NO PERSECUTION SHALL MOVE ME
Many American Christians still subscribe to the erroneous assumption that persecution means the absence of God’s blessing and favor in their lives. Try telling that to the Apostle Paul! Keep in mind how severely he had been persecuted, suffering so much for his precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His life had been threatened in Damascus (Acts 9:23) and again in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29). He had been persecuted and run out of Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:50) and had faced possible stoning in Iconium (Acts 14:5). He had been stoned and left for dead in Lystra (Acts 14:19). He had been opposed and made the center of controversy by the church itself (Acts 15). He had experienced the loss of his closest friend and companion Barnabas (Acts 15:39). He had been beaten with rods and imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16). His life had been threatened in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-7,1 0). He had been forced out of Berea (Acts 17:13-14) and mocked in Athens (Acts 17:18). He had been stripped, beaten with rods, imprisoned, and put in chains. His back was a lacerated, bloody, swollen mass of human flesh. We can just imagine his excruciating pain must have been (Acts 16:23-24). He knew what it was to sit long in a dark, smelly, rat and roach infested dungeon. What was his crime? Why had he suffered so? Because he was determined to be obedient to Jesus Christ, His Savior.
Paul wrote to Timothy, Yea. and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution(2 Timothy 3: 12). Likewise, the Apostle Peter wrote, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange things happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (I Peter 4:12-1 3). It was with this spirit and this understanding that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8).
On his way to Jerusalem, Paul stopped at Miletus and called the leaders from the church in Ephesus to come to his ship. While teaching and exhorting them to watch over the Christians in their charge, he reviewed his testimony of the trials he’d been through and related that everywhere he went he received prophecy that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him. Then he uttered those all-powerful words, which reflected his true character and commitment: None of these things move me! In fact, he says, Neither do I count my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
NO PRESSURE OF LEADERSHIP SHALL MOVE ME
Throughout the church world today, the gates of hell are openly attacking God’s chosen people, but praise God we know that they shall not prevail; in other words when all is said and done the Church shall come out victorious. Some of the attacks are brought on by ungodly attitudes and behavior and lack of faith and determination on the part of the believer. Others are brought on by the demon-master who is always prowling around ready to devour the seed of THE MASTER.
Many of God’s people are suffering from the same depression Elijah suffered after the great victory at Mt. Carmel. He had called fire down from heaven. He had killed 450 gods of Baal. Now the woman Jezebel was out to kill him because he killed her precious gods. Elijah ran and hid and began to cry out to God-just like we would do. We think our situation is unique and we are the only ones who have to bear these particular circumstances. But take heart for no test or trial comes to us that has not been suffered by others before (I Corinthians 10:13). In Elijah’s case, God told him there were 7000 others like him. These things will happen even to devout, dedicated, committed, consecrated children of God; but in your patience possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19).
Many people abort their call early because they are unwilling to bear the pressure that comes with victory. Dr. James Dobson periodically devoted his radio broadcast to preservation of the pastor. Why? For some reason, clergy and laity have become a religious caste system. When laity separate themselves from clergy, they can have higher expectations for the clergy than for themselves. They want the clergy on a pedestal so as to bow down and worship them, but in so doing they make them into a statue–an object that is cold, unmoved, non-reacting, and expects nothing from them. Upon discovery that clergy are real people with emotions, faults, shortcomings, difficulties, afflictions, trials and tribulations, they often reject them. Rather than show love, commitment, and compassion, the laity often insulate themselves with rationalizations for their actions and proceed to cut emotional and real ties with the clergy.
Recently we heard of the Pastor whose teen-age son ran away from home. The pastor’s wife became mentally ill and began heckling during the service. The congregation felt these things would not happen if the pastor were truly serving the Lord and they rallied to “put the pastor out”. (Have they read about John Wesley?) A middle-aged Pastor we know had a heart attack and was physically unable to preach for several months. The church dismissed him and hired a new man, cutting off all salary and benefits including insurance and pension. Another well-known Pastor’s three children all rebelled, got involved in sin, and none serve the Lord today. Yes, it happens everyday to laymen but how could it happen to pastors? (Read about Aaron’s sons and Samuel’s sons.) This is not a new phenomenon. These same kinds of things happened to Paul. Remember what he shared in his letter to Timothy: Demas hath forsaken me … Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil, the Lord reward him according to his works. You should be on your guard against him because he strongly opposed our message … at first … everyone deserted me … but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…(2 Timothy 4:10-17).
