Summary: We live in times of great stress. Everything around us is changing, and we feel lost. But Christ calls us to persevere and press on.
Christianity: A call to Persevere
We live in times of great stress. We read the news papers and shake our heads in disbelief. We watch the news and it depresses us. We look into our WhatsApp messages and most of them bring bad news. We hear about the economy doing badly. We hear about the GDP growth being the lowest in several years. Those of us who have investments look at the southward movement of the Sensex and start wondering what is in store for our future. Those of us who understand the larger economy hear about the government borrowing a large sum of money from the RBI and wonder if even our bank deposits are safe. We hear about the impending economic recession and wonder what is in store for us.
And if these things do not touch us personally, We go to the market and are shocked by the prices of essential things like dal and onions and the like. Then there are illnesses, and the high cost of medical care. We have been praying for one person or the other in BBF for healing. There are families that are constantly under stress and under attack from Satan.
And as a Church we are concerned about instances of persecution. Christians are constantly under scrutiny for trying to convert people. There are many places where worshipping as a congregation itself is a challenge. Christian NGOs are facing enhanced scrutiny of their financial transactions. Christian visitors from abroad are questioned about their true motives for coming to India.
I can go on and on, but I think we get the picture. Things don’t seem to be all hunky dory around us.
So what is the Christian response to such an environment around us? Does the Bible give us any guidance on that? You bet!! After all, there is no aspect of life that the Bible does not help us with and these troubled times are no exception.
The Bible calls Christians to Persevere. In the face of trials, tribulations, temptations, persecution, war, poverty, or whatever it is that we are faced with, Christians are called to persevere.
To get an idea of about the extent of that call, let us turn to Chapter 4 of the 2 Corinthians.
You will notice that the apostle Paul starts this chapter by asserting .. “we do not lose heart”. “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. (2 Cor 4:1 ESV). Then towards the end of the Chapter he repeats this phrase “we do not lose heart”. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16 ESV). The chapter starts and ends with this assertion, and inside the chapter he explains why “we do not lose heart”.
Now, those of us who have studied the life and ministry of Paul knew very well that he has suffered much. Conversion to Christianity was not a cake walk or a bed of roses for him. If there is anyone who suffered for the sake of Gospel it is Paul. The incidents in the book of Acts will convince us of that. But if we don’t have time to read through the sufferings fo Paul from Acts, Paul himself provides a summary, a precis, if we might, in, 2 Cor 11:23-28 (NIV) Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
I want to us remember that it is this Paul who says repeatedly “we do not lose heart”. Amazing isn’t it?
Let us look at some of the reasons that encouraged Paul. Let us go back to 2 Cor Ch 4.
1. First in the list is Faith. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, (2 Cor 4:13 ESV). Paul is referring to King David here who when he was distressed, kept his faith. Faith is a powerful thing. Jesus affirmed it multiple times in the gospels. He said this to the unclean woman, he said this to the blind beggar, he said so to the 10 lepers, he told this to the centurion. He even told his disciples that if they have faith as small as a mustard seed, they can move mountains. Faith.. that is what encouraged apostle Paul to affirm “so we do not lose heart”. This morning, let us examine the extent of our faith. Do we have faith? If we do not have enough of it, let us pray that the Lord will strengthen our faith.