The violence of terrorism is real, as is the fear. It provokes very real questions about God. Author Scott Solana helps readers develop the confidence to know God can defeat terrorism today by leading them on a faith journey, exploring the stories of God's victories found in Jonah and Nahum.
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About the Author
Scott Solana is a follower and servant of Jesus Christ, youth Bible study teacher, youth mentor and coach, active church member, graduate of Florida State University, successful business leader, and accomplished accounting professional. He resides in Georgia with his wife Lisa and their two teenage daughters.
Read an Excerpt
As my eleven-year-old daughter was sitting on my lap watching breaking news coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris late one Friday night in November 2015, she nervously glanced up at me. In a soft, trembling voice she asked, "Dad, could a terrorist kill us while we were eating in a restaurant?" She continued, "And why does God allow all these attacks to happen? Do you believe God can stop these terrorists from killing people?"
Wow! What challenging and powerful questions we often face from our children! Immediately my mind started racing. How do I answer her? What do I really believe about terrorism and whether God can stop it? My daughter was obviously frightened and looking for me to give her assurance that the violence we were watching on television would not happen to us. But just as important, she was seeking to better understand the power and nature of her God. She essentially wanted to know — can God defeat terrorism?
Terrorism is one of the biggest threats to security and freedom the world faces in the twenty-first century, and like my daughter, our children are watching, worried about their safety and future. Recently when I was teaching a group of high school students, one of them hypothesized, "Imagine how bad it will be by the time I graduate. We won't be able to go to the malls, movie theaters, restaurants, and maybe even this church without putting our lives in danger." Another one asked, "How will we ever stop terrorists if they are willing to blow themselves up to kill others?" Our children are looking for hope in this battle. This book will help you come to terms with your own fears and doubts about God's ability to defeat terrorism and help equip you to reassure your children or others when they express their fears.
ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab — these are names that have become all too familiar through our reading and watching daily news. They are names synonymous with violence and terror, names that elicit anxiety, fear, and anger at the mere mention of them. These are just a few of the major terrorist organizations that are threatening our way of life today. From New York City's World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, to Paris's Bataclan theatre on November 13, 2015, to Brussels Airport on March 22, 2016, terrorist attacks are occurring more frequently in more countries. Innocent lives are being taken, while many more are injured. Many see no end in sight for this crisis of terrorism.
So how do we get the violence to end? How do we defeat terrorism? How can we better protect ourselves from terrorist attacks? And where is God in all this savagery? Does God not see the number of innocent people being killed by the terrorists? Does he care? Does he have the power to defeat twenty-first-century terrorism, or is this problem just too big and too widespread even for God? People are asking these questions all across the globe today — in high school classrooms, in church sanctuaries, in Bible study groups, in mission fields, in military and governmental offices, in travel agencies, in local coffee shops, around family dinner tables, and around office water coolers. The violence of terrorism is real, as is the fear. It provokes very real questions and doubts about God. So again, how do we win this battle against terrorism?
I do not have the answer, but I know the one who does have the answer — God! And I know the one who has already proven he could defeat terrorism, twice — God! Earlier in the year, before my daughter inquired if God could stop terrorism, I had written and presented a series of lessons on the greatest fish stories of the Bible. Probably the most famous fish story and an obvious inclusion in the series was the account of Jonah and the great fish. As I prepared the lesson on Jonah and researched in depth the history of Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire, I uncovered context about the story I never knew. Lost in the unforgettable story of the prophet Jonah, who ran from God and survived three days in the belly of a great fish, is what God accomplished in the city of Nineveh. He defeated terrorism. About one hundred fifty years later, revealed by the prophecy of Nahum, God defeated terrorism again.
Through two different prophets, in two different books of the Bible, in two different centuries, and in two totally different ways, the Almighty defeated terrorism. In this book we will examine the stories of Jonah and Nahum to discover how God conquered terrorism in these two separate instances. Along the journey are many additional lessons we will learn from these two prophets as well as the opportunity to gain key insights into the nature and attributes of God (loving, gracious, merciful, patient, jealous, and avenging, to name a few).
What is the current level of your faith in God's ability to defeat twenty-first-century terrorism? On the question of God winning this battle, is your Faith Gauge currently registering "full" of faith or nearly "empty"? I would not find it surprising if your faith level is currently running low, because maintaining strong faith in today's culture is not easy. With problems like mass shootings, divorces, breakdown of families, constant cultural attacks on biblical truths, and terrorism, our faith in God is challenged every day. It often seems as if God is no longer in control, especially in the case of terrorism, where the number of violent attacks and the number of terrorists appear to be growing at a rapid pace. When we read or watch a news story about another terrorist attack, our faith that God can defeat terrorism can easily erode.
