I haven’t blogged a lot during this COVID period because I’ve been doing so many online sermons that I thought it might be redundant. However, I’m having a grumpy-old-man moment this morning I feel the need to rant a bit.
I want to talk about resiliency or the lack thereof within our Christian community.
There are so many Bible verses running through my head right now I can’t keep them straight!! But let me start by outlining what the Christian life looks like according to scripture.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
“If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:12)
Over and over and over again we see that the Christian life is one of great joy even as we live in a world that hates us, persecutes us, oppresses us, and even kills us! I love Paul talking about all he suffered yet he continues to preach the Gospel joyously!
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.” (1 Corinthians 11: 23(b)-33)
Jesus even makes this really tough statement in Acts 9:16 when telling Ananias to receive Saul (Paul) who has been hunting Christians, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Suffering for the sake of Jesus is part of the Christian walk. We suffer by dying ourselves and hating the world and instead keep our eyes on heavenly things and the eternal reward we have in Christ. We give up worldly pleasures, worldly liberty, worldly comforts, and honestly, worldly selfishness to put Jesus first in our lives.
So, here is my rant: Our witness sucks!
American Christians are the biggest whiners in the Kingdom of Heaven and look nothing like Jesus or any of the apostles.
During this COVID period you see Christian rebelling against the government claiming they are being oppressed for wearing a mask! Try getting flogged for believing in Jesus!
Christians throughout the world must meet in secret and memorize pages of the Bible because to be caught would mean death. Yet, here in America we scream bloody murder that we’re being limited in the size of people who can meet in a church for health reasons yet we can still meet openly, share the gospel openly, and own and read the Bible without persecution.
When our chosen political candidate loses we demonize the candidate who won going so far as calling that person an anti-Christ even though scripture is clear that God chooses all leaders whether they choose to do good or evil:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but from God; the powers that be are ordained by God.” (Romans 13:1)
Even in the church we have decided that we don’t have to listen to God’s called and ordained shepherd because we know better or more likely just don’t like what the pastor is saying so we’re not doing it even though it is God’s Word through his mouth!
They say that sin is rebellion against God, but I’d break it down a bit more and tell you that sin is selfishness – self-centeredness. It’s deciding that your will is more important than God’s will. Satan thought he’d do a better job than God and sought to sit on His thrown. Sin in man is the same – we think we should sit on God’s thrown because we know better than He does. And it shows in our walk and our witness.
It’s why Christianity is not attractive to unbelievers – they see Christians as hypocrites who talk about Jesus but don’t act like Jesus. They see us say God is love yet we don’t love those who are different than us. They see us call people sinners, yet we don’t admit the sin in ourselves (log in your own eye) and thus their need for Jesus. Unbelievers dig Jesus who was humble and compassionate, but they see nothing but pride in Christians, especially the celebrity leaders making headlines. They see us talk about righteousness and holiness, yet the see Christians living the exact same lifestyles as everyone else. Honestly, what is attractive about that?
Now I’m not going to pretend I’m any better than anyone else on this front. As Paul said, of all the sinners I am the worst!! I fight a daily battle between my flesh that demands my individual liberties and freedoms granted to me as an American vs my spirit which demands I fall in line with Jesus. It is a tough battle that I don’t always win! I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts I’ve written and then erased because it would tarnish my witness for Jesus!
But the question I must ask myself is this: What am I willing to suffer for Christ?
- Will I suffer losing my rights?
- Will I suffer persecution for believing in Jesus?
- Will I suffer humiliation for the Gospel?
- Will I suffer rejection from friends and family for my faith?
- Will I suffer loneliness and marginalization for my Savior?
- Will I suffer opposition even within my own church for standing by the Word?
- Will I suffer just because God is sovereign and that’s good enough?
This finally gets me back to resiliency! (No, I haven’t forgotten where I started – it just seems that way!). Our Bible heroes were resilient because they had the power of the Holy Spirit to give them endurance and encouragement. We have that same Holy Spirit, yet we don’t have enough faith to actually tap into that same endurance and encouragement! Unfortunately, American Christians have a faith that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
I love the follwing verse because it tells us what kind of resilience we are to have:
“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2b-5)
Glory in our suffering! We build perseverance, character, and hope! We should be the most resilient people on the face of the planet! During times of civil unrest, political chaos, pandemics, and national disunity, Christians should be the hope of the world, shining Christ’s light through love, encouragement, and especially sharing the Good News that there is a Savior who loves them and wants them to come home! Nothing should discourage us! Nothing in the world has any meaning or value except sharing Jesus! That is our focus! That is our mission! That is our entire life’s purpose!
So, Christian brothers and sisters! Stop whining about worldly stuff! Suck it up! Start having the mind of Jesus who was a man of sorrow and suffering who had no place to lay His head! Have the courage of the apostles who changed the entire world by sharing Jesus everywhere they went regardless of the consequences and personal costs. Walk a walk that would make Jesus smile!
Let me close by sharing with you what happened to the apostles. It didn’t end well for any of them but as Paul said we should consider our momentary suffering as nothing compared to the eternal reward that is in store for us if we do as Christ commands.
Peter and Paul
Both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
Went to the “land of the man-eaters,” in what is now the Soviet Union. Christians there claim him as the first to bring the gospel to their land. He also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and in Greece, where he is said to have been crucified.
Was probably most active in the area east of Syria. Tradition has him preaching as far east as India, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. They claim that he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.
Possibly had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa and then in Asia Minor, where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death.
The tax collector and writer of a Gospel ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Some of the oldest reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.
Had widespread missionary travels attributed to him by tradition: to India with Thomas, back to Armenia, and also to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of how he met his death as a martyr for the gospel.
The son of Alpheus is one of at least three James referred to in the New Testament. There is some confusion as to which is which, but this James is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death.
Simon the Zealot
So the story goes, ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
The apostle chosen to replace Judas. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and to death by burning.
The only one of the apostles generally thought to have died a natural death from old age. He was the leader of the church in the Ephesus area and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. During Domitian’s persecution in the middle ’90s, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. There he is credited with writing the last book of the New Testament–the Revelation. An early Latin tradition has him escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil at Rome.