Friday, February 10, 2006

Hard Times

Every morning, the news seems to highlight or introduce some new conflict in the world or nation. For Christians, it becomes increasingly more difficult to watch as the culture finds new ways to capitalize on sinful things. Whether it is an award winning movie about homosexuality, the “right” people claim to abortion, the abolishment of Christmas, the condoning of gay marriage or targeting the freedom we have in Christ as compared to other religions, Christians are being more and more persecuted for taking a stand for Christ. The questions become, “How do I deal with this and what do I do?”

In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Paul gives encouragement to Christians who experience persecution. In this verse, Paul comments about his (and Silas’) treatment when in Philippi (Acts 16:11-38). After removing a demon from a girl, he and Silas are unjustly thrown into Jail (despite being Roman) and shackled in stocks. Does this weaken their worship? Absolutely not! They sing and praise God and are ultimately released. Even more, their witness leads a Jailer and his family to the Lord.

There are two things to be learned here:

Like Paul, Christians are going to be persecuted by the world because they are not of the world (John 15:19-21). No human knows persecution better than Paul. Likewise, we need to be prepared to be persecuted. Never, does Paul say, “Oops, I didn’t see that one coming”. We too should not be surprised when people speak out against us and our convictions. We should find joy in times of trials and difficulties (James 1:2). This should affect our mind set and attitude towards the issues we face today. Be encouraged, not discouraged when the world comes against you.

What do we do after we are persecuted? Well, you keep on keeping on. Paul said in verse 2, “But even after we had suffered(a) . . . we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict(c).” We should not relinquish from our mission to live out and share the gospel. So, how do we do this?
First, we “root” ourselves in the word. Jesus said in Matthew 13:20-22 that, a person who receives the word with joy, but has no root, quickly falls when persecution arises and becomes unfruitful. If Christians are going to overcome obstacles presented by the culture, they MUST be rooted in the word. This requires daily bible study, meditation on scripture, and application of the Word.

Second, we must be confident in the power we have from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). The Greek word in Acts for power is Dunamis, which means an inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth. We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and as new creation we are freed from the bondage of sin and find our power in obedience to Christ.

Lastly, we must continually pray to God that His will be done. Too often we ask God to give us the strength to deal with a situation. The fact is, He already has! We need to ask God to reveal His will to us and use us for His purpose. Comfort in the midst of persecution comes from knowing that God is Sovereign and will overcome the world.

God has given us all we need to remain vigilant in our pursuit of Holiness; His sufficient word, His sufficient Son, His sufficient Spirit, and His sufficient Promise. Glory to God!


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