So how can we develop stronger faith? Romans 10:17 tells us. "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." Faith comes by reading and hearing God's Word. Faith is defined by the level of our trust and confidence in God. By studying the scriptures found in Jonah and Nahum and learning how God defeated terrorism in their day, we will strengthen the level of our faith to have the confidence that God can without a doubt defeat terrorism again in the twenty-first century. We will then be better prepared to share this confidence in God and provide comfort to our children and others who may be living under the consuming fear of terrorism.
Why does having this level of faith in God matter? First, because faith is very important to our Christian walk. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 states, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." God expects faith. Faith pleases him. Without faith it is impossible to please him. Second, strong faith is important because it is an essential component to effective prayers. The Bible is very clear that faith and belief are critical to getting prayers answered. "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:6–7). If we are praying to God to end terrorism but do not fully believe God will win the battle, then we should not expect God to answer our prayers. It is essential that we gain the confidence and faith to know God can defeat terrorism.
Each chapter in this book is laid out into four sections: Scripture reference, seventh/eighth-century BC context, twenty-first-century application, and Faith Gauge questions. The Scripture reference section lists the key verses from Jonah and Nahum to be discussed and studied in the chapter. The seventh/eighth-century BC context section dives into the key Scripture verses and explains their meanings in the life and times of Jonah and Nahum. The twenty-first-century application section explains how these same verses and concepts apply to and are relevant to today's culture. Finally, Faith Gauge questions conclude each chapter and serve to help gauge, challenge, and grow the level of personal faith in God. These questions can be used to facilitate self-study and self-reflection or as a guide to lead Bible study and small-group discussions.
I pray God will bless our faith journey together. I pray God will help encourage and strengthen our faith through studying his Word and give us the confidence to know he can defeat twenty-first-century terrorism. Through this study I pray God will move our Faith Gauge needles on the subject of terrorism to "full" of faith. Now on to the story of Jonah.
"The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.'" (Jonah 1:1–2).
Eighth Century BC Context
Jonah was a prophet of God, who ministered in Israel during the eighth century BC (about 800–750 BC). Old Testament prophets served an important role for God as his messengers to the people. God would give Jonah and prophets like him a message for the people of Israel, and then they would relay God's words directly and through writing. On this particular day as the book of Jonah starts, Jonah is given a different type of assignment from the Lord. Rather than receiving a message for the people of Israel, he is given a message to speak in a foreign country. He is told to go to the city of Nineveh and preach God's judgment against the town because of its wickedness.
Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a large country well to the northeast of Israel. Assyria was a great empire during this time and occupied the land where modern day Iraq and Syria are located. Although it was the largest world power in eighth century BC, it was also extremely evil. The Assyrian empire had risen to power through a new type of warfare — terrorism. Their army was known for its brutality and the torturing of prisoners and innocent people in the lands they conquered. Assyrian terrorists became experts at finding ways to make their captives suffer before they died. They committed atrocious acts, like gouging out eyes, cutting off hands and feet, cutting off noses and ears, and burning people alive.Stories told of skinning captives alive and using the skins to wrap around pillars. The Assyrian extremists were also notorious for beheadings and impaling a victim on a pole, which involved driving a metal stake through the body/torso, planting the stake in the ground, and leaving the person to die, which could take up to three grueling days. I read about one Assyrian king who even bragged about building a pyramid with severed heads. Assyria did not try to hide these violent actions either. They wanted to intimidate their enemies; they wanted everyone to know what would happen to anyone who opposed them. They were Israel's most dreaded enemy. During the time of the story of Jonah, Assyria was not actively battling Israel, but the threat was still there. They were also known as a very pagan nation that worshipped idols and committed evil against God.
Back to Jonah. God tells his prophet to go to Nineveh — the home of terrorism, the home of Israel's greatest enemy, the home of a godless culture — and tell them that God is going to judge them for their wickedness. He is to preach a message of repentance to the terrorists for their evil and idolatry. I can imagine Jonah was thinking something like, "God, how can you ask me to do this? Of all possible assignments, you want me to go to these violent terrorists, to these thugs who hate you and hate your chosen people, and warn them that you are about to destroy them? Do you really think they care anything about what you have to say? Do you think they care about anything I have to say?
