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.