June 4, 2019

You're Under Surveillance

The Bible states we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1 NKJV). Surrounded implies there is a host of others watching us! In 2014, my wife and I visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the invitation of a pastor-friend who now leads the Gulf States Field in the Middle East. Our travel assignment included preaching at the Abu Dhabi church, and pastor-mentoring sessions. During our visit, we noticed security monitors in malls, hotels, grocery stores and parking garages, just like here at home.

Why were we so security/tech conscious? Just a week or so before we arrived that December, an American teacher had been stabbed to death in a UAE mall restroom. Those security monitors led investigators directly to the assailant’s apartment. Oh, the eye of surveillance!


From a spiritual perspective, we’re all under surveillance by our family, neighbors, business connections, at the grocery store, hair salons, banks and work. People are watching us! Many of our neighbors and co-workers observe our family’s lifestyle and know our Sabbath practices when we go to church. They see the model we portray. The begging question becomes, “Is our witness real?”


We should not be surprised that we are under surveillance. God’s purpose is to use our witness to influence others for His kingdom. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matt 24:14 NKJV).


The truth is, we are surrounded by many witnesses. Our world is a theater being watched even from afar. The Apostle Paul states, “for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men” (1 Cor 4:9 NKJV). Hebrews chapter 11 cites numerous luminaries who have died, but their legacy of faith, their witness, continues. These “ancient worthies” of faith are symbolically sitting in the heavenly grandstands cheering us on, “You can make it![1]


And yet, the Bible writer acclaims there are more witnesses! Paul states “time would fail me to tell” (Heb 11:32 NKJV), of all the witnesses who endured such horrific circumstances.


Still, there is One Witness we must encounter to be real. Our only option is to turn to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (see Heb 12:1, 2). Jesus is the Faithful and True Witness (see Rev 3:14). He shed His blood for us. That’s the degree to which a True Witness will go. And most of us have not yet resisted to the shedding of blood (see Heb 12:4).


What about the power of our witness? Is it Laodicean, apathetic, self-focused, or dry? Or has that authentic, vibrant, first-love remained alive in our souls? At times, like today, the early Adventist church floundered with an anemic witness. The hypocrisy at the Washington, New Hampshire Seventh-day Adventist Church caused many youth and adults to lose interest in church. James and Ellen White along with J.N. Andrews conducted December revival meetings. As they preached Jesus and His righteousness, individual lives were transformed. Worcester Ball publicly repented for his critical treatment of Ellen White. William Farnsworth publicly confessed his hidden sins. The story goes that “After the adults had straightened out their lives, and by prayer and confession gained the victory over their sinful habits, God could use the Whites and John Andrews to help the young people. When an appeal was made for those who would follow Jesus all the way, seventeen children and youth arose and went forward” (Flame for the Lord, Virgil Robinson, 1975, p. 60, 61).


We are instructed to be witnesses. We are under surveillance. Is our witness making a difference? Audrey Graham’s witness did. God used Mrs. Graham’s model witness at work. Serving as a public school teacher, the Holy Spirit prompted Audrey through her personal prayer life to be a witness and to connect with someone at school. One day Helen, a substitute teacher, surprised her, “There’s something different about you!” She caught Audrey off-guard. “Are you a Christian?” “What denomination?” Audrey stated, “Yes, I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.” The Holy Spirit inspired Audrey to invite Helen to her classroom for lunch the next time she was a substitute teacher. She made a special meal for her. Later she gave her a Christian music CD. Then, she sent her friend Message magazine. School had almost concluded when the Spirit said, “Invite her to church when you speak in two weeks!” Later, under conviction, Helen took Bible studies and was baptized a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. You can read the complete story in the Adventist Review, February 2019, pp. 60, 61.


How is our witness? We are under surveillance. People are watching us; yes, they are! We are told that many are on the verge of the Kingdom, only waiting for an invitation (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p.109). God help us to be genuine witnesses like those ancient worthies of faith, turning to Jesus for our strength.


Steve Poentiz is the executive secretary for the Lake Union Conference.


[1] Nichol, F. D. (Ed.). (1980). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Vol. 7, p. 480). Review and Herald Publishing Association.