Did Someone Tell You Christianity Was Going To Be Easy?
The Big Idea: Because God is faithful, I can do my best in the midst of suffering.
Maybe you heard it at a youth camp, or in a sermon, or from a well-meaning friend: Becoming a Christian is great! It solves all your problems and makes life so much easier!
Here’s the truth: Christianity is not for wimps. The world (most of it) hated Jesus. And it’s not too fond of His followers either. While we might not suffer like the first century Christians did, Peter’s words of encouragement to them can help us live a life of service to each other and courage in the face of ridicule even today. Brett Clemmer explores Peter’s call to be the church and face suffering in light of eternity.
Walking with Jesus in a Weird World
Did Someone Tell You Christianity Was Going To Be Easy?
Well, good morning, guys. It’s great to see you this morning. You all made it. Everybody woke up. That’s a good first step, right?
Well, we are continuing our study of 1 Peter this morning, Walking With Jesus in a Weird World. You know, as we’ve studied this letter, just want to remind you a few things. Peter wrote this letter to the churches in what was called Asia Minor which today we call Turkey. He’s talked about a range of subjects, right? He’s talked about faith, he’s talked about integrity, he’s talked about marriage. Then, for the last couple of chapters, he’s talked about suffering. Today’s passage sort of brings the topic of suffering to a conclusion. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about the idea of suffering and we’re going to talk about it in this sense. Did someone tell you Christianity was going to be easy? Did someone tell you that? What were they thinking?
You know, you think about suffering and, of course, we’re talking about suffering for your faith. We like to point to the pilgrims, the original pilgrims that sailed over here on the Mayflower. They were escaping religious persecution. What we don’t often talk about in this country is that very quickly America pretty much became a secular country. We like to act like we’ve been a very Christian country for a long time. We had a lot of Christian founding fathers but the country itself has never really been all that Christian. But because of sort of this founder’s DNA, for a long time, Christianity has at least been sort of the status quo. It’s sort of been the accepted source where we look for our values and our morals. That’s why right now it’s so distressing to think about how Christianity may be in this country becoming less influential, becoming less a source of our morals and values. That makes us frustrated. Now, all you have to do is open up Facebook to see how frustrated some people are getting about this, all the ranting and raving that’s going on.
You know, it’s interesting because I think the early churches that Peter was writing to, they were sort of in a similar situation in terms of the influence that Christianity was going to have. We’re seeing the influence of Christianity perhaps decrease and, in Peter’s day, the church was just beginning to see the influence of Christianity just begin. The Christians were scattered throughout the Middle East because of religious persecution and so Peter’s writing this to the church as it has been scattered and then planted in Asia Minor, in Turkey.
In this day that Peter’s writing to these Christians, Christianity was not really very well understood. In fact, there were some weird things that Christians were being accused of. For instance, we eat the body and the blood of Christ, therefore we’re cannibals. That was one of the accusations that was made, that Christians are cannibals. They eat the body and blood of their founder. That’s weird. Or, you know, they call each other brothers and sisters. Are they really brothers and sisters? One of the charges leveled against the church was that the church was full of incestuous relationships because they called each other brothers and sisters. They were persecuted for this.
Peter himself was killed during Nero’s reign. We know Emperor Nero, the Roman Emperor Nero just dreamed up new ways of torturing and killing people. He blamed the Christians after Rome burned. He blamed the Christians for that. He tried to blame it on the Jews, by the way, but the Jews had some people in court, in the influential places, enough to sort of deflect off over to the Christians. The Christians took the brunt of the blame and that sort of started a big persecution at the Roman Empire. With sort of that as our context, let’s go ahead and look at 1 Peter chapter 4 and we’re going to read verses 7 to 19. 1 Peter chapter 4 verses 7 to 19.
“The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God. Whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies. In order that in everything, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Verse 12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you’re blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as meddler. Yet, if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in that name for it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God. If it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those that do not obey the gospel of God? If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful creator while doing good.”
Let’s pray for God to open our eyes to his truth in this passage today.
