What must believers do to persevere through persecution? – Part 1

I recently sat down with my youngest son to build an alligator from a lego set we bought him. Before I opened the box I thought, “I got this. I mean, how hard can it be to build a lego alligator?” Well, let me just say, my tune quickly changed as soon as I opened the box. Whoever designed that alligator had a great imagination. They were using Lego pieces in ways I would have never imagined. Instead of trying to go at it on my own, I did the wise thing, I pulled out the instructions and followed them step by step. And in no time, we had an alligator.

Putting that alligator together with my son reminded me that we are created with a need for instruction. While we all inherently know that’s true, there is something in us that drives us to go at it on our own.

But if we can’t handle putting together something as simple as a Lego alligator without following the instructions, what makes us think that we can handle the difficulties the world throws at us on our own?

We need instruction. Not just anyone’s instruction. We need God’s instruction. Especially, when we are facing something as difficult and all-consuming as persecution.

Because our God is a good God who loves us and wants what’s best for us, He gives us what we need. He gives us the instruction that we need so that we can persevere through persecution. Let’s look at what He has to say.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pe 5:6–11)

One of the greatest acts of betrayal a father can experience is when a son rises up against him. Throughout history, many fathers, leaders, and kings have had that experience. King David is no exception. His son Absalom made a power play for the throne. After four years of secretly working behind the scenes to build the support of the people, he put his plan in motion. By God’s grace, on the day Absalom decided to cash in on his hard work, David heard about the conspiracy and was able to escape to the wilderness.

While he avoided Absalom for some time, the day of battle finally came.  When that day came, David did something strange. Something you wouldn’t expect a deceived father, a king who had been humiliated, his throne ripped from him to do. He told his army to “deal gently…with…Absalom” (2 Sam 18:5). David not only gave that command because he loved his son, but because he fully trusted in the Lord. We know that because Psalm 55 allows us to peer into David’s heart during this difficult time. Starting in verse 16 he says,

“But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, because they do not change and do not fear God.” (Ps 55:16–19)

Instead of taking matters into his own hands, David turns to the Lord. When we are facing difficulties we must do the same.

Believers must humble themselves under the mighty hand of God

We learn this from David, as well as we learn this from Peter. After telling us to literally clothe ourselves in humility in verse 5, Peter says in verse 6,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Pe 5:6)

Pride says, “I can do it on my own. I am strong enough to handle it.” Humility says, “I recognize that I’m not strong enough, that God is mightier than I, and that I don’t have to do it on my own.” We don’t have to pull own our bootstraps and go out it on our own, instead, we are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand like David did, trusting that God can and will deal with the difficulties of life, especially when it comes to persecution.

Why can we humble ourselves?

We can humble ourselves for several reasons, but I’ll offer two:

(1) God is great and mighty God who fights on behalf of His people.

Throughout biblical history God has done just that. Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt is one of the greatest displays of God’s care and glory besides the cross of Christ. If you remember, God’s people were enslaved in Egypt. They were being treated terribly. Hearing His people’s prayer, God rises up against the Pharaoh, displaying. His power through 10 plagues that ultimately result in Israel’s release.

God, however, wasn’t done showing His power. With Israel’s back was against the Red Sea and the Egyptians bearing down on them, God literally parts the sea so that His people are able to walk across on dry ground. Seeing that the Israelites were getting away, the Egyptians ran into those walls of water which were soon to become their tomb. As they were running through this magnificent site, God removes His mighty hand and the waters came crashing down, drowning the mighty Egyptian army. Our God is a mighty God, who uses His power on behalf of His people

(2) God is a great and mighty God who cares for His people.

Did you know that there are 7.6 billion people on planet earth? That is unbelievable! A number I can’t even fathom. With so many people there is no way that we could ever know what is going on in their life. We can’t even do that for the 5,000 or more people that live here in Decatur.

But you know who does know? God knows. He doesn’t just know about us. We aren’t just a statistic to God. No, He knows us intimately. He knows us in that way because He cares about us. Because He cares about us, we can cast our cares on Him. Look at verse 7,

“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pe 5:7)

Our God is a God who cares, which means that nothing that we are facing is insignificant to Him. It doesn’t matter if it is something that is small or big, God cares. Because God cares, we can cast “all” not just some, “all” of our anxieties on Him. Anything that causes us to worry, we are to take it to God. Don’t think that the problem you are dealing with is too small for God to be bothered with. No problem that we face is insignificant to Him. Our God is a God who cares!

So we need to quit trying to handle things on our own. Instead, we need to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, allowing Him to handle it for us. That is what He instructs us to do and that is what we must do. This is especially true when we are facing persecution. That’s because persecution is not a flesh and blood battle it is a spiritual battle, it’s spiritual warfare. We need God to fight that battle for us, to strengthen us, to work in and through us. We need Him to deal with our persecutors.

 

How Can We Guard Against Being a Stagnant Christian? – Part 3

Stagnating in our faith is never a good thing. It is something we need to guard against. But how?

How do we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

We guard against becoming stagnant Christians by staying focused on what awaits us

In verse 11 of 2 Peter 1 we read,

“For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pe 1:11)

The first time I traveled back home from a long week of classes at Southern Seminary my flight was delayed. We were actually loaded on the plane, about to push back when the pilot came over the intercom and said, “Folks, this is your captain speaking. A thunderstorm is rolling into the area, and we are going to have to wait for it to pass before we can take off.” What the captain thought was a passing thunderstorm turned into several passing thunderstorms. Just as soon as one moved out of the area, another would pop up. So we waited…and waited…and waited, until finally just after midnight we were able to take off.

When we finally landed and deplaned in Dallas, it was close to 2 o’clock in the morning. I was tired. I had just spent a week away from home, attending class all day, and sleeping in a foreign bed. I was ready to be home, to say the least. That’s what made that drive doable, that’s what propelled me down the highway in the wee hours of the morning — the thought of home.

That’s the same thought that should propel us to supplement our faith with these qualities, the thought of our heavenly home. The home that awaits us is greater than any home that we can have in this world. It is perfect in every respect. It’s a home free from death, disease, and corruption. A home where God will reign and rule and the corrupting influence of sin won’t be felt because it won’t be present. That is the home that awaits us. The home we will walk into one day. So keep pressing on. Your eternal home awaits.

But here is the thing, we can’t press on alone. We have to have people around us helping us, encouraging us, pushing us forward, which tells us that:

We guard against becoming stagnant Christians by surrounding ourselves with those who will stir us up

Motivational speakers abound in this country. You can find someone to motivate you on almost any topic. The reason for that is because we need motivation. We need someone to stir us up so that we will head in the right direction.

But as helpful as motivational speakers can be, Christians don’t need them. Instead, what we need are other Christians dedicated to reminding us of these qualities. We need others who will remind us that we have been given all that we need to press on, that we have a glorious eternal home for which to look forward.

Look at verses 12-15,

“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Pe 1:12–15)

Just as Peter commits to remind his church and to make sure that they have someone to remind them when he is gone, we need others committed to reminding us, which is why we have a church family, and why we should not neglect to meet together with one another. We need one another. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We can’t do it on our own. When we try, we end up becoming stagnant. It’s no coincidence that those who are not connected to the church, who are not active in fellowship are not growing in their faith. We need others right there alongside of us committed to encouraging us to keep running the race, and we need to do likewise. If we don’t, we are going to grill we’re going to become stagnant, unfruitful Christians for the kingdom.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you focused on the future?
  2. Do you have others around you holding you accountable and encouraging you?
  3. Do you gather with the church often?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon How can we guard against being a stagnant Christian?