Whose Voice will You Listen To?

The reports are conflicting. In what could be one of Nigeria’s biggest breakthroughs regarding the Chibok Girls, online news articles have announced that Boko Haram has offered to negotiate the release of many of their members for the release of the Chibok Girls, who were kidnapped on April 14th, 2014 by Boko Haram from Government Secondary School, in Chibok, Northern Nigeria. Yet, not all reports claim the same findings; while the leader of Chad, Idris Deby, informed Chadians that Boko Haram’s leader, Abubukar Shekau, had been replaced by another leader willing to negotiate, Shekau announced that he was still alive on August 16th. This puts Boko Haram’s willingness to negotiate into question.

Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram. About 100 girls wearing full veils and praying are shown in an undisclosed location in the 17-minute video in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaks. MANDATORY CREDIT. REUTERS/Boko Haram handout via Reuters TV (CONFLICT POLITICS CRIME LAW) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO COMMERCIAL USE
Over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 and later filmed by the Boko Haram praying in hijabs. (MANDATORY CREDIT. REUTERS/Boko Haram handout via Reuters TV)

Even in the event of Boko Haram being willing to negotiate, many are skeptical about how successful negotiating with Boko Haram could be. Many are completely against negotiations with Boko Haram, for good reason; many don’t believe the terrorist group would come through with the negotiation’s agreements, after Shekau himself claimed to “have married them off,” stating that “they [were] all in their husbands’ houses” (source). With little to no idea on the trustworthiness of Boko Haram, and with no information on the precious 200 Chibok school girls still missing, it is hard to know what to believe.

So, whose voice should we listen to? With so many conflicting pathways to take on the matter, it can be hard to both know what is the true and truly dependable path to take. Who or what are we to place our faith in? In such a time, it is important to, like the Nigerian soldiers of today, remember the Giver of our mission, and the initial mission He gave.  Focus and faith are needed if we are ever to walk an established, sure path.

The Faith of a Soldier
This kind of sure faith is found in Matthew 8:5-18, a passage commonly called “The Faith of the Centurion.” In it, a centurion– a Roman soldier and commander in charge of a “century,” or 100 Roman soldiers– comes to Jesus, in dire need of help and salvation for his suffering servant. When asked if Jesus should “come and heal him,” the Centurion’s reply was astounding.

The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’”
(Matthew 5:8-9, NIV)

The Centurion’s faith was not just based on his observances from the military; he believed that Jesus was Lord, and was able to do the miraculous. Because of this faith, Jesus “was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith’” (Matthew 8:10). Though it was not the Centurion’s faith that healed his servant (as Jesus already said He would, in Matthew 8:7 KJV), his faith in Jesus’ ability to do what Jesus said blessed him, and gave him unshakable ground to stand upon. 

The Focus of a Soldier
In times of confusion, one must remember not only the message of their mission, but who their Commander is. In the example of the Nigerian military, the military is under the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari; it is under his command that the military operates. President Buhari made a promise to the Nigerian people that Boko Haram would be eradicated– and, in doing so, gave commands to the Nigerian military to carry out that promise. Remembering who their military commanders keep Nigeria’s soldiers focused on Buhari’s mission for them. While their success could come short of President Buhari’s promise and order, focus and drive– sticking to their commander’s orders amidst chaos and confusion– are necessary for progress of any sort.

Jesus speaks of the same knowledge of and loyalty to one’s master in John 10:27, when He says of His followers, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” In this same passage, Jesus explains His role as the Shepherd over the Sheep; in doing so, He affirms who He is– and how much He loves His sheep.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
(John 10:10-11, NIV)

One prophetic passage in Isaiah speaks of such a Shepherd, and the special Love and care He has for His sheep:

He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”
(Isaiah 40:11, NLT)

As one can see from the passages above, Jesus, as a leader, did not love Himself first; instead, His primary aim and focus was to (and is, today) take special care of, protect, and genuinely Love those who were apart of His fold. Because of Jesus’ Love for His sheep, Jesus’ sheep can fully and totally obey Him, trusting in their Good Shepherd for all they need.

Because Jesus is the Good Shepherd– the One and Only Good Shepherd, that “laid down His life for the sheep,” His instructions can be completely trusted and obeyed. What are Jesus’ instructions, then? A google search of this question can bring forth a plethora of answers; yet, the answer remains simple. More than anything, Jesus wants us to know Him. When asked what the “work of God” was, Jesus, God Himself, replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent” (John 6:29). This faith in Christ alone is paramount to every human being’s existence; it is the very thing we all need, and the only thing we long for, whether we know it or not. This gospel is, above all else, the only way by which any other of Jesus’ commandments can be truly followed. After all, it is the sick who need a Healer (Matthew 9:12); and one cannot be made well without Jesus’ healing work of Salvation. No one who is still sick cannot truly point others to the cure. But, once one is well and has come to know Christ, what then are we called to do?

In this situation, the roads seem confusing; yet, standing upon Christ– the Way, Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)– our path is sure. The voice of Jesus in Isaiah 62 (2 Timothy 3:16-17) says it all, perfectly:

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. …I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.
(Isaiah 62:1-2; 6-7, NIV)

No matter how conflicting circumstances may be, and no matter the odds, His voice is the one we will listen to. 

Do you know Jesus?

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
(Matthew 9:35-36, NIV)

Jesus once called Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). He called those who follow Him– and even Jews who did not believe in Him– sheep (Matthew 9:36). While this may seem demeaning, it is, at it’s core, true. All of us, even the most unique of mankind, look to something or someone to follow. 

Sheep without a shepherd are vulnerable to attack, and are senseless. It is with this in mind that Jesus had compassion on the people He saw, because they looked “harassed and helpless”– easily attacked and helpless to save themselves from the “thief” that so mercilessly pursues them, described in John 10:10.

It is because of the sheep’s helpless, harassed condition that Christ came to be THE Good Shepherd: The One and Only Good Shepherd, that would “lay down His life for the sheep,” providing them with green, safe pasture and guiding them “along the right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:2-3). Jesus longs for all people to be saved from the thief, that they might have “life, and have it abundantly” through a personal, saving relationship with Him (John 10:11; John 14:6-7).

Do you want to meet the Good Shepherd? Learn more about Jesus– and how He faithfully laid down His life for His Sheep– here

(Feel free to pray along or to use it as a guide):

Lord King Jesus, we praise You and we thank You for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. We thank You that Boko Haram has been fought off in different states in Nigeria; we also thank You for the hundreds of people who have been rescued. Lord, we thank You for allowing the National Joint Task Force to push out Boko Haram in many different places.

Lord Jesus, we pray in Your Name for those who have recently been injured, made homeless, and terrified by Boko Haram’s terrorist attacks and raids. We pray for the men and women that are putting on these terrorist attacks, and we pray for the many fathers, mothers, pregnant women, and children who’ve been help captive and injured in these attacks. Lord Jesus, we pray that You would draw them near to You during this time, and would hold Your children underneath the shadow of Your wings. We pray You would give them everything needed to escape from Boko Haram; we pray that if they cannot escape, Lord Jesus, You would free them by Your Power and Your Might, for Your Glory.

Jesus, we pray that the joint task force of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Benin would be successful against the terrorist group Boko Haram. We pray for the leaders of these nations; we pray that these leaders, along with their different forces, would come to know You as their Lord and Savior. Jesus, we pray that the people of these nations would know You personally, and that as they know You personally, would be used of You in mighty ways.

Lord Jesus, we pray for the over 200 Chibok girls that are still in captivity/missing. Jesus, only You know where they are at; You have allowed this horrible event for a reason. Jesus, we pray in Your Name that you would bring these girls back to You, if they have been forcefully “converted” to islam or brainwashed; we pray that You would bring scripture to memory for them, or minister Your Word to their hearts in the case that they may not know Your Word well… Jesus, we pray they would be freed or would escape soon, in Your timing, and we pray You would bring their captors to You, that they might know Your Love and would be set free from the bondage of Islam soon.

Jesus, we pray that You would plant and grow up faithful pastors and missionaries in Nigeria. Lord Jesus, we pray You would give these people Your Love, Your boldness, and Your sound mind so that those in Nigeria may know You truly, Oh Lord. 

Draw all these men to You, Jesus, that they might trust You and follow You; For, You are the Only Good Shepherd, Lord Jesus. Save those who do not know You personally from the thief, who only comes to steal, kill, and destroy– bring men and women to You so that they might know Your abundant life, Lord King Jesus.

It’s in Your Name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

{“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”}
(John 10:27; John 10:10b)

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