How do we as Christians deal with the way in which the world is speaking about us in the public square? What I mean by this is that there is a growing level of bitterness and vitriol that is being expressed by those either in the media, or by those whom the media interview when it comes to the views of those who hold to Biblical morality. Early on we were referred to as intolerant and narrow-minded, but stronger rhetoric and more hated titles are being used as the world is calling us names for our moral stances.
After spending time looking on the internet at a examples of this I suddenly realized that I would not be able to put most of them in this article – they are too filled with profanity for me to do so. Where once we were referred to as bigots and homophobes – now we are being more and more referred to as ISIS, the Talaban, idiots, fools, morons, and a list that is honestly too long to reproduce. What is even more disturbing is that name calling that was once reserved to blogs and “comment” sections is now bleeding over into the mainstream. So how to we respond to these kind of attacks as believers?
Our first response should be to reserve any kind of response until we’ve examined Scripture – and I regret to say – at times our own past. Let me begin with Scripture first. Peter wrote to believers who were going through a fiery ordeal for their faith. Even though things are not great at the moment – and are probably going to get worse – I do not think we are to the point of being in a fiery ordeal yet. Here is what Peter said to those saints who faced difficult times.
1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
We should not be surprised at such things in a world that is turning from God and from what God has done through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself warned that we were going to face what He faced if we were His disciples. We will be reviled for being named with Jesus – and with Biblical morality. Earlier in Peter’s letter he said to the saints that people would malign us because we would not run with them into the same excess of dissipation they ran into in life. What excess was this? Sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries are on that list. Stand for righteousness – and you will be persecuted. That is what Jesus promised in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. So first off, we should not be shocked this is happening.
Second, we should make sure that we are not suffering because we ourselves tout one aspect of righteousness – yet tolerate open sin in other areas of our lives. Translation: If you’ve been or are currently a name-caller when it comes to other people’s sin (by this I am not saying calling sin what God calls it) then you have some repentance that needs to take place first. We are called to love those who hate us – and we are called to love sinners. Engaging in a heart or mindset that insults others is NOT love. Oh how we need to be so careful about this especially in regard to names we use to refer to those who engage in sin. Be truthful, but in every way you can be respectful too.
Third, our response should be to rejoice. Most of us are not expecting that one. I don’t know about you – but at times I would prefer reading some imprecatory psalms instead of rejoicing that I are reviled for the name of Christ. By the way – that means I am sinning and need to repent. When the first disciples were beaten for their faith – and for continuing to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ – they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name. The reproach and insult is not against us – and if we take it personally – it will not go well for us in our hearts (and honestly – it won’t go well for us in how we act or what we say either). The reproach is against Jesus Christ – and we should glory in being put in any association with Him.
Lastly, I would like to remind you that it is in moments like these that we have our greatest possibilities as those who preach the gospel. We have the opportunity to love when we are hated – to bless when we are cursed – to be kind when others are unkind to us. This is the essence of what Jesus did when He gave Himself on the cross. Oh that people would say, “You know, he’s the nicest, most loving, kind bigot I know.” Or someone would say, “For a guy who’s like ISIS, I am amazed that the only weapon he uses against me is kindness.” We are to react with love, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, and compassion – even on those who lack it in their dealings with us. Oh, and one more thing – when they want to know WHY we act this way – we share the gospel and point to the One Who did it best when He was treated the exact same way.
FOUR LESSONS FOR DIFFICULT TIMES
(This was taken from our weekly email newsletter - if you want to receive it regularly, you can sign up for it in the "sign-up" area of the website.)
May the Lord bless you and help you in every circumstance in life. May His grace abound in both difficult times as well as those that are easy. May you find Him infinitely adequate for every situation - even those where you feel infinitely inadequate . . . no - especially in those infinitely inadequate times.
Last week my mother had a stroke. At that time life moved from what I thought was a difficult time (due to my own myopic view of hard - that is one where I am thinking of my own struggles a little too much) to one that is more in line with what real difficulty probably looks like. But as I've taken time to meet with God and submit myself to what His viewpoint is - even that perspective is changing over time from difficulty to opportunity. If you don't mind - and I hope you don't - let me try to encourage you this week with what I am attempting to learn.