"What do you think is going to happen to me when I give a bunch of terrorists this message? I cannot imagine they are just going to welcome me in, hug me, and say, 'Thanks, Jonah, for coming by with this uplifting message.' Well, come to think of it, maybe they will actually try to hug me and then stab me in the back! God, have I not done a good enough job as your prophet? Have I not been faithful in my service to you? I have always delivered your messages accurately and timely to the people of Israel, but surely I must not be hearing or understanding this assignment correctly. Go see these terrorists? Really, God?"
Jonah is given a very tough assignment from God, and now he faces a decision about what to do next.
Twenty-First Century Application
Is it not incredible that 2,800 years after the life of Jonah, we are still facing terrorist threats from the same areas of the world that comprised the Assyrian empire? Terrorists do not value human life and seek to kill innocent people. They want to grow powerful through intimidation. Terrorism is obviously one of the biggest problems the world faces today in the twenty-first century.
Now imagine for a minute God came to you today, like he did to Jonah, and said something like the following: "I have an assignment for you. I want you to board a plane, fly over to Iraq or Syria, walk up to the leadership of this terrorist organization located at this address, and tell them they need to immediately stop their wicked ways or I am going to destroy them. You have been seeking my will; you have been praying for ways you can personally help grow and honor my kingdom. This is the assignment I have for you. A plane is heading out next Tuesday at 10:00 am from your local airport, and you will find a seat available on that flight for which the airline will offer you a great deal."
How would you respond to this request from God? Can you imagine how tough an assignment this would be, how shocked and scared you might feel, or how emotionally overwhelming receiving such a request would be? Well, this was exactly the assignment God gave to Jonah. Go to the headquarters of the Assyrian terrorist organization, located in Nineveh, and preach a message against its wickedness.
Many of us say we are seeking the will of God for our lives. I have prayed that often. But as I was writing this book, God convicted me on this point. He said, "Scott, you say you are seeking my will, but are you really committed to doing my will if I give it to you? No, you are only committed if it follows your timing and your plans, if it fits in around your family priorities and in between college football games, if it does not interfere with your career and still allows you to make a certain amount of money, and if it is pretty safe and causes no real danger for you or your family. You pray and say you want my will, but you really do not. And you are like so many others in my church today. I desire people that are all in. I need true followers. If you are going to seek my will for you, I want to know you are fully committed to follow through with it. Do not ask for my will if you do not really want it."
This message was a stern reprimand for me, not a message I was proud to hear, but unfortunately the truth. And the truth does hurt sometimes. The good news about a stern message like this is found in Revelation 3:19. "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline, so be earnest and repent." Through this reprimand, God was showing me he loved me. Definitely not fun while it was happening, but I have learned to appreciate and value when God rebukes me. Receiving God's discipline always reminds me how much God cares about me.
The key to following God's will is surrender. It is not easy. Our culture teaches us surrender is for losers. The goal is to win, not to surrender and lose. I coached youth sports teams for years and one thing I constantly taught my team was to battle to the final whistle, the final second on the clock, or the last out. No matter how bad things are going or how dismal the outcome may look, we do not give up. We do not quit. And we never, under any circumstance, surrender.
But God teaches something very different. God teaches surrender. In fact, God requires daily surrender. For us to truly rely on God, to be fully committed to him, we must surrender our selfish desires. In Luke 9:23 (NLT), Jesus stated it this way: "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me." Jesus was basically saying we must get rid of our selfish ways and our selfish desires in order to fully commit to him and his will. This is a daily battle. Taking up your cross daily symbolizes making the commitment to die or to completely give up our selfish ways each day, to fully give up our plans and eagerly seek God's plans for us. Daily surrender can be challenging, and I am still very much a work in progress when it comes to this level of commitment to God. However, thankfully God is patient by nature and he is willing to help give me the strength and resolve to battle my selfish desires. Without total surrender, it is hard for God to trust us with tough assignments like the kind Jonah was given. God desires followers that are fully committed and willing to take on the tough assignments for him. God needs us to be all in.
Excerpted from "Can God Defeat Terrorism?"
Copyright © 2017 Scott Solana.
Excerpted by permission of CrossLink Publishing.
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Table of Contents
God Defeats Terrorism,
God Defeats Terrorism Agai,
Can God Defeat Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century?,