Our prayer series this year is called, “Contending for the Captives.” Contend in modern English means “to struggle in opposition, to strive in debate, dispute earnestly.” Captive simply means “a prisoner or slave.” Yet when we look at the meanings of these two words in the Bible, there is a depth that modern English does not convey.
Jude 1:3 says, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” The word, “contend” is from the Greek verb, epagónizomai meaning, “to contend …i.e. with skill and commitment in opposing whatever is not of faith (God’s persuasion).”
In Luke 4:18 Jesus declares, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” The word, “captives” in this verse is aichmalótos. The origins are from aichmé (a spear) and haliskomai (to be taken, conquered).
Putting the two together our series this year encourages you to, “contend with skill and commitment in opposing whatever is not of faith on behalf of those taken by the spear.” How appropriate when you consider that Muhammad took portions of Christianity along with other religions and pagan traditions and created Islam. Teaching that Christianity had been corrupted, Muhammad’s message is an example of the fulfillment of Jude 1:4, “certain men…deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In addition, as his religious message was rejected, Muhammad’s new message evolved from primarily a religious one to more of a political and militaristic one. In the first 13 years of Islam, the religion averaged only 11 to 12 converts a year, but after Muhammad’s message evolved to a violent, militaristic one, Islam averaged 1,000 new followers each year for the remaining years of Muhammad’s life. It is a religion that has truly taken captives by use of the sword. In fact, throughout the 1400-year history of Islam, it is estimated that 270,000,000 non-Muslims have been killed through jihad as Islam has increased its influence.
Perhaps what is most tragic regarding Islam is the number of innocent people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who are negatively and sometimes tragically impacted by the system of Islam. It is also for those victims – it is for the captives that we contend.
Jesus proclaimed, “The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
It can be difficult to read about practices such as stoning, female genital mutilation, sodomy of young boys, forced marriages and other human rights abuses that go on around the world. It takes Christians with the heart of God for the Muslim people to intercede for them despite the evil practices that are committed in the name of the “religion of peace”. When it comes to contending for the captives of Islam, each of us needs to hear from heaven – to know what Father is saying, and then proclaim His will be done in each situation.
There is an expression that says, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” Yet, we must be so heavenly minded that we are earthly good! The world and the captives need Christians to be a relevant majority once again.
It is so important to remember that Christ died for each of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. He loves them with an everlasting love.
As you have read the articles throughout the series, ask God to reveal anything in your heart that is not pleasing to Him. Ask Him also to continually help each of us to separate the system of Islam from loving the people of Islam. Our prayers will prevail in their lives – releasing them from the captivity of the system to the love and heart of God.