In all honesty I’m friends with a lot more people on Social Media than I could ever REALLY keep up with. That being said, I see a lot of comments and quotations flit by the screen as I scroll merrily along. The other day I saw this:
Did you know that the only person keeping you from your best life is you?
I’ll be honest, it sounded a lot like a Joel Osteen quotation (the whole “best life” wording), but the person didn’t attribute it. I also don’t know the entire context of the quotation – I just got the snippet she decided to share with the world. Those caveats aside, let’s progress with the quotation at hand.
My initial reaction was to imagine Adolf Hitler standing before a boxcar of Jews about to ship out to a death camp telling his prisoners, “Zee only person keeping you from your best life eez you!” – yes you must always read Hitler quotes with a Schultz (from Hogan’s Heroes) accent.
Can you picture it? Ludicrous, right?
Can anyone deny that sometimes garbage happens to us because of other people? Recently having gone through (and still going through) a tough time I had someone say to me, “It blows my mind that you refuse to take any responsibility about…!”
And I still won’t take it.
Don’t misunderstand me – I believe we ought to own up to our choices and consequences. Still, sometimes things happen TO us that go beyond our own behavior. Sometimes bad stuff comes our way without being a consequence of our actions. This is one of the major themes in the story of Job.
When all the horrible things happened to Job (lost his livelihood, his children died, he became very ill…) his friends gathered around him to support him. Eventually they came to the point of telling Job, “Something you did brought this calamity upon you. What was it?”
Job’s answer time and again was: I HAVE DONE NOTHING TO BRING THIS UPON MYSELF!!!
Regardless of what cheery Osteen-ism you want to read and believe, sometimes life sucks no matter what you try to do. You can’t always control things to get a happy and delightful outcome. You don’t always get to have a “best life now.” Just ask the countless Christian martyrs who have died for their beliefs. Ask the countless Christians in developing nations who live in abject poverty. Ask the Christians in our own neighborhoods who struggle and suffer with gut-wrenching problems.
It’s not because they don’t believe. It’s not because they haven’t tried.
Sometimes life just sucks.
Jesus never promises it won’t suck. Sometimes our “best life now” means hanging on by a thread and praying for God to deliver us. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “We know that our God CAN deliver us, but even if he doesn’t we will not worship another god.”
Sometimes you’ll go through stuff you didn’t cause or deserve. I feel your pain. Shoot me a message sometime and we’ll commiserate. Sometimes it’s all we can do just to get by. I pray I have the fortitude of men like “Rach, Shach, and Bennie – men like Job – who can hold fast to their faith and say:
“Even in this dark hour I KNOW that my God has not abandoned me.”
It seems the world is going crazy. In Egypt, churches are being burned and Christians are being shot at. Read one story here – it is overwhelming.
The Apostle Peter once wrote to the Church ~
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9)
Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-21). That is a mandate, not a recommendation. Invest in eternity!
People in our society are wealthier than any civilization in the history of man. Sadly, they rapidly squander their blessings on things that cannot last. If our treasure reveals the condition of our hearts, this generation is in serious spiritual trouble. Our buying habits show little concern for anything of eternal value.
Perhaps the saddest observation of all is that the spending habits of people in the church differ little from those of the world. The lifestyles of most professing Christians are not substantially different from anyone else’s. Too many in the church have adopted the world’s attitudes. It is as if the church has forgotten Christianity’s call to be different, to be peculiar.
But it’s not just about money. It’s about being comfortable. It’s about being satisfied. When we are in a place of comfort we tend to minimize our need for God. Hosea 13:6 sums up this tragic disparity:
Being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot Me.
When we become prosperous, we become proud. Then we forget God. Frankly, for the Church, persecution is easier to endure than prosperity.
PECULIARITY BRINGS PERSECUTION
A Christian faith free from persecution grows soft. We become complacent. We begin to feel entitled. Then, when we do feel some twinge of persecution, we have a hissy fit and take to the streets with signs and campaign our little hearts out to get fair treatment! Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about persecution and the Christian faith:
Romans 12:14 ~ Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not.
Christians, from leadership to lay person, are responding with indignation and wrath towards those that persecute or cause us inconvenience in any form. The rallying cry becomes unite; fight; we have our rights too; and stop the persecution against Christians. Some Christians seem to feel Christians are failing in their duties if they do not protest vigorously against various atrocities and persecutions. They see these acts of persecution as offensive and contrary to their goal of the world’s acceptance of Christianity. They want people to take political action in some form.
Should we be rallying, protesting and demanding the State or the United Nations intervene to write and enforce laws that “may” stop persecution towards us? Can that remove unwarranted persecution against Christians?
The Bible speaks of the attitude and responses Jesus taught we are to have towards persecutions.
Matthew 5:43-45 ~ 43
“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44″But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
PERSECUTION MEANS WE’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!
Peter writes again ~
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Peter:12-16)
Christians have a clear course for understanding persecution. We are not to view persecution as wrong or something to be feared. We are to view it as part of God’s plan for our lives, and to count it a blessing to suffer for our Lord. Jesus. The apostles wrote these guidelines for us out of their own experiences with persecution. Jesus underwent greater persecution than anyone else. His response is noteworthy and clearly something to be remembered, as the servants are not above the Master.
Jesus once had a conversation with a Roman governor that went like this:
Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:35-36)
Jesus also said:
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master ‘ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. (John 15:18-21 ~ 18)
“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22 ~ 22)
Some are deeply offended and angry when persecution takes place. The reaction is to retaliate in one way or another. They desire their “rights” and are not willing to lose any of their “possessions”, but would rather rally and try to force some confrontation with the issue, and obtain what they feel are their just dues. Some seem to feel that to suffer in any manner goes against being a Christian. Many want to be accepted and treated the same as non-believers. We are not the same. We belong to God. If we become offended or retaliate, we are being disobedient. These actions can also point to something more than just disobedience, maybe also a turning away from God.
The issue is not how to stop persecution. The issue is recognizing that persecution will indeed happen if we belong to Him. That understanding leads to depending on Him as to how we deal with those circumstances and allowing Christ to be glorified through it all.
Jesus, be glorified in our lives and our behavior, even as your Church endures difficult times.