You’ve all heard, bad things happen to good people…and it’s not “if” but “when” trouble will come your way. And just because you call yourself a Christian doesn’t mean you’ll somehow be insulated from the evil in this world. For in your lifetime you will have sickness, setbacks, and loss…there’s no getting around it…for we all live in a very broken world. But it’s how you react and face each trouble that will make all the difference. With God you have the ability to stand your ground when evil comes your way. II Corinthians 6:7 tells us, “…in the power of God; with weapons in the right hand and in the left.” You can stand and face down anything the world throws at you with God’s Word… His truth in one hand, and His promises in the other. We don’t have to live in fear of tomorrow. For we have weapons to extinguish all those fiery darts thrown our way. We can then stand firm in the power of God…faithful not fearful, confident not cowering, trusting not trembling.
Later in the Bible, the Apostle Paul admonished the Church in Philippi to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) This has to be one of the toughest things to do given mankind’s self-centered, egotistic nature. Instead of seeking out our own 15 minutes of fame, we need to be trying to outdo one another in showing honor. Rather than demanding respect, we need to be recognizing others and praising them for important work they’re doing. Vanity looks for fame and glory, while humility moves “self” off the throne as we esteem others.
To quote I John 3:13, “Don’t be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” And we shouldn’t as evil abounds in the world and the boundaries between right and wrong become blurred. We shouldn’t be surprised when our Christian walk is met with opposition…or we are attacked for trying to do what’s right…or we are accused of not being “politically correct and inclusive” in our thinking. Those who repay evil for good will always be around, so don’t be surprised…for it’s your reaction to hatred that really counts. Jesus encountered many haters and those who disagreed with Him…but Jesus chose to never be disagreeable or nasty back.
I love nightlights! I’ll admit I have at least 8 spread throughout the house, casting their subtle radiance so I won’t trip and fall in the dark. God’s truth is like a nightlight into our darkness…showing us His way so we won’t stumble. But when we choose to not live by the light of His truth, we are easily deceived and blinded by lies that only foster hatred and distrust against our fellow-man. When we love one another, the light of God’s truth illuminates situations, obstacles, and personalities for what they really are…exposing hurting hearts and revealing with honesty how we’re more alike than different.
Naaman was Commander of the Army for the King of Aram. He was a great man, a valiant soldier, and highly regarded by all…but he had leprosy. He was told that the Prophet Elisha could heal him, so he traveled to have an audience…but Elisha didn’t even talk to him in person, but rather sent out a messenger with simple instructions…”go dunk yourself seven times in the Jordan River.” No wonder Naaman went away angry and offended! His pride and arrogance got the better of him as he raged on about Elisha to his servants…that is until one very wise servant was able to talk some sense into him. “It really doesn’t matter how you get healed as long as you’re healed, right?” Naaman then had to make the decision to swallow his pride, humble himself, and obey Elisha’s directions…and he was healed.
Jesus never said was going to be easy to follow Him. By referencing the cross in this verse, Jesus not only implied how He would die, but he gave the crowd a vivid illustration of the personal cost there was to following Him. The Jews had been introduced to this horrific means of execution by the Romans, who used it as a very effective tool of humiliation and intimidation. This crowd had watched as criminals were paraded through the streets, carrying their own cross, to the place they would be crucified…their execution very public and meant to be totally demeaning. But now Jesus was telling them they’d have to deny themselves to the point of complete surrender and sacrifice just as the criminals they saw in order to walk with Him. Following Jesus will never be easy. It starts with the willingness to give up “self”…our selfish pride and ego as we learn to trust and obey Jesus. It means taking up our cross – our own personal journey – in order to have fellowship with Him. Finally, it means humbling ourselves to the point that when people look at us…they only see Jesus.
If you’ve ever had to pry the fingers of a two-year-old open around a toy they won’t share…you know just how selfish humans are about their possessions. But I Timothy 6:7 tells us, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” Everything you have or have ever possessed was a gift from God. But we consider possessions like potato chips…one isn’t enough…we want the entire bag! So where is the balance? The answer is contentment…happiness with what we have or don’t. We can then look at our possessions from God’s perspective and hold on to them not with tight fists but with loose fingers.
We can’t begin to fathom God’s great compassion towards us. For we are separated from Him by our sin… spiritually dead…with no hope. But God saw us through eyes of unconditional love…looking beyond who we were, to who we could become in Christ Jesus. This gift of grace is extended to all…for it says, “it is by grace you have been saved.” The work has already been done, it was accomplished on Golgotha when Jesus was crucified. There is nothing we can do to receive it, for it is God’s unearned and unmerited favor that bestows this free gift of eternal life on us. We may never be able to fathom God’s mercy, but we can accept and trust in His Son, Jesus.
In this world of immediate gratification… where there seems to be no control or limits placed on decency or morality anymore…should we be surprised when young people aimlessly wander through life without goals, plans, and purpose? Their whole life has been centered around the next selfie…the next Social Media post…the next momentary pleasure. For when you ask them what they want to be doing in five years and how they’re going about achieving that right now…they give you a blank stare. Without direction, we flounder. Without limits, we lose inhibitions. Without a plan and purpose, our life is truly meaningless and empty. God has a plan and purpose for everyone…a wonderful life full of joy, self-discovery, and most of all peace.
The biggest cripplers of our Christian walk are fear and doubt. They effectively incapacitate and render us useless for the Lord, and are the favorite tools in Satan’s arsenal. God says, “Fear not!”, but instead, our eyes are fixated on the trouble around us and we freeze – paralyzed in fear. He says, “The battle is Mine not yours”, but we doubt, and surrender before we’ve even started to fight. When we operate in fear and doubt, we’re rejecting and denying God and His power. And even today if I asked you, there’s probably something that fear and doubt are holding you back from doing in your life. Satan loves fear and doubt…but he’s also anxious…for he knows that if Believers would conquer their inner doubt and fear and grasp a hold of God’s truths…they could change the world for Christ.