Psalms 66:8-12 ESV
“Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”
Lately the Lord has been leading me to many passages of Scripture on the subjects of suffering, trials and tribulations, the testing of our faith, enemies pursuing us, hardships, and Christian persecution, even coming from within the gatherings of what is called “church.” It is as if he is getting us ready for hard times to come and/or he is wanting to pour out his encouragement on those who are going through enormous suffering for his sake right now.
We who trust the Lord Jesus Christ with our lives have much to be thankful for, even in the direst of circumstances. The Lord is our strength. He is our helper. He is our counselor and our comforter, too. He leads us in the way that is right for us to go, and he goes before us to prepare the way for us. Even if we face much rejection and persecution, we have to know that God is working even where and when we can’t see him working in human hearts.
We can be thankful that, even when our faith is being tested, that the Lord will give us all that we need to endure and to persevere, and to keep on walking in faithful obedience to him. He will keep our feet from slipping if we put our trust in him, and if we listen to his counsel, and if we do what he says to do. And we can be thankful for the many times he has spared our lives and/or he has spared us from far worse things than we have already gone through for his sake, and for the sake of the truth of the gospel.
Yes, the Lord will test our faith. He will allow us to suffer physically or emotionally and to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, even within the gatherings of the church (or what is called church). For he said if we follow him with our lives that we will be hated and persecuted as he was hated and persecuted, and for mostly all the same reasons, too. How they treated him they will treat us also if our lives are dedicated to obeying our Lord Jesus.
The Scriptures do not paint a rosy picture of Christianity like the worldly church is painting for us with all its glimmer and stage productions and cool sounding bands and praise teams and motivational speakers who crack jokes and who show movie clips and who entertain the people. The Scriptures do not teach that all will be fun and games and laughter and good times, either.
The Scriptures also do not teach the friendly version of the gospel which makes people feel good about themselves right where they are, even if they are living in deliberate and habitual sin against God and against their spouses and their children and their neighbors and other Christians, too. The word of God does not coddle the self-indulgent in their sins while ignoring the damage that they are doing to themselves and to other humans.
And the Scriptures do not give church leaders the authority to abuse their people and to throw out those who are following Jesus wholeheartedly, and in order to embrace the more ecumenical “accept all” mentality that is permeating today’s modern “churches.” The word of God does not give them the authority to abuse the Scriptures, either, and to make up their own god and their own gospel in order to appease human flesh and attract the world.
But this is what is happening, at least here in America, and it is spreading far and wide and multitudes are flocking to these flesh-driven and market-driven “churches” because they are being entertained, and because no one is confronting them in their sins nor are they calling them to repentance (forsaking their sins) and to following Jesus Christ in obedience to his ways. Instead they are teaching that a profession of faith secures them eternal life.
And so those who are following the Scriptures, and who are following the Lord in obedience, and who are living holy and godly lives to the glory of God, and who are spreading the truth of the Scriptures, in contrast to the lies which are being spread, they are largely not being accepted in today’s modern “churches” where the church doesn’t want to offend anyone with the truth because they want the world to love being in their gatherings.
But if you are one of the persecuted, because you are obeying the Lord, and not because you are doing wrong, you can be encouraged that you are able to suffer for the sake of Christ and for his gospel, for to this we are called. And you can be thankful to the Lord for the strength that he gives, and the endurance, and the joy in suffering, too, and how he will carry us through it all, no matter how hard or how bad it gets. And good will come out of it for the salvation for human lives.
Psalms 66:13-14 ESV
“I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
I will perform my vows to you,
that which my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.”
So, when we go through such trials and tribulations and church abuses, and when our faith is put to the test, and when we are mistreated and rejected and cast aside because we don’t fit with today’s modern “churches,” we can rejoice knowing that God is on our side and that we are doing his will and that he has a plan and a purpose for it all.
And this is where I need to remind us that the church is not a physical building. It is not a church denomination. Even if it is called “church,” that doesn’t make it the church. The church is also not a corporation of the state (a business), although this is what many have turned it into being. The church is the people of God who have died (and are dying) with Christ to sin and who are living to God and to his righteousness in the power of God.
We (the people of God) are God’s building which is made up of living stones (people). We are the temple of God. We are his sanctuary. We, the people of God, are God’s house. He lives within us. The church is not a physical place where we meet. The church meets in physical places but also on the internet, too, or over the telephone or via texting, etc. So, we don’t go to the church. We are the church.
So, when we come into God’s house now with offerings, we come into his holy presence within our own hearts in our times of personal worship with him. At this time we offer up to him our hearts and our souls, our talents, our time, our gifts, and everything we are and own in this life, and we lay it all down at his feet. And we surrender to him, and we submit to his will for our lives to go where he sends us and to do and to say what he commands.
[Ac. 2:42-47; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 3:9,16-17; 1 Co 6:19-20; 1 Co. 12:1-31; 2 Co 5:1; 2 Co 6:14-16; Eph 1:4,22; Eph 2:19-22; Eph 4:1-32; Eph 5:17-30; Col 1:18-24; Col 2:19; Col 3:12-16; 2 Tim 1:9; 2 Tim 2:21; 1 Pet 1:13-16; 1 Pet 2:4-9; Titus 2:11-14; Heb 3:13; Lu 9:23-26; Jude 1:20-21; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10]
Rejoice in the Lord
By Ron Hamilton
God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness He giveth a song.
Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit I will bear.
O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake,
He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried and purified,
I shall come forth as gold.
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