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North Korea’s latest attempt to scare the world

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Visitors looks at models of North Korea's Scud-B missile, center left, and other South Korean missiles on display at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, September 15, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

North Korea confirmed Tuesday that it has restarted its Yongbyon nuclear reactor. The timing of the move is potentially troubling with the 70th anniversary of its communist Worker’s Party coming up on October 10th. Many worry that they plan to celebrate by launching a rocket intended to carry a satellite into space. While every nation has the right to develop a peaceful space program, both U.S. and South Korean officials believe the rocket would also function as a test of North Korea’s capability to launch a long-range missile, the kind that could eventually carry a nuclear payload.

The Yongbyon reactor was closed in 2007 as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal brokered through talks involving the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, and the two Koreas. However, North Korea threatened to restart the reactor in February of 2013. While some believe their latest efforts are an attempt to increase their bargaining position in the hopes of reducing the sanctions placed on their country by the United States and other foreign powers, others fear a more nefarious purpose.

In a recent report from the Korean Central News Agency, North Korean officials warned that “If the U.S. and other hostile forces persistently seek their reckless, hostile policy towards the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and behave mischievously, the DPRK is fully ready to cope with them with nuclear weapons at any time.” While North Korea has made similar threats before, Joel Wit, a former American diplomat, warns that “Behind the standard rhetoric, there is a substantive message…It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on, but it looks like North Korea is about to start, or has already started, to produce more material for nuclear weapons.”

While Yongbyon only started running again recently, other North Korean reactors have been operational since 2010. However, they are believed to have been built for generating power rather than to fuel a bomb. Still, it is difficult to know if or when the reactors might have been converted for a more militaristic purpose. Some observers believe that the DPRK already has sufficient nuclear material for roughly 12 atomic bombs but cannot presently condense it enough to fit in a rocket. That said, it is impossible to be certain one way or the other, and North Korea has given little reason to trust its claims in the past. This new threat could be viable or it could be more saber rattling by a nation that so desperately wants to sit at the big boy table with the other world powers. The only way to know for sure is to call North Korea’s bluff, if it is a bluff, and that could be a potentially dangerous game to play.

While North Korea is often belittled as a troubled nation with a Napoleon complex, stories like this remind us that they still have the potential to pose a threat. Their past failures don’t eliminate the possibility of future success and they show no signs of giving up in their quest to become a world power, no matter how many times they may fall short in the process. They have faith that they will eventually succeed, though most other nations hope that they never do. In that way, perhaps they can teach us a valuable lesson.

In Hebrews 11, the author begins by defining faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). He then spends the rest of the chapter enumerating the many examples of faith found in the history of God’s people and how that faith carried them through difficult times to achieve the seemingly impossible. It was by faith that the nation of Israel was spawned from an elderly father and a barren mother. It was by faith that God’s people were led from slavery in Egypt to rule over the Promised Land. And it was by faith that the early Christians endured persecution and martyrdom to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of the known world.

Christian history has been written by the lives of people who had the faith to take God at his word when he promised that we would not be overcome by the trials and tribulations of this world (John 16:33, 1 John 5:4-5). If you have placed your faith in Christ, you have everything you need to add your legacy in the Lord to theirs. So the next time circumstances threaten to overwhelm you, remember the power of faith and find the necessary courage to believe that the same God who helped our spiritual ancestors not only endure but thrive in the face of their trials is ready to help you do the same.

Dr. Denison once wrote that “God measures our faith not by how loudly we proclaim it but by how practically we live it.” One day you will be given the chance to show the world how your faith measures up. Will you be ready when it comes?

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