We point to you as an example of unwavering faith for all the churches of God. We boast about how you continue to demonstrate unflinching endurance through all the persecutions and painful trials you are experiencing. 2 Thessalonians 1:4 TPT
It was Seneca who said, “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.”
That is unpleasant, I know, but it is also true.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve wished that wasn’t true, because this is also true…
I hate being polished.
Character not Comfort
Jesus is coming back for a Bride with character. Read Jude if you doubt that. But, I believe, that we in the Western Church have become addicted to comfort.
Right now you are probably thinking, “You must be talking about that other guy.” And maybe that’s true, but here’s another truth that I recently encountered.
Open Doors, (a ministry to the persecuted Church) asked Christians to send a note of encouragement to a believer in Saudi Arabia.
In the past, this man has been punished with 40 lashes for sharing bibles with his neighbors. And, right now? He is facing an Eighty-thousand dollar fine for continuing to hand out bibles. If he doesn’t pay the fine he goes to prison until he can.
This courageous follower of Jesus definitely brings perspective to my little “trials,” and he also wakes me up to a reality that I have yet to encounter.
When following means suffering
Now, I am not talking to those who know what it is to truly suffer.
Yes, there are those in the Western Church who have truly known some gruesome trials.
But, let’s be honest–that isn’t most of us.
We sing and dance in amazing buildings, singing songs of victory, and yet I often wonder, “Victory over what?”
We pitch a hiss if the service is too long or the air conditioning goes out. There are no rockets or mortars raining down on us and our children each day.
In our reality, we can’t even imagine the kinds of suffering the Church in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East are enduring.
And yet, they courageously follow.
Hard things Jesus said…
I have also been studying what are called the “hard sayings” of Jesus this week:
Not too difficult. We like this one. He is our Shepherd-King and we like that image of following.
But remember, Kings don’t ask. They don’t beg. They command.
So, are you listening to, and following, your Shepherd-King when He states?
Yikes! That does seem harsh.
Jesus also said,
Giving up home and family? Do you really believe this? Would you do it if He asked?
You won’t truly know until he asks you to surrender something, or someone, you don’t want to lay down.
I love The Message version of the Book of Jude.
It is not exactly Gospel “light.”
Yet, it speaks to our times with the fire of holy honesty, and the confrontation that we might need in the last days of The Church:
1-2 I, Jude, am a slave to Jesus Christ and brother to James, writing to those loved by God the Father, called and kept safe by Jesus Christ. Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!
Fight with All You Have in You
3-4 Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master.
Lost Stars in Outer Space
5-7 I’m laying this out as clearly as I can, even though you once knew all this well enough and shouldn’t need reminding. Here it is in brief: The Master saved a people out of the land of Egypt. Later he destroyed those who defected. And you know the story of the angels who didn’t stick to their post, abandoning it for other, darker missions. But they are now chained and jailed in a black hole until the great Judgment Day. Sodom and Gomorrah, which went to sexual rack and ruin along with the surrounding cities that acted just like them, are another example. Burning and burning and never burning up, they serve still as a stock warning.
8 This is exactly the same program of these latest infiltrators: dirty sex, rule and rulers thrown out, glory dragged in the mud.
9-11 The Archangel Michael, who went to the mat with the Devil as they fought over the body of Moses, wouldn’t have dared level him with a blasphemous curse, but said simply, “No you don’t. God will take care of you!” But these people sneer at anything they can’t understand, and by doing whatever they feel like doing—living by animal instinct only—they participate in their own destruction. I’m fed up with them! They’ve gone down Cain’s road; they’ve been sucked into Balaam’s error by greed; they’re canceled out in Korah’s rebellion.
12-13 These people are eyesores at your love feasts as you worship and eat together. They’re giving you a black eye—carousing shamelessly, grabbing anything that isn’t nailed down. They’re—
Puffs of smoke pushed by gusts of wind;
late autumn trees stripped clean of leaf and fruit,
Doubly dead, pulled up by the roots;
wild ocean waves leaving nothing on the beach
but the foam of their shame;
Lost stars in outer space
on their way to the black hole.
14-16 Enoch, the seventh after Adam, prophesied of them: “Look! The Master comes with thousands of holy angels to bring judgment against them all, convicting each person of every defiling act of shameless sacrilege, of every dirty word they have spewed of their pious filth.” These are the complainers, the bellyachers, grabbing for the biggest piece of the pie, talking big, saying anything they think will get them ahead.
17-19 But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: “In the last days there will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore. They’ll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts.” These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!
* * *
20-21 But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!
22-23 Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.
24-25 And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.