Lesson #1 - Embrace your inadequacy! For those of you who read that and wondered about my sanity in this midst of this situation . . . I am serious as I can be about this first lesson. Too often I spend too much time worrying about my inadequacy in a situation. Please understand I am not talking about those who feel they are inadequate - and therefore do absolutely nothing. That is not so much inadequacy as it is irresponsibility. But feelings of inadequacy creep in during every difficult situation we face. Rather than wrestle with feelings of inadequacy - I am seeing that I need to embrace truth - I am inadequate! At least I am inadequate to go through difficulty without God's wisdom, God's strength, and God's grace. My wrong response to inadequacy is to try to become adequate on my own. This is a dead-end street. Embracing my inadequacy - and then turning to God for the needed wisdom, strength, and grace to do what I need to do - is the proper way to handle difficulty. (Just a little note . . . Jesus said, ". . . apart from Me you can do nothing." Therefore your actual range of inadequacy is far larger than you may have ever thought.)
Lesson #2 - When the going gets tough - the tough turn to God's Word and to God in prayer! Scripture says, "If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited." (Proverbs 24:10) That may sound like a "university of duh" statement - but it is a very wise one. Here is a parallel to it - "If you are slack in the day of distress - guess whose strength you're relying upon to handle it? The word "slack" is telling here. It means to slump down, to sink, to become discouraged and eventually fall. Difficult times can overwhelm you - believe me - this set have led to several times that I've felt overwhelmed. That is a great time to turn to God's Word. If you don't have time to open a Bible - cry out to Him in prayer. The godly men and women of the Bible did exactly that! It doesn't matter that you don't know what to pray - just pray that to God and keep talking. It will come out as you turn to Him. Then when you can get a chance open your Bible and read it. Turn to Psalms and write down His promises and His comforting statements. A wise person would either memorize those - or at least have several on a 3X5 card - or on their cell phone.
Lesson #3 - When your difficulties have you down, don't cry, "Uncle," cry "Body of Christ!" I have said it numerous times in the past. I don't know what people do who do not have the church during their difficult times. If you want to see the church at her finest - go through troubling, difficult times. She tends to rise to the task in those moments. There were several times in all of this that I just wanted to cry, "Uncle!" and give in to the sense of being overwhelmed. God's grace kept me from it. Also remembering that all this got me in the past was a unhealthy dose of freaking out - depression - moments of anger - emotional paralysis - etc. These things pretty much stink if you've ever gone through them. In this situation, I've had to call on the church for help. James and Debbie have been indispensible at the office. The elders have been prayer warriors and those who have sought to encourage me. They also have tried to ease my concern about being away a long time. Plus all those who have either messaged me - emailed me - and facebooked me with promised prayers, support, and encouragement. Yeah - crying "body of Christ" rather than "uncle" is a much better way of dealing with all of this.
My present circumstances are far from over - and I know that. This will be a long-term time of difficulty. (Just a note: Let me say that when it comes to family and friends and the body of Christ - these times are guaranteed to come in one way or another. We were born for these moments - and true love rises to the top when they come.) My guess is that there will be many more lessons for me, and for all of us when we face them, to learn. In the midst of these - there are also probably times when all the feelings of being inadequate in myself, in need of prayer and promises, and just overwhelmed will surface again. That is when I will learn Lesson #4 - I need Endurance to run this race. I appreciate your prayers as I seek to run this part of my race well.
The Bitter Lie of Self-Reliance - 2 Chronicles 16
"In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians."
When I read this passage my heart sinks for Asa - and those who are offended with God's discipline and correction. Asa was corrected for his actions - that he turned to himself and human means rather than turning to God - to embracing weakness - to embracing a situation where he would have to turn to God in prayer for answers.
