I wanted to continue the discussion this week on this life with Jesus and how it is not always what we expect. Many people (Christians included) have the misconception that we who call ourselves followers of Christ think that with Jesus there are no troubles, hardships, or even consequences for our actions in the present, past, or future. This is absolutely not true and it is even not biblical! These are the same people who say that the reason we are not healed is because somebody did not have enough faith, or someone sinned. This same belief leads to many false teachings that cause people to think that they are less wanted by Christ (than another “stronger” Christian) or that they cannot be used for ministry with people. They think to themselves, “All I can do is sweep or set up chairs.” I knew this gentleman who was an awesome man of God and filled with wisdom and knowledge (as far as I could see), but he always had a low self-esteem and never really moved into ministry like I thought he would. I remember talking to him one day and he told me that he grew up in a church that taught that the only way you can know if you were filled with the Spirit was if you spoke in tongues. He then told me that he could never be effective in ministry because he was not filled with the Spirit. It did not take me long to see that he had been taught and believed a false teaching, not about tongues, but about how the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through people. I was deeply saddened.
Last post we looked at some of the things that we would call negative in the life of a follower of Christ. Persecution is something that we would like not to have happen to us so we automatically call it a negative. Some of us even say that we are being punished or persecuted because we are facing consequences for actions and decisions that we made (many times without even finding out what God wants). Then there are some that throw in what I call ”charmed life syndrome”. This is when people say, “Well, they have a charmed life so God must love them more. Things never go wrong for them!” Wow, this breaks my heart, because people really don’t have a clue what is really going on in other peoples’ lives. Why is that? I believe it is because many of us will not let people into our lives to see that they are hurting, wounded, and in the midst of the fight of their lives. No one has the market on suffering and no one’s brand of suffering is great than anyone else’s suffering – IT’S ALL SUFFERING! Let’s look at what the Bible says about what we are facing in this life.
For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Philippians 3:18 HCSB)
- The first thing that I want you to see here is that there are “many” enemies of the cross of Christ. We do not see all the things people face. We do not see all situations and we do not see all the causes. The other thing here is that the enemies are of the cross of Christ, His causes, His passions and His people. Many times we feel that we have a target on our backs but it is really because there is a target on Him. Let’s expound that. If it is His battle, don’t you think that He will come through and win? I believe this is all a mindset. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us this same kind of mindset so that we can discover His amazing grace and mercy in the midst of the persecution and the battle. Many of us never see this because we are feeling sorry for ourselves and that could be seen as idolatry – putting anything before Him.
- The fact that there are many enemies should break our hearts. You see, the Bible is clear that we wrestle not against people but against the forces that we cannot see because they are in the spiritual world. What needs to break our hearts is that people are letting themselves get caught up in the things that are not of God and allowing the enemy to use them as tools against the cross of Christ!
- We need to ask ourselves some question.
- Are we being an enemy for the cross of Christ?
- Are we participating in idolatry by putting ourselves before Him?
This brings us to something that we need to understand. If there are many enemies then there is much persecution in our lives. In the next passage of scripture, Paul is reminding Timothy about the persecution that he has faced.
In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing those from whom you learned, and that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:12-17 HCSB)
- The word that really stood out to me here is “worse”. Paul is telling Timothy that it is going to get worse. The persecution for Paul is going to get worse? Well, yes, that is what he is saying but I also feel that it is for us to understand that persecution in our lives will get worse as time goes by. I am not all doom and gloom here, I just feel like the more that we live life for Christ and the more that society grows farther away from Christ, the worse it is going to be for His followers.
- I don’t see this as a negative. I see this as another way that we will serve the Lord and it will be for His glory. If you are facing something now and are feeling like you are alone in it, try giving Him thanks for it. Look for the lessons. If you can’t find one at the moment, ask Him to show you. If you find yourself sliding down that slope of anger and self-pity that leads to bitterness, ask God to remind you that all of this, somehow, is for His glory. Let’s not allow ourselves to take the easy way out but to stand firm in the midst of the battle in His name!
- I love this passage because it gives us what we need to know in order to not just survive, but to thrive in this abundant life through Jesus Christ. I love how it says to continue! Like Paul is saying, keep on keeping on living what you know you believe. Maybe that’s what we need to ask ourselves, “Am I doing what I know I have been taught?” Then it gives us the clue that just maybe we should be studying the scriptures to find our passion, our purpose, and our worth. It even says that we can be complete and equipped to do things for the glory of God! What a promise and an inspiration to hang on and fight the good fight.
Well, I will close for now. I pray that God will teach us and that we will find our wholeness from His Word.
In His Grip,