Can your worldview handle such a catastrophe? Here are three points that will determine the answer.
As a Category 4 hurricane, Matthew battered the southeast coast with its 130 mph winds for over four days and caused hundreds of deaths stretching from Haiti to North Carolina. It was a very destructive storm and one that my little girls will have as a childhood memory in the same way that Hugo (in 1989) is a childhood memory for me. This storm allowed me the opportunity to ponder, and ask: Can your foundation handle any storm?
Driving past the local Harris Teeter, I noticed a massive white oak tree that produces gigantic acorns every fall. It has to be well over a hundred years old. Well, the unrelenting wind and rain of Hurricane Matthew exposed weakness in the foundation of this old oak tree. The wind and rain caused the massive tree to topple over like a year-old toddler.
I stopped and snapped this picture just because I thought it was a neat picture. However, as I began to look more closely at the tree, I could see that the major life-giving roots were rotten. That is when the question popped into my head: Can your foundation handle any storm? There is no doubt the Holy Spirit gave this to me as a gift. Shortly after seeing the rotten roots of the tree, the transmission in my wife’s minivan blew up. Granted, it is a very small wind of tribulation compared to those of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are dying for their belief in Jesus. Nevertheless, perhaps you are facing a small wind of tribulation in your life. If so, let me remind you – He is sufficient and worthy to worship.
This is not going to be a warm fuzzy feel good article, but I did want to start out with a reminder that God is worthy and does all things for His good pleasure. Let me ask, if the distant rumble of the storm of persecution really does consume your little world, are you ready? I want to take a look at three reasons why we should be ready to be persecuted.
- Why we should be ready to be persecuted?
First, you need to read the words of Jesus when he teaches his most intimate disciples the parable of the builder in Luke 14:25-32. Have you counted the cost of what it will mean to follow Jesus in the coming years in America? Are you willing to pay that price? The wisest thing for any follower of Christ to understand is that there is a cost to following Jesus, just like it costs a contractor to build a home and it costs a king men to fight a battle. There are two layers to this cost.
The first layer is the cost of being mocked and ridiculed by family, co-workers, and friends. This really is just verbal and it can be overcome by simply loving them regardless of how they treat you. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”(2 Timothy 2:24-26)
In this day and age, being a Christian that says the Bible is the Word of God and that there are moral absolutes is like have a third eye situated squarely in the center of your forehead. In overcoming this type of persecution it is helpful to understand the love of Jesus, Perfect love cast out fear because fear has to do with punishment. (1 John 4:18) Jesus has freed you from the punishment of God’s just wrath against sin and you want others to be freed as well. As you grow in the love of Christ your foundation will get stronger and be able to endure the storm of verbal persecution.
The second layer of cost is physical persecution that comes from following Jesus. America is truly an anomaly as one looks down the long corridor of Christian history. Our history shows us persecution is normal as someone drinking water to quench their thirst. If you read Fox’s Book of Martyrs, you can begin to understand what some believers have paid for following Jesus. Look at the early church:
“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”(Acts 8:1)
These Christians are having to flee their homes because of the physical threat to their life. A few chapters later, we read of Stephen losing his life because of his bold witness for Jesus.
Are you ready to deal with these two layers of persecution in your life? Understanding that these two layers are just a normal Christian life according to church and Christian history. Realizing the normalcy of persecution before it happens will sure up your foundation. This will allow you to weather any storm that comes your way. When persecution comes, it will allow you to know if you are a genuine convert.
Second, persecution will give you a great opportunity in your life to see if you are genuinely saved. When the threat to your property, your life, or your family comes, it will require you to examine your belief. Here is the question: Is your belief in Jesus worth losing everything? Family? Friends? Property? What we believe about Jesus and His future kingdom will affect how we live in the present. If you are not willing to either give up some of these or all of them you are not are true follower of Christ.
The other night, while driving home from church, my little girl asked me, “Dad, are we going to have to die for the faith that we have in Jesus here in America like Christians in other countries? Dying may hurt, Daddy”.
