February 22, 2012

Because He won, I can too

Back in the days when the Bible was written, becoming a Christian was dangerous. In some parts of the world, it is still that way. As “human rights” organizations wield their influence, it might soon be the same in North America. Here is a description of the situation in A.D. 60-70.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:32–38)
This letter was written to Jewish people who had become Christians. That was part of the reason for their ill treatment. They had seemingly abandoned their beliefs to follow the one their countrymen had believed was something other than He claimed — so they crucified Him. These Hebrew Christians were under pressure so this entire letter details for them how faith in Christ offers complete salvation. His sacrifice is far superior to the “blood of goats and calves” because Jesus Christ destroyed the one, Satan, who had the power of death and He “delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

These early Christians knew that. God had enlightened them and even though their struggles were difficult, they needed to remember how God had filled them with joy and confidence in their heavenly reward. They simply needed to endure.

My Christian experience does not include heavy persecution. I’ve been laughed at and mocked, but mildly. I don’t know what it would be like to have my possessions plundered. However, being a Christian is not a walk in the park. If outside forces are not screaming reproach, my spiritual enemy certainly does. I’ve been reading some of my old spiritual journals. The pages may not be spattered with blood, but they are splattered with tears. 

Spiritual warfare involves being told lies by Satan, of whom Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) 

If the word “good” can be used of the devil, he is good at telling lies. He deceived Eve who was innocent of sin and perfectly cared for by God in a perfect place. Since then, no one is innocent, nor do we live in a perfect place. Even though God is sovereign and able to care for us, we are never satisfied and think our own way is better. This is one of Satan’s lies and easily puts us in position to fall for more of the same.

Jesus came to deliver us from such bondage, yet He even said that it would be through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of God. Living in His kingdom also involves “a hard struggle with sufferings” making us an easy mark for the lie, “Oh, God really does not want the best for you . . . .” and variations thereof.

If struggle and tribulation were all I knew, I would not want to live by faith; shrinking back would have an appeal. However, God knows what to do. He offers His people peace and joy, even in our troubles. He gives us grace to endure, even to face ungodly persecution with confidence. Some who observe such responses say this cannot be explained unless God is in it. 

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
I say that such responses are impossible unless God lives in my heart.

Lord, whether big battles or small skirmishes, spiritual warfare is my lot too. It may not be as much or as physical as those persecuted in other times and places, but I know the enemy wants to destroy me and rob me of my confidence in You. I am so thankful that in any tribulation, You give peace. Because You have overcome all that the world can throw at You, I am able to do the same.

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