Sunday, April 6, 2014

In The Face Of Discouraging Times

Have you been paying attention recently? Things look a bit discouraging for Christians at the moment and it seems like it is going to get worse. We see the mounting persecution that is taking place in the United States and if it is happening there we know it won't be long in coming everywhere else. We look at the major split that is happening within the Church as one part rises up to condemn the other part; actually calling brothers and sisters in Christ to be without salvation. It is discouraging for those of us who long for unity within the Body of Christ.

These are not things to shrug our shoulders at as they are doing a lot of damage. We are seeing those who are immature in the Word being confused, not knowing what to believe. We are seeing entire congregations leaving the solid ground of the Word and melting into the arms of the lost. We are seeing the message and influence of the Church eroded by our disunity. Everyone is building camps and flinging mud at those they call lost to the teaching of demons. How can we go forward?

Of course, none of this comes as a surprise for those who know the Word. Jesus warned us of these days, as did Paul, Peter and John. We can't say we didn't see it coming but to actually be in the midst of it, tasting the ugliness of it, is another matter. So now that it is upon us we have to make some decisions: How are we going to respond?

The first thing we have to decide is that we are going to stand for Jesus, no matter the cost. It could cost you a lot, it could cost you everything, but if you understand scripture you know that what it might cost us has no real value compared to eternity and Jesus' glory. So we listen to the Scripture that tells us how to stand:

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

From your spiritual infancy you have been raised on the Word, so stand by it. The World is going to attack it as are many within the Body because it will play out just as it is described in Scripture. In these last days a great strain will be put on our trust in the Word. We can hear the enemies whisper upon the wind, "Has God indeed said ...?"  But if we do not want to be lost in this age we must make the decision to trust the Word and to stand:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (v. 16-17)

But standing does not mean building walls. We are not isolationists. We were left in this world with a purpose, a mission to represent Jesus' love to the lost. Even if the lost are bent on our destruction, we are here to love them. We have good works to do even when we are being attacked:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17)

We were born to this age for a reason. We are the generation who it has been given to stand for Jesus no matter the cost. We are to shout of his love even louder as the noise of this world tries to drown us out. We are not to become distracted by the debates within the Church but instead we are to press forward in the good works we have been assigned. Jesus warned us to be found faithful in our duties upon his return and that is what we need to be determined to do. So let this reminder encourage us that, no matter how bad it gets in the coming days, there is an end coming:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

And that is what we need to do. Set it in your heart right now that your ongoing purpose is to comfort, encourage and pray for all the saints who are standing up under the pressures and persecution of our age. Sing with each other, praise Jesus with loud voices, lift up holy hands, lift up the Name that is above all names. Let us remind each other of these things as the spirit of discouragement tries to undermined us. We are not those who shrink back but instead, empowered by the Holy Spirit, emboldened by Jesus' example, and longing for the presence of Father, we press on. Stand my brothers and sisters, stand!

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