Father, we invite you into this room with us. Lord, your spirit is here. Would you make him real to us in a way this morning as we look at the words of your scripture? Lord, would you open our minds, open our hearts to the truth that you have for us, Lord, in a way that maybe we’ve not seen before, a new way that touches our hearts, Father, in a way that inspires us to believe that you are a good God, that you are a powerful God, and that you love us? Lord, I pray for understanding this morning, I pray that you would speak. Lord, show us how this passage and these reminders about how to suffer well, how they apply even to us today, not just in the early church, Lord, but even now in the twenty-first century. Lord, we put ourselves in your hands, asking you to bless us this morning and use us for your glory in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let’s look at what we’re going to talk about this morning. Let me ask you a question first. Have you ever been disillusioned about Christianity? I mean, I don’t know about you, but I grew up in the church. When I was a kid, I remembering going to a Christian camp for a week. We did games and crafts during the day. Then, at night, we listed to speakers. I remember some scary stuff. I remember they talked a lot about hell at this camp and how terrible that was going to be. I also remember distinctly them telling us how great it was to be a Christian, how awesome it was to be a Christian. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be a Christian. It’s great to have a father who loves us enough to sacrifice his son. It’s great to have God and the person of Jesus Christ who would come down and walk among us, call us brothers, call us friends, to have God and the person of the Holy Spirit who inhabits our hearts, who lives inside us, who counsels us and encourages us and comforts us.
You know, on the spiritual and metaphysical side, being a Christian is pretty awesome. On the existential side, sometimes not so much. It can be rough. Being a Christian has caused me difficulty, not been thrown in a colosseum with animals, but it’s caused me difficulty. I remember in college, freshman year of college, I was sort of an excited young guy going to school, excited because of the girls that were going to be there. I grew up in the church. I was a Christian. I’d get into school. I went to a tiny school in the Northeast that put the liberal in liberal arts. We had all kinds of people there. It’s like the second or third week of school and this girl on my floor, the prettiest girl on my floor, and I are hanging out. This is awesome. Then, a couple weeks into school, somehow the conversation turned to religion and I didn’t get two sentences out before I offended her somehow. I just thought I was talking about normal stuff, but just talking about normal stuff about my faith was somehow offensive to her.
End of that year, I applied to be an RA. My resident director said, “Hey, you’re a great candidate.” They interviewed me and they sent me on the process. I was the highest ranked freshman in my group to be interviewed for an RA. Go into the next round of interviews and I had a very strange question that was asked of me by the little committee of people that was interviewing me to be an RA. They said, “We see that you belong to the Christian Fellowship group on campus.” I said, “Oh yeah, I do.” “Well, if you’re an RA, are you going to invite freshman from your floor to join that club?” I said, “Well, if I was a Greek, I would invite people to explore the fraternity. If I was any club, if somebody was interested in that, wouldn’t I invite them to come and check it out? Yeah, of course, I’ll invite people to check out the Christian Fellowship if that’s something that interests them.” “Oh, okay.” That was the end of my interview. I was not an RA the next year. Now, was it because I was a Christian? I don’t know. That’s what ended the interview.
Maybe you’ve run into places like this where just the subtle mention of your faith sort of seems to bring a conversation to an end. Maybe it ends your participation in a project or you being considered for a project. Maybe you’ve had situations socially where as soon as your Christianity comes up, people sort of stiffen up on you. My dad negotiated this. He was in the financial world on Wall Street. He remembers very well being at a dinner one day with a bunch of guys from different companies. They were talking sort of deals that they were thinking about doing and it was the after dinner and they were going around and taking drink orders. You know, this guy ordered his single malt scotch and this guy ordered his wine and this guy ordered his drink. They got to my dad and one of the guys that was with my dad goes, “Oh, he doesn’t drink. He’s a Christian.” My dad sort of goes, “Oh.” I don’t know what he was going to order, probably a glass of wine. Everybody around the table sort of stiffened up. All the talk changed. Everything became very surface. They were just very uncomfortable around that.
You know, you look at the news today. You see business owners being persecuted, outright persecuted for not wanting to supply their services to support a gay wedding. Now, I want to say, and you can send the emails to me after I say this, that I don’t think it’s a sin for you to bake a cake or provide flowers for a gay wedding. You’re a businessman. You can still voice your opinion or voice your feelings on what you think is right. At the same time, I thought we lived in a country where you were allowed to not participate in a ceremony that violated your religious views. Apparently, right now we may not live in a country like that. We just have to be willing to take the consequences for that.
