Summary: The Bible has always been honest with us about the potential dangers of discipleship. It speaks of the real possibilities of abuse, prison and even death. Is there ever a time when it's NOT worth it to be a Christian?
CHILDREN’S SERMON – Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego
OPEN: I read an interesting article this week in Christianity Today. The title was “Was It Worth It?” and it tried to address the tragedy that’s going on now in Afghanistan. Their opening comment was this: “(Christianity Today) surveyed 15 (religious) leaders on what they are lamenting about the American withdrawal and Taliban takeover; how they’re praying for Afghanistan’s future; what they think American Christians can learn from the war; how they see the long-term impact on the mission field; and whether the decades of investment by Americans troops and foreign Christian workers were worthwhile or wasted.”
What I found interesting was that much of what I read from “Religious Leaders” did not seem to focus on whether it was worth it for Christian workers to have expended so much effort talking to the Afghans about Christ. Most of the answers seemed to say things like this: “I lament lost lives, lost freedoms, rampant injustice, the victory of tyranny and terror. The bad guys won. We live in a world where a coalition of the richest and most powerful nations in history collectively persuaded themselves that they were powerless to stop the descent of a nation into anarchy and barbarism….”
Another one said “it is hard not to feel like all our efforts were turned to ash this week by the Taliban’s victory, aided and abetted by the US government’s decision to abandon our allies, betray our purpose, and make vain the sacrifice and hardship of countless thousands who worked and served there.” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/august-web-only/afghanistan-christians-prayer-lament-united-states-taliban.html?utm_source=CT+Pastors+Newsletter&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=237992&utm_content=6609&utm_campaign=email)
When I first read that I thought: “I understand what you’re saying!” But what troubled me was that – in this Christian magazine these (and others) seemed to focus a lot more on the emptiness of the political decisions our nation made in Afghanistan.
But, what about the efforts of the CHRISTIAN WORKERS in that nation? Was that in vain? Was It Worth It? Knowing that Christians in Afghanistan were going to be hunted down, imprisoned, and tortured and killed. Was all their effort in reaching some of the Afghans for Christ… was it WORTH IT? (to be fair - there were answers to that question in the article, it just didn’t seem to be the main focus of the article).
In our text today, the writer of Hebrews addresses that very question. The question? Is there ever a time when being a Christian is NOT worth it?
All through Hebrews 11, we read about the great men and women of Faith. The writer has been building toward this climax for several verses and then we read: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection.” Hebrews 11:32-35a
YEAH!!!!! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! That’s the kind of Christianity I signed up for! I picture myself like a white knight riding into battle - Conquering kingdoms; stopping the mouths of lions; quenching the power of fire; being made mighty in war… and putting foreign armies to flight. That’s the kind of Christianity I can sink my teeth into.
But then… Hebrews turns from focusing on victory and power, and turns to sorrow and loss: “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:35b-38
Now, you would think that this would be a turn-off. A poison pill to faith. I mean, who would want a religion that promises abuse, prison and even death? Well… not many. That’s why the “Health and Wealth” preachers do so well. One person noted that “The health and wealth gospel basically says: God wants you to be healthy and wealthy, and if you just had enough faith, you would be blessed by God with health and wealth.”
ILLUS: An example of this foolishness, can be seen in this meme of one of the primary preachers of this heresy - a guy by the