I do not pander to my kids when it comes to these types of truths. I simply said that I don’t know the future. However, if we do die for Jesus, I know He will be right there with us and we will be ushered into His presences because we were considered worthy to die for Him. Listen to what Jesus says:
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”- (Matthew 10: 28)
The fear of the Lord is the healthiest and most accurate truth that we can have as Christians. In order to have a healthy foundation to endure the storm of persecution, the fear of the Lord cultivates those roots to make a strong foundation.
Third, persecution will allow you to purpose in your heart that you are going to follow Jesus regardless of what happens because he is the only one who has eternal life. When we read the words of Peter as he speaks to his Savior may we be able to echo this same inquisitive question.
“Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,”- (John 6:68)
They can take our position, reputation, families, and homes. They cannot take our eternity with Jesus. Do you turn to a godless government to save you? Do you turn to a godless culture to deliver you from your sin? Do you turn to academia to deliver from what plagues all humanity? No. Not if you are a genuine believer in Jesus. He is the one thing that delivers from sin and eternal death. He is the one who has the words of eternal life. This leads to my second point.
- What will be gained through persecution?
First, the privilege to suffer with Jesus is to understand that we are filling up what is lacking in His affliction. What in the world does that mean? Is Jesus some type of sadistic Lord who gets pleasure out of seeing us suffer? No. Undegenerated people so hate Christ that if He was still here on earth they would persecute Him all over again. In short, they can’t get to Him but the can get to us. You are not going to be persecuted because you are a banker or a plumber. I love you too much to mix my words here. You will be persecuted because you believe in Jesus and that He is the only true salvation from the sins that plague our world. Listen to the words of Jesus:
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”- (Matthew 13:41-42)
Why are they weeping and gnashing their teeth? They are not weeping and gnashing their teeth because they are wrong about Jesus being Lord and Savior. They are weeping and gnashing their teeth in hell because they don’t have either the power or capability to kill Him and become Lord themselves. The Savior continues:
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”- (John 15:20)
As you are growing in your knowledge about this topic, you will be able to apply it to your life in Godly wisdom. As wisdom is applied, it will prove that your foundation is ready to deal with any storm of persecution that comes your way. Notice that it also benefits the church. When others see you suffer well, it will encourage them, when the time comes, for them to suffer well. In a real sense, as your foundation grows you will discipling people in how to suffer well for the excellences of Christ. Your foundation is extending to the point that it is helping sure up other foundations. And if we endure, we will be rewarded in the end. Hear the apostle Paul’s words:
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:11-14)
Second, we will receive rewards from our great King if we endure until the end. Notice that in First Corinthians 3:11-14 (above) Paul points out that godless works will be burned up in the fire of His great judgment. Only what we did for Christ will last into eternity. I find myself captivated by the words of C.T Studd as I think about the implications of this text.
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
That we would live every day with the reality in our minds that work for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords has eternal rewards that can never be taken away. Do you realize that it is a righteous thing to be rewarded for a life well lived in service of King Jesus? It is! Your king, will be with you and reward you for your service to His kingdom. This truth, once it penetrates the complacent sleeping hearts of Christians will strengthen the foundation with life giving nourishment of security and safety. This truth will revolutionize the way you look and live during persecution.
“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”-( John 8:32)
Third, suffering with Jesus is suffering for Truth. Please don’t let this simple truth pass you by. Sometimes the most obvious and simple truths can be the most profound. You are not being persecuted because you believe in Islam, or any other World Religion. You are being persecuted because you believe that Jesus is the only way to be made right with God and the Bible tells us that truth.