In Peter’s day, it was more serious than cakes and flowers. Not every Christian community in every place was under the threat of persecution. It was not completely widespread, but there was enough of it going on. The church knew about it. They knew about churches in other places that had been persecuted. They knew that there was a possibility that they could face it themselves. Now, kind of an interesting this about this passage is that Peter says don’t be surprised. The Jews were actually used to be persecuted for their faith. They had been very much under the oppression of Rome. The Gentiles were not used to being persecuted for their faith.
Rome had sort of incorporated all the different religions of the different places that they conquered. Sometimes they would even sort of take a local deity that people conquered, give it a Roman name, and build a temple to it and that way they would sort of keep the people in line. Yeah, worship whatever you want but you also worship Caesar. Caesar is lord and you can have your little local god too. The Christians and the Jews before them were the first to say, “No, no, no. Caesar’s not lord. There’s one god.” They were persecuted for that. The Jews were used to that but the new Gentile Christians were not used to being persecuted for their faith and that’s why Peter’s saying to them, “Hey, don’t be so surprised.” I don’t know. Maybe somebody was walking around then saying, “Christianity’s great. It’s easy. Everything’s awesome.” This is the thing that Peter’s saying. Hey, don’t be surprised. I don’t know if somebody told you this is going to be easy, but it’s not going to be easy.
Let’s look at our outline today. We’re going to talk about this passage that we have is sort of in two pieces. We’re going to break it up in two pieces and then we’re going to talk about the ramifications. The first piece is this: the end is near. Then, the next part we’ll call So Don’t Be So Surprised. Then, finally, we’ll talk about how to do we thrive while we’re suffering.
First, Peter says the end is near. Here’s a cartoon that I found. The end is near. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe that would be good. It would sure make things a lot easier if Jesus would just come back, wouldn’t it? We know two things about Jesus coming back. One is that the gospel will be preached to all people before he comes back. Secondly, we don’t know when he’s coming back. Those are the two things we know. Don’t hold your breath. You’ll pass out. The end is near.
In verse 7, Peter says, “The end of all things is at hand.” That’s how he starts this little passage. What if you really knew the end was near? What would you do if you really knew the end was near? Like it was eminent, your end was eminent. What would the world say? The world would say, “Well, sin. Live it up. The end is near. Eat, drink, and be merry. Do whatever you feel like. Go for it. It doesn’t matter.” That’s sort of the secular, maybe Neolithic view of things. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Maybe if you’re religious, you might think, “Man, if the end is near, I better get my act together.”
I was sitting in a coffee shop that shall remain nameless. This particular chain of stores has many, many stores throughout the United States and around the world. I was in my least favorite one. I love getting my Americanos here, but this particular location I can’t stand going to. Here’s why. Most of the stores that I go to, the employees of this particular chain are awesome, but this one, not so much. In fact, the staff here was talking with such incessant idiocy that I put my ear buds in and cranked my music up just so that I wouldn’t have to listen to them talking about whatever the dumb things that they were talking about were. Finally, the guy that was sort of the loudest guy walked out of the restaurant. I’m like, “All right. Good.” I took my ear buds out. He comes running back in a minute later. This is what he says. He goes, “Quick! The district manager just pulled up. Everybody look busy.” I thought, “This guy. If this district manager knew what this guy was saying.”
You know, I think that’s kind of sometimes the attitude that’s reflected in Christians too. We kind of loaf around, doing what we please, being sort of lukewarm, annoying Christians, because in the back of our minds we think, “When the boss shows up, we’ll look busy. You know, who knows when … That’s so far off in the future I don’t have to worry about that right now.” Jesus actually confronts this in the parable of the talents. The one servant buried his treasure. He didn’t do anything with it. That’s the one that bore the brunt of the rich man’s wrath, of the master’s wrath, because he didn’t invest, he didn’t work hard, he just buried it and waited for the master to come home. I think that’s what a lot of Christians do. God’s given us gifts to invest, to use, and we just bury them, waiting for the master to come home. We’re just going to go, “Here you go. You can have it back now.” That’s not what he wants from us.
What are we supposed to do if the end is near? Peter gives us … We’re going to go through it verse by verse, this first section here. Peter gives us exactly what he thinks we should do. Verse 7, “The end of all things is at hand. Therefore …” This therefore covers the rest of the passage. “The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” The first thing that Peter exhorts us to do is to pray. In order to pray, he says you need to have your wits about you. Be clear-minded, be sober-minded so that you can pray.
Verse 8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly since love covers a multitude of sins.” We are to love one another, not lip service, but real love, earnest love. Peter joins with Paul and John and they all reiterate Jesus’ words to the disciples, the new commandment, John 13:34 says, “Love one another. Just I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Remember, and you’re going to see this throughout this passage, Peter spent a lot of time with Jesus. What Peter is saying in this entire book but specifically here are things that Jesus said to him and now he’s passing those things along. Peter’s not making stuff up. Peter’s passing along the things that he heard from his teacher.
When he says, “Love one another earnestly since love covers a multitude of sins,” he’s calling us to community. When we love one another like Christ loves us, we’re willing to sacrifice for each other. We’re more concerned about each other’s good even than we are about our own good. I call this being other-ish versus being selfish. You know, you’ve been around a selfish person. Everything comes down to how it affects them. Imagine if you were an other-ish person who actually what you really looked at was how everything affected the people around you, how it affected others. Peter’s calling us to be other-ish.
Then he gives us a specific example in verse 9, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Now, this is a biggie. I think we’ve talked before in here about the Middle Eastern view on hospitality. Back in this time, the inns that people could stay in, they were often dirty, sometimes even unsafe. If you went somewhere, you didn’t really want to stay in an inn unless you absolutely had to. What you would do is you would find someone that either you knew or a friend of a friend of a friend, maybe, or in this case, Christians would find other Christians and they would stay with those Christians. If you came into town and they found out you were a follower of the way, they’d be like, “Oh, those three people that live over there, they’re all followers of the way too.” You would find one and you would ask them if you could stay with them. They were pretty much obligated to say yes.
I just heard a comedian talk about this the other day. The sound of the doorbell. Remember like twenty years ago, twenty-five years ago, what the sound of the doorbell meant? It’s like, “All right. Company.” Now the sound of your doorbell, you’re like, “Who’s at my door? That better be UPS. That better not be somebody that I don’t know. That better not be somebody that I don’t know who I have to invite into my house. It better not be somebody that I don’t know that I have to invite into my house and let them stay with me. If I don’t have a spare room, that means I give them my bed. If I didn’t get enough food at the store, at the market, to feed my family, I’ve got to feed them first and then we get whatever’s leftover.” That’s what it means to show hospitality.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had to show hospitality like that, I would grumble. I would be frustrated. I would be annoyed. Peters says show hospitality without grumbling. Now, does he mean bite your tongue? No, he doesn’t mean bite your tongue because he’s giving this as an example of how we love one another. Love is a motivation of the heart. He’s not just saying bite your tongue. He’s saying you need to love each other so much that you can show hospitality without grumbling, that you’re welcoming somebody into your house. Sharing is hard. We’re called to do that.
Verse 10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” What is varied grace? Other translations handle this a little bit better than the ESV does. Basically what he’s saying is that God’s grace gives different people different gifts, various people get various gifts, varied grace. When you have a gift, Peter’s saying, it’s not yours. You didn’t create that in yourself. That’s something that God gave to you so the gift itself is a privilege. It’s something that we’re entrusted with. 1 Corinthians 4 says, “Whoever’s been given a trust is required to be a good steward of that trust.” Peter’s echoing Paul’s words here.
Then he gives us some examples. Verse 11, he gives us three examples. “Whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God …” What is oracles of God? It’s whoever speaks, speak as if you’re actually speaking the very words of God. This is a call to be bold. In Matthew 10:19 to 20, Jesus tells the disciples that they’ll be persecuted and that they’ll get an opportunity to sort of give an account and not to be anxious about it. He says, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say. For what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speaks, but the spirit of the Father speaking through you. You’re speaking the very words of God.” If you’re in a situation, Peter’s saying, where you have to speak up for your faith, don’t be anxious about it. Oh man, I hope I use exactly the right words. Just talk and trust God. He’s going to give you the words.
The next phrase, “Whoever serves as one who serves by the strength God supplies.” The word supplies here has the idea of lavish provision. You know, sometimes I think we serve and we worry about getting worn out. You can’t get worn out because your priorities are out of order. God gives you a ministry to your family first and then to your brothers and sisters in the faith and then to the world through your work and church and those kinds of things. What he’s saying here is that you don’t have to hold back because you feel like you’re going to run out of strength. God will lavishly supply strength. Don’t ration out your service. If somebody needs your help and God calls you to help, then just go help. Just go do what you’re supposed to do and don’t over think it.
Then, finally, Peter wraps up this first section. He reminds us of what the purpose of all this is and then he gives us what we call a doxology. At the end of verse 11, he says, “In order that in everything, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever. Amen.” If we look at this section, here’s what we see. Here’s what we do. When the end is near, this is what you do. You pray with a clear mind, you love earnestly, you show hospitality without grumbling, you use your gifts freely, you speak fearlessly, you serve tirelessly, without any fear that you won’t be able to do so, and finally, you glorify God deservedly. Pray with a clear mind, love earnestly, show hospitality without grumbling, use your gifts freely, speak fearlessly, serve tirelessly, and then glorify God deservedly. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the end of what they asked me to cover this morning? It’s like, “I’m done.” We have another half of this passage to go so let’s move through it quickly.
Here’s the question. Don’t be surprised. You know, there’s a lot of great organizations out there that work with people being persecuted for their faith in foreign countries. International Justice Mission is one of them. Open Doors USA, which was founded by Brother Andrew, was another. Each month, according to Open Doors, each month, listen to this, 322 Christians are killed for their faith around the world. That’s over 3800 a year that we know about. 214 churches and Christians properties are destroyed every month and 772 acts of violence are committed against Christians every month for their faith, which would include beatings, rapes, abductions, arrests, and forced marriages.
This persecution is real. In fact, some people would say that there are more people killed for Christianity in the last 50 years than in the first 300 years of the early church. More people have been killed in the last 50 years than in the first 300 years of the early church. Persecution is real and it’s today. If you go to OpenDoorsUSA.org, you can read stories of some of the people, real stories that have been persecuted. A Christian made the mistake of sitting in a café during Ramadan in a Muslim country and a bunch of teenagers attacked him and tried to kill him. People in Kenya in a seminary that was attacked and dozens of people killed just for being in a Christian university. People are dying for their faith. People are being assaulted and persecuted for their faith today.
When you look at 1 Peter 4:12, maybe you see Peter’s words with a little bit of a new understanding. “Beloved, do not be surprised by the fiery trial when it comes to you to test you as though something strange was happening to you.” It’s not strange. It’s not first century Roman gladiator, Emperor Nero people being killed in colosseums by wild animals for sport persecution, but there is still persecution going on today. What does Peter say verses 13 and 14? “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you’re insulted for the name of Christ, you’re blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
How can you rejoice in suffering? Well, one thing is when you rejoice for Christ’s sake, you’re showing that Jesus is a truth teller. In John 15:18 and 19, he says, “Remember the world hated me first. When the world hates you, remember the world hated me first.” Then he says, “If you belong to the world, it would love you as its own.” “In this world, you will have troubles,” Jesus said later on, “But take heart, I’ve overcome the world.”
You can rejoice in suffering because you know who’s going to win. Yeah, Peter throws some warnings in here. He’s like, “Hey, if you’re going to suffer, don’t suffer for being a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler.” Isn’t that funny how busybody and murderer get put in the same sentence as if they’re equal? He reminds us that judgment, not punishment, but judgment starts with the people of God. We’re to be judged first, Peter says and Jesus said. We’re going to be judged based on how we’ve lived our lives.
We think of suffering as a bad thing, right? We think of suffering that we should avoid at all costs. Then you hear these crazy Christian preachers and Bible studies about suffering is a good thing and we should embrace suffering. We’re like, “Well, that’s crazy. That’s not how we live our lives.” You know what? We actually do embrace suffering.
I could give you a couple of examples but let me give you this one: basic training. How many of you went to basic training in the military? Now, did you suffer? Yeah, you suffered. Let me bring it up a notch. Any Navy Seals in the room? Well, I want you to think about Navy Seal training. Go read or watch American Sniper about Chris Kyle or read Fearless about Adam Brown who’s a Christian guy who overcame a lot to be a Navy Seal. These guys suffer together. They do push-ups in the ocean. They carry boats and logs together. They go through sleep deprivation. They dive into a pool with all their gear on or with their hands tied together. Can you imagine getting chucked into a pool with your hands tied together? You go down to the bottom, bend your knees, push up, get up to the top, take your breath, go back down to the bottom.
They embrace the suffering. Why do they do that? Well, it builds unit cohesion. They do it because they have a higher purpose. The training serves a higher purpose. They want to protect each other. They want to fight for their country. They want to protect the honor of the military and of the brotherhood that they have with their fellow Navy Seals. When the military sends its troupes on a mission, they may know their immediate purpose but they often have little or no idea how that mission might fit into the overall battle plan or the overall plans for the war. They just do what they’re told to do. They go and execute the mission that they’ve been given. They understand their battle but not necessarily the war. They trust their commanders. They trust that their cause is righteous and they stand up for each other.
Why aren’t Christians known for this? Why does the word Christian not arouse a picture of men fiercely devoted to the gospel and to each other? We can suffer together as Christians because we have a higher purpose too just like the Navy Seals do. We’re also here to protect and serve each other. It’s what the first part of this passage was all about. We’re here to lift up, to honor, to bring glory to God, not just a country, but to God.
How do we pull this off, then? How do we deal with suffering? Let me say that it’s not about dealing with suffering. It’s not about surviving suffering. It’s about thriving while we’re suffering. It think Peter gives us this answer in verse 19. He says, “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful God while doing good.” In fact, if I was going to get you to memorize a verse this week, it would be this verse, 1 Peter 4:19. “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful God while doing good.”
Here’s the Big Idea then. Because God is faithful, I will keep doing my best in the midst of suffering. If you’re going to thrive when you suffer, you don’t just keep your head down, be a nice guy, and try to get through it. You pray fervently for the gospel to spread, you stand up for the cause of Christ everyday, you serve and love others no matter what the cost, knowing that God’s going to give you the strength that you need, you open your home generously without grumbling, you speak boldly if that’s what God has called you to do, you do your best, motivated by faith in a trustworthy God. We’re not waiting around for the boss to show up so we can look busy. We’re serving God and each other boldly until the day Christ returns.
I know last week David told you you could choose to play these two guys that he put up on the screen. You could play them in either chess or basketball. You could play them in chess or basketball, you and one other person against these other two guys. Then he put up a picture of Lebron James. Of course, everybody chose basketball, right? You don’t play chess with Lebron James as your partner. You play basketball. Let me turn that example around a little bit and say this. There’s no game. You’re going to war. You’re going to fight a tough enemy who wants to destroy you. To survive, you may have to go through extreme suffering and hardship. You may be punched, kicked, shot at, and thrown in icy cold water, but you’ll have a partner. You can take one person with you: Lebron James or a Navy Seal. Who are you going to take with you? You’re going to take the Navy Seal, right? If you’re going to play basketball, you take Lebron, but if you’re going to go to war, you take a Navy Seal. Guys, we’re in a war. Who are you going to take with you? I’m taking Jesus.
Father, we don’t face persecution here like people around the world do. We’re not losing our homes and being assaulted in the streets with impunity and our daughters are not being forced to marry people that they don’t know or want to marry. We’re not having acid thrown in our faces. Lord, our persecution is more subtle. It’s cultural. Lord, it’s hard to stand up when your comfort is threatened. Lord, I pray that you give us strength, that you would help us to really believe that you’re a trustworthy God, that you would help us to love each other earnestly and serve each other without fear of running out of strength, that we would speak boldly without fear of running out of words, that we would take care of each other without grumbling, and, Lord, that within all of that, we would recognize that our mission may be clear, but the higher purpose is your purpose and we can trust you because you’re a trustworthy guy. Go with us this week, Lord. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.