Denison Forum – Denzel Washington on Will Smith slapping Chris Rock: “The only solution was prayer”

Denzel Washington spoke at pastor T. D. Jakes’ International Leadership Summit last Saturday, where he explained his reaction when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards last week. Washington went immediately to speak with Smith, a decision he explained to the group: “I don’t know all the ins and outs of this situation, but I know the only solution was prayer, the way I saw it, the way I see it.”

In other headline news, North Carolina defeated Duke last Saturday in what is being called a “game for the ages” and will play Kansas in tonight’s NCAA men’s basketball championship. When Hubert Davis, North Carolina’s first-year coach, was introduced last April, he told a press conference that his faith “is the most important thing to me. My faith and foundation is firmly in my relationship with Jesus. It just is.”

By contrast, this Atlantic headline caught my eye: “Why People Are Acting So Weird.” The writer documents a variety of ways people are acting more rudely and violently and points to heightened stress, the increased use of alcohol and drugs, and isolation enforced by the pandemic.

Today’s news offers tragic examples: at least six people were killed and at least twelve were wounded in a shooting yesterday morning in Sacramento, California. A man was shot to death in Atlanta. And one person was killed and at least eleven people were hospitalized Saturday night after a shooting incident at a concert in Dallas.

In light of all the bad news, how are Americans doing? In a recent Gallup poll, only 17 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the direction of the country. However, 85 percent were satisfied with their own lives.

This disparity highlights the point I want to make today.

The challenge of “compassion fatigue”

Denzel Washington and Hubert Davis are Christians who act on their faith when the opportunity arises. By contrast, the perennial temptation in Western culture is to keep our personal lives and our public lives separate.

This temptation extends not only to our actions but also to our intercession. “Compassion fatigue” is a real challenge in these hard days.

For example, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared on screen last night at the Grammy Awards. His speech began: “The war. What’s more opposite than music.” In reference to the music industry’s biggest night, he said, “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals.”

When you see the daily reports about the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine, are you praying with the same passion you did a month ago?

Here’s another example: Ramadan began last Friday. There are more than two billion Muslims in the world, each of whom rejects the divinity of Jesus and is therefore without true hope of eternal life (cf. Romans 8:9). Does this fact weigh on your heart today?

By contrast, our Father loves each of us as if there were only one of us, Muslims included. And he is working in the Muslim world in ways we have not seen in Islamic history.

A sheikh leading other sheikhs to Christ

My friend Tom Doyle has been ministering in the Middle East for many years. His marvelous book, Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? tells story after story of ways God is “awakening” the Muslim world by his Spirit.

Over the weekend, I read a companion book, David Garrison’s A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is drawing Muslims around the world to faith in Jesus Christ. Garrison reinforces Tom’s point by documenting statistically the fact that “Muslim movements to Jesus Christ are taking place in numbers we’ve never seen before.” He reports on nine different geographical regions in the Muslim world, identifying eighty-two movements to Christ in “what appears to be a historic hinge moment in the spread of the gospel across the Muslim world.”

Here’s just one example: Sheikh Hakim is a hafez, which means he has memorized the Qur’an. He told Garrison, “If someone said that Jesus was God, we would kill him. When I was a Muslim, I burned churches for Islam.”

He was an overseer of four mosques and was training three hundred Islamic teachers when an African evangelist gave him a New Testament in Arabic. “That night Isa [Jesus] came to me in a dream,” he says. He saw himself chopping down a mosque’s minaret. When he told the evangelist, “He smiled and explained to me, ‘You are going to win many sheikhs to the Lord.’”

When Hakim came to faith in Christ, he lost his job and his farm, and his father tried to murder him. Today he moves from town to town because there are always some trying to kill him. He has since led four hundred Muslim sheikhs to Christ, more than three hundred of whom have already been baptized.

Three ways to pray today

I invite you to join me in three prayer requests today.

First, ask God to give you his heart for our hurting world so that you can pray with passionate compassion.

Second, pray each day during the month of Ramadan (April 2–May 1) for millions of Muslims to come to faith in Jesus and for God to protect Ukraine, end this war, and redeem this tragedy.

Third, pray for the Spirit to move in power in our churches and broken culture. We have never needed a spiritual awakening more than we need a transformative movement of God today.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on this day in 1968. He died knowing that the movement for racial justice he led would ultimately triumph. While we still have far to go, we can claim his testimony as our own today: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Will you pray for the passion to speak unarmed truth in unconditional love today?

Denison Forum

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