Leaders and people need to cry out to God for each other. All are part of the body of Christ and must stand together! If the church leadership is not of God, let God expose it or remove it–not you. Don’t be the devil prowling around, nor a railer–undermining by talking about someone (Gal. 5.17), nor a grievous wolf in sheep’s clothing drawing away disciples after yourself (Acts 20:32).
Actually, in judging another you are judging yourself. Even our modern psychologists teach what the Bible says: Whatever you criticize in another person is your own shortcoming; so look first to yourself, then be silent about the other. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5,NIV).
NO PAINFUL DISCIPLINE SHALL MOVE ME
The prodigal son was tired of work. He was tired of being told what to do and how to do it. He was tired of being expected to do certain things. So he decided to quit! He asked for his inheritance, that which was legally his, and set out to have a good time. And so he did! He went places he had never been, did things he had never done, and was surrounded with friends. The only problem was, he didn’t think about the future-only about now. He was having fun and doing as he pleased with no one to boss him around, until reality hit, his money was gone, his friends had split. He had to humble himself and return to the only ones who might love him and accept him again-his family.
He had wasted his best years. his father’s gifts, and his ability to become somebody special. He had to start over at the beginning. Had the prodigal son stayed home, working for his father and obedient to him during this time. he would now be richer and possibly promoted to headship. The Apostle Paul understood this. He said when we enter a race, we enter to run in such a way as to win. You cannot win if you consider how difficult the track is, how much your body is hurting while you run, or all the fun you’re missing out on while you are busy training. But if we endure this hardness like a good soldier in training, we shall truly win some day. We cannot not help but experience a sense of pride and accomplishment for the Olympic contenders and winners. Millions of viewers wished they were in the races. What went uncaptured in our hearts and minds was the intense discipline that these contenders imposed upon themselves for years prior to winning the opportunity to compete at the Olympic level. They had trainers and coaches who made demands that often seemed unrealistic, even inhuman. You see, if one is able to beat his or another’s record, he has to submit himself to greater discipline and expectations than others do.
How often do we hear adults speak about their youth with regret saying “I wish my parents had made me …… As a result we have a generation of prodigal children (prodigal simply means reckless and extravagant). They give up any difficult project at the drop of a hat. If the job is too laborious, they quit. If the marriage is not meeting their needs, they seek divorce. If the church doesn’t tickle their fancy, they leave. If the children don’t do as they ask, they let them do what they wish. Oh, how we have need of patience, that, after we have done the will of God, we might receive the promise…(Hebrews 10:32). How different is this quitting spirit from the persevering spirit of Paul who, even though people begged him not to go a certain route because of the afflictions, persecutions, and chains that awaited him. he went anyway. He did not seek a way out, but sought to fulfill his call. He even sent the slave-boy, Onesimus. back to his master when he got saved. Can you imagine the outcry that would come today if a pastor were to do that? Yes, of course, our culture has changed, but biblical principles have not!
NEITHER POVERTY NOR PROSPERITY SHALL MOVE ME
Many in the church world today equate success with growth and prosperity. If measured in these terms, Jesus and Paul were failures. In fact, the masses followed Jesus as long as he was doing signs and miracles in their midst, but when the cross went up, they were gone. Likewise, many people came to Paul’s meetings to be healed and set free, yet when he was arrested they were nowhere to be found. Christians, be on guard. When you should be standing by for comfort, strength and help, don’t leave and take as many others with you as possible to justify your actions. Jesus said, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. If we practice this, we’ll stand by each other through good report and evil report, through prosperity and through poverty.
Over the years, several great faith healers have been plagued by cancer or experienced heart attacks or have had to have surgeries. Some prominent faith teachers have had to file bankruptcy and/or sell off some or all of their properties. Nearly every viable public ministry has been tainted by negative publicity of one kind or another. Cold-Christians and unbelievers point toward these matters and say “See, I told you so!” But the proof of the gospel has never been in great numbers or in miracles, or in visible success or failure. Jesus said there would be famous, public figures who would come at the end and ask Him to let them into heaven because they have done righteous-sounding deeds in His Name: “Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? Have we not cast out devils in thy name? Have we not done many wonderful works in thy name?” His answer, Depart from me: I never knew you (Matt. 7:22). Neither perceived spiritual success nor seeing failure are proof of our acceptance by Jesus. It is something that has taken place in the heart. It is knowing Jesus on a personal level.
Once when the disciples came back from an evangelistic crusade, they were excited to report to Jesus about all the miracles they had done. He cautioned them not to rejoice over miracles, but to rejoice over the fact that their name was written down in the heaven (Luke 10:20).
NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME
Let us say with Paul, I am persuaded I that neither death, nor life, nor angels, a nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-38).
© C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Vol. 7, Number 9. firstname.lastname@example.org