Earlier in his ministry Asa did turn to God when the Ethiopians attacked with over a million men. That had to be difficult to experience - facing the thought of your own annihilation - of being so weak and unable to defend yourself - and facing the uncertainty of whether you would survive the attack of the enemy or not. BUT THAT IS HOW GOD WORKS - HE GIVES US TIMES OF WEAKNESS INTENTIONALLY - SO THAT WE HAVE TO EMBRACE BEING WEAK - BECAUSE WHEN WE ARE WEAK IN OURSELVES - WE BECOME STRONG IN HIM.
The problem was that Asa did not want to embrace weakness the second time he faced terrible odds - and the necessity of turning to God. He was proud - and that pride manifested itself when God corrected him. He became angry with God - angry with God's prophet - and eventually angry with even serving God later in his life.
God allowed another need to come upon Asa - a disease in his feet. How appropriate for his situation - diseased in his walk in life/even as he was becoming more diseased in his walk with God. He would not turn to God in prayer for this situation - only to the doctors. He spent, amazingly, the last 2 years of his life in this affliction and even died of it - rather than turn to God. His bitterness consumed him - first spiritually - and then even physically.
Am I willing to embrace weakness? Is pride an issue in my life? I hate to admit it but I know that it is. I don't like being weak - don't like being reduced to nothing save God in prayer. I want to be able to do some things myself (which is nothing more than an excuse to want to do all things myself - the deadliness of pride!). Being reduced to nothing - and seeking God in those circumstances to be my everything is meant to be gloriously hard. It is embracing humility - total humility! And . . . if I will not embrace it - I will find myself diseased in my spiritual feet. I will be unable to walk. I will not turn to my God for that - and then eventually won't turn to Him for anything. All I will have is man-made deliverance - man-made hope - and that is precious little (actually nothing) deliverance and hope.
Embrace humility! Embrace being little . . . being nothing . . . so God will be everything. He is everything - it is only the brief deception and mist of lies of this life that makes us ever think otherwise.
God have mercy on me! I've been so filled with pride. I have been so filled with self-importance and lying self-sufficiency! Oh the sad state of my feet - and my ability to walk in humility, brokenness, and self-emptying trust and prayer before You. Please forgive me the arrogance, pride, and foolishness of this way. Restore me to full reliance upon You - upon Your infinite resources - and upon a life lived in complete dependence on Your grace.
For the past several articles we have been looking at what it means to struggle with times when you feel and are “out of season” spiritually. As Paul finishes exhorting young Timothy about the need to be ready whether we are in season or out of season, he offers this charge to him, But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5, NASB)
It is good for us to know the things we need to be doing regardless of our current emotional state or feelings. These things are powerful sign posts that help us to stay on the road when we would rather pull off and quit—or take an extended vacation from walking with God and fulfilling our ministry in life. Paul lays out for young Timothy some very good sign posts for him. If we will learn from these things and make them a part of our life, we will find ourselves greatly aided in staying focused in those times when we are struggling with being out of season.
The first of these sign posts is to be sober in all things. The word sober means to be sober-minded—or watchful in all things. We are to watch God’s Word, watch for God’s Spirit as He leads and teaches us—and watch for the dangers of temptation when we might otherwise be distracted by struggling with our emotions. If we do not watch and pray—we will find ourselves led by our emotions rather than by God’s Spirit.
The second sign post is to endure hardship. We are all going to face hardships. This may not be popular among some theological circles—but it is quite popular with Jesus. When these times come we need to endure them. The word “endure” here is pretty awesome. It is the Greek word, kakopatheo—which means to endure evil or difficulty and the emotions that come with it. The second word “patheo” means emotions or passions. God knows that we will face difficult feelings and emotions when these times come—but we must endure them knowing He will give us grace to endure and stand fast.
The last two sign posts are to do the work of an evangelist (keep working to lead people to Christ) and to fulfill our ministry. We have to keep keeping on in these things—no matter what we face in out of season times. These sign posts will help us keep going—and to not get turned down a wrong road. May God give both you and I grace to read the sign posts—and follow them—especially when we are “out of season.”
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
Thank you for visiting our website! Everything on this site is offered for free. If, however, you would like to make a donation to help pay for its continued presence on the internet, you can do that by clicking here. The only thing we ask is that you give first to the local church you attend.
Copyright 2024 Calvary Chapel Jonesboro | all rights reserved