Pastor Petr Dudnik. Slavyansk, Donetsk region, Eastern Ukraine

Sermon “To Set in a Wide Open Space”

What good is in hardships? How to live during hard times and what is reward for humility before God? What war teaches Christians and how in the tight circumstances and distress to discover the width of God’s blessings.

God gives wide open space in distress if you correctly walk through the valley of a shadow of death. If you pass your difficult circumstances with the right heart, God opens incredible sources of blessing. “As they pass through the Baca Valley, he provides a spring for them. The rain even covers it with pools of water. (Psalm 83:6 NET). We saw, how these sources opened up in our lives.

God supernaturally liberated Slavyansk. One group left, another came in and the peace came. They just vanished instantaneously at 6 or 6.30 am. And I am calling the military and I said to them, “Do you know that there are no more armed people left in Slavyansk?” “How come?”, they ask. “They just left.”

I am absolutely sure that by the means of prayers of the saint, when you hold the Word and say, “Lord, everything You said is the truth and it is going to happen even in spite of what your eyes are telling you.” God performed a great miracle. Today people in the city have their own fears. People feel differently. But nobody, no matter what feeling or opinions they have, nobody wants combat operations. Nobody wants bombing, destroyed houses. There is a fear that all that can come back. But we get up and say, “It is not going to happen. Our faith is not in that these are beautiful words, Our faith is in what the Bible says, “Whosoever God set free he will be free indeed.” And they look at us with their eyes wide open. We say, “It is not because someone is strong and someone is weak. Bible says, “Whosoever God set free is free indeed.” If Slavyansk was liberated by the Ukrainian army, then there will be fear. But as it is God liberated Slavyansk. That is why do not be afraid of anything.

We saw that during war time money and knowing powerful people do not matter, nothing like that is of no significance. What matters immensely during war time is if you know Him and if you have with Him such relationships that you are able to hear His voice, and He just shows you what to do, how to do it.

There is huge difference between what is true, what your eyes see, and with the truth of God’s word. When real persecution of Christian started, because self-appointed mayor of our city the next day after the Easter pronounced this, “We came here in order to destroy the biblical matrix.” I don’t know where he found the words like that. He is a dimwitted person. But he made his pronouncement in those words. It was powerful signal for us Christians, meaning, “it started”. We were looking for way how to continue our peaceful life. At that moment it became very clear as least to me that serious persecution of Christians started. In our city 4 of our brothers were shot just because they believed in God differently than other people. Recently one of those who were among the shooters or who was present at the scene called one of our brothers later and wanted to sell the information about who killed those people and where these killers were. Those who spoke with him on the phone were not interested in knowing this.

We were interested in just one question, “Why did you do that?” And the answer was this verbatim, that what they said, “We wanted to demoralize all the evangelical believers in the city.” This is true. But the truth was different.

We will continue to live, to build, to serve, to help people who are in trouble.
God has this time gap. If you pass through your difficult circumstances with the right heart verse 6 says,

Psalm 84:5 Blessed is the man, whose strength is in thee, and in whose heart are thy ways.

When your ways in your heart are directed toward God, then you do not have slur or condemnation on your lips, you do not have hatred in your heart, you have something special in your heart, because you receive love from God. Bible teaches us to love, to love ourselves, love our neighbors, I even found there, it teaches to love our enemies. It teaches to love our enemies. How d o you relate to your enemies? Today almost everybody has enemies. The world god divided, someone is for these, another one is for those. But God says something different. His church is above all that. Yes, church has to speak up for the truth. But to speak of mercy, of love, to do good works, this is the real calling for the church. He called us to do good.

It talks about it in Ephesians 2:10 that we all are created unto good works.

Thus incredible springs and wells are being opened. The first things we saw was that the Word of God became alive for us. When the ways in your heart are directed toward God, then your eyes start seeing people in need. We saw great number of people in trouble, but also incredible possibilities and resources how to help those people got opened. Sources of blessings were opened in new people, who were awakened by the sufferings. They were ordinary people sitting in the middle or in the back. Then they say, “Pastor, something is happening to us.” One man said, “Pastor, I am not afraid of the end of the world now. I know how to meet it.” I ask, “How?” He says, “I just need to serve people.” He was a successful; businessman, left his business, and completely dedicated himself to delivering bread, to come to frontline areas, to help people.

A lady said, “It may sound cynical, but I do not want the war to be over.” “What are you saying?” I asked her. She says, “I don’t want to go back to my old life. I was just working, earning money, doing remodeling of my house, going on vacation. I don’t want a life like that any more. I want to continue serving people, I want to have compassion for people’s pain, to alleviate that pain”. Incredible springs and wells are being opened in human hearts. Church became a key power in the city. My friends, it’s just incredible. They would call us from the mayor’s office and ask, “What shall we do? What do you say? So we make this decision or some other one? How can we help these people?” Within the last 6 month we along with all volunteers from all over Ukraine, and even from Russia volunteers came to help, were able to restore 88 houses, to raise walls and roofs, and I think “How is it possible? How is it possible?”

Tamara was talking about a family. On Friday we had an opening of their new house for 90 square meters. Central TV, local media arrived. How was it possible to do it within the last 4 months? That family could not imagine that they could live like that. Because all home improvement in Ukraine for the last 20 years was that occasionally instead of the outhouse they would have an indoor plumbing.

And now they live in a comfortable house. I think, “How in the world all this could happened?” The answer is this “God opens incredible springs and wells when you walk in your valley of the shadow of death in the right way. I think, “How in the world did we managed to deliver 40 thousand loaves of bread?” These are huger finances. And I again and again agree that the church of Jesus Christ is not weak, not frail and not stumbling on both knees, it is not sprawled. When a strike comes, you first like this, and then a cells draws to cells, a church to church, one church member reaches out to another. And the movement starts, like ants in an anthill. Here is a pain, there they responded and did something. I am amazed at brothers from Western Ukraine. They delivered about 800 tons of food to the East of Ukraine. When you just buy groceries, it is one thing, but when you see those jars with preserves, you think, “Loving God, a person took it from his own food supply at home, he brought it and put it in knowing that somewhere there is pain, that someone has nothing to eat somewhere.” And you realize that it is very powerful.

People in Central and Western Ukraine say, “We agree to decrease our standard of living 50% lower just to have the war stopped, that no one would fight in combat any more.”

I think, “Lord, thank you for the church of Jesus Christ, which is on its knees.” People in the city of Cherkassy for the last 6 months every day come to the central square, kneel down and ask God about peace, they do not release words of any curse, they ask God about repentance. And I believe that a special time will come when people on this side and on that side will start to repent first of all from hatred in their hearts.

When repentance for hatred will come, then restoration will come. I believe we live in unique times, when God does something special, {when His plans}.. God has 2 purposes for this planet earth – 1) to call people out, to bring them to salvation, 2) to glorify His church. The church of Jesus Christ is glorified by love and good works. And if you are in this part, if you serve, if you manifest love in deed, you are in that part of the church which is glorified by God.

I bless you, my precious brother and sisters. I encourage you, when you are in your pain, in your hardships, do not forsake your hope in God. He has His own timing for everything. If you walk through your hard circumstances worthily, God can open incredible springs and wells of blessings in your life. We are all witnesses of it. We see what God did with us, we continue loving people, serving people regardless of their political views, because God did something special with His church. He said, “Love the way I loved. He loved those who loved Him, He loved those who did not care and He loved even those who were crucifying Him.”

KJV Psalm 4:1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

KJV Psalm 84:6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

Preached at “House of Bread” Church in Sacramento, CA in January 2015

Translated from Russian