This is worth suffering and even possibly dying for. This truth has set you free from His just wrath and no one can take that right standing away from you. The shackles have been loosened and the rusty jail cell door has been flung open and you are now free!! No suffering and tribulation can make you captive to its false clutches. When you encounter this truth, your spiritual roots become so anchored in God that nothing will shake you – not even death itself. You maybe be nervous and scared of death but death has now lost its sting. You can say with the apostle Paul:
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”– (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Once death has lost it sting the only replacement joy unspeakable. There is no situation or circumstance that can take this supernatural joy from joy. Listen to Paul again:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.- (Romans 8:38-39)
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
Fourth, suffering will bring true joy that can’t be taken away. We have covered the reward aspect of following Christ. Now we will cover the joy aspect of following Jesus in the middle of being persecuted. Notice that when Jesus says to rejoice in this text when they are persecuting you. This brings the dynamic of rejoicing because you are in a great line of witnesses who have suffered with Jesus. Here is paradigm shift. You have the privilege to suffer with Jesus.
In America we are so pragmatic in what we do. If we don’t see a godless culture embrace what we are doing we must being doing something wrong. No! A godless culture will never embrace you. It will only try to shut you up, drown you out, or make sure you are no longer there so they can go on with their godless life unhindered by the truth. However,you have the privilege to suffer for such a great King. Christian history is littered with people who were privileged to suffer for the name of Jesus. Here are some Isaiah, Jeremiah, Stephen, Paul, Peter, James, John, and the list could on until my hands cramped from exhaustion from pounding their names out on this keyboard. Here is the engine of your joy. You have the privilege to suffer for Jesus and- will gladly do so -because He has given what no one else can forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him. Nevertheless, the world will try to break your foundation by pounding on you with three turbulent storms. 3.
3.How will the world label and view you?
First, you will be labeled as not truly knowing the true way of Jesus. They will take certain proof texts of the scriptures to misrepresent Jesus and the followers of Jesus. They will pervert the truth in such a way that the masses will agree with them because it soothes the sinful nature to do so and the noetic effects of sin upon the human heart. They will flaunt and celebrate their sins and say that the true Jesus approves of their sins and that anyone who does not celebrate as such is not a true follower of Jesus. Satan has been perverting the scriptures from day one. This is simply another way the prince and the power of the air is flexing his temporary authority.
When the storm of misrepresentation of Jesus comes beating on your foundation, the nourishment that God has put into your foundation by rightly discerning the Word will hold your foundation strong. Endure these accusations will be mentally and physically exhausting; nevertheless, they will bring great joy and reward in the day of Glory. If your foundation isn’t broken with the first onslaught of the storm, they will try a second onslaught.
Second, you will be labeled a racist bigot. The media and everyone who has a microphone and an audience will be trying to prove this. The suffix “phobic” will be attached to every proper noun that they use to describe you. Homophobic, Islamophobic, atheistic phobic etc… However, the real reason that you are being persecuted is because you believe that truth is absolute and the one who gave that truth is unchanging and just. Hear Jesus’ words:
You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (in John 8:32)
Free from what? Free from the deception of sin that is running rampant in the culture and the Nations of the world.
This will be the second try to break your foundation. Nevertheless, the first two storms will pale in comparison to the last storm. The last storm will leave in the wake of its destruction homes destroyed, families and loved ones divided, and countless lives lost. This will be a category five storm. What will this storm be?
Third, you will be considered haters of the government of the United States of America. You will become enemies of the United States of America. The government will physically take its armed forces and come in and either destroy or seize your property. They will put you in prison or execute you as an example to strike fear in the rest of the followers of Christ. They will deny your family food as long as they continue to believe ‘the lie of Christianity’. They will destroy your Bibles and bulldoze your churches. I hope this never happens. Nevertheless, if it does, I want your foundation to hold.
What if this is how God is going to answer our prayer for revival? What if we need genuine persecution to break us, the bride of Christ, in America of all her trinkets and idols that do not truly satisfy? We have been praying for revival. Maybe God knows this is the only way He can answer our prayer. Once again, I hope this does not have to happen in America. However, I do know that God loves the church in America too much to leave it in its complacent state. So, all I want for you is to be sure that your foundation can weather the storm of persecution far better than that old white oak tree in front of Harris Teeter weathered Hurricane Matthew.
Remember, be ready to suffer. Much will be gained as you suffer for truth in this godless world. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! Go proclaim the Gospel to see a life transformed.