Summary: Be prepared for challenges. We can expect hardships in life. We can stay on course by praying.
The moment the disciples put their faith in Jesus, they were declaring war against the devil. They have chosen to make a stand for the truth.
• The authorities and the people come against what they preach, sometimes out of selfish reasons, sometimes out of intolerance, and at other times, they were being influenced by the devil.
• So we have been reading in the book of Acts persecutions, threats, imprisonments and deaths.
Persecutions come in all forms, from the gravest – like Stephen and now James, being “put to death with the sword” (12:2), or to the most harmless ones, like some sarcastic remarks.
• Whatever it is, one thing is sure - a disciple of Christ can expect some headwind, because the devil is not happy at what he is seeing.
• It is not that we purposely ask for it, or choose to get ourselves into trouble.
• When we pledge our allegiance to Christ, we have already taken a stand with God and against the devil, with the truth and against sin.
Be prepared in these 2 ways:
(1) EXPECT HARDSHIPS IN LIFE
Paul tells Timothy: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 2:3)
It is important that we have this perspective, and be mentally prepared.
• Our belief in Christ does not immune us from the hardships of life.
• The health and wealth Gospel we hear sometimes – that God will bless us with good health and success in whatever we do – is lopsided and incomplete.
• They are half-truths. They are wrong, but only half the truth.
What is usually not explained is how God achieve these ends. He can achieve the same ends through hardships and pains, through trials and setbacks.
• God wanted to prepare Saul’s heart and He caused him to hear Stephen’s testimony and see to his death.
• God wanted to revive the church and He sent them threats, which resulted in the church having fervent prayer meetings.
• God wanted them to preach the Gospel beyond Jerusalem, and so He sent them an intense persecution.
God sent them everything that was unexpected. He sent them the negatives to bring out the positives, the fulfilment of His purposes.
• I’ve just finished reading a book by Jerry Sittser [The Will of God as a Way of Life] and he has this remark about the cross of Christ: “It was history’s darkest hour and greatest moment, an affront to the will of God (“Thou shall not kill”) and the fulfilment of God’s plan of redemption (Acts 4:23-31), a terrible injustice and the ultimate expression of God’s perfect justice and mercy.”
• Who would have guessed it, that God would use something so evil to achieve the greatest good, something so dark to bring forth the greatest light?
Life is hard. Life can be very hard even for a Christian.
I just visited a brother-in-Christ on Wed. He had diabetes and had his toes amputated a year back. He walks very slowly now with the help of a walking stick. Alone and without a job, he got some vouchers from a social worker to buy necessities and a church nearby to deliver food to him every day. The utilities were cut off because he couldn’t pay for them. No water and electricity in his house. His fridge was just a ‘sealed cupboard’ where he puts food. He has to ease himself and clean himself at the nearby coffee shop toilet.
And he is surviving. He says, “Jesus saved him!”
Life can be very hard on you. But learn to see it in the right light.
• This world is not our permanent home. There will be hardships and sufferings. 2 Cor 5:4 “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened…”
• This is the fallen world we live in, but God still rules. We’ve seen persecutions, threats, imprisonments and deaths in this book, but God still rules. His salvation plan for the world is still on schedule.
• And everything worked well. We know that for sure because we are believers today, in Singapore, after 2000 years.
James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” and went on to say they are good for us.
• Trials strengthen our faith and develop perseverance.
• We become more mature and complete because of them, and not apart from them. Put it plainly, we are better of having them, than not having them.
Paul said in Rom 8:35-36 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
• Paul experienced these but they did not drive a wedge between him and God.