that President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia will release the three American POWs on Sunday, May 2nd 1999. "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1Thessalonians 5:18). Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, 24, of Los Angeles; Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone, 25, of Smiths Creek, Michigan; and Spc. Steven Gonzales, 22, of Huntsville, Texas will hopefully be released from captivity to Jesse Jackson on May 2nd-- following their March 31st capture by Serb forces. "The LORD looseth the prisoners" (Psalm 146:7).
Rather than engaging in a geopolitical analysis of Milosevic's reasons for the seemingly sudden decision to release Ramirez, Stone, and Gonzales, or examining Jesse Jackson's motivations for embarking on this trip, it should be understood that Jesse Jackson-- and the other players in this event-- are being "used by God", as Rosie Gonzales (Steven's mother) noted in a May 1st news conference. "The LORD of Hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Isaiah 14:24).
Even more telling was the video clip of Spc. Steven Gonzales' message at his meeting with Jackson, where he thanked his parents for the Bible verses that they had previously forwarded to him. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, the Father of Mercies, and the God of All Comfort" (2Corinthians 1:3). Gonzales' parents stated in another news account that their son is a "good Christian" and that he "has placed all his trust in God". Steven Gonzales assured his parents that he had been reading the Bible verses and committing them to memory. "But his delight is in the Law of the LORD; and in His Law doth he meditate day and night" (Psalm 1:2).
In "The Pilgrim's Progress", John Bunyan told of Christian and Hopeful's imprisonment in Doubting Castle after taking a foolish detour through By-Pass Meadow, because they were discouraged with the difficulty of the way. "And the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way" (Numbers 21:4). Giant Despair soon caught them, cast them into his dungeon, and beat them until Christian despaired of living. "Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live" (Jonah 4:3). But, Christian finally came to his senses, and reached for a key called Promise (that he carried with him), which, said he, could "open any lock in Doubting Castle". "Whereby are given unto us Exceeding Great And Precious Promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Peter 1:4). Of course, Bunyan's allegory ended with both Christian and Hopeful triumphantly reaching the Celestial City, "wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2Peter 3:13). [An illustrated version of "The Pilgrim's Progress" can be found at our website complete with Bunyan's Scripture footnotes.]
Spc. Gonzales has been particularly chosen by the LORD to communicate a message to the American television viewing public of faith in God, trust in His Word, and hope in His Promises. "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). The early pictures of the three American POWs told a story of the stark reality of falling into unfriendly hands with the consequent rough handling, i.e., "in the presence of mine enemies" (Psalm 23:5). After a month in solitary confinement, with no release in sight, it would take great confidence in God to keep from despairing of ever seeing home; but, Steven Gonzales assured his parents that he would see them again. "Now the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:13). [Our article, "Intercession Promises: Casting the Net", may assist you in praying for others like Steven Gonzales.]
American Christians ought to especially be impressed by the events surrounding the capture and release of Spc. Steven Gonzales; as if the Good LORD is using world events to not only bring to pass His prophetic purpose, but to accomplish His perfect will in the least of all His Saints. "1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).
May we be numbered with the faithful of the LORD Jesus Christ who are active "partakers of His Promise in Christ by the Gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). And, that we would not hold to a simply theoretical faith. "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the Promises" (Hebrews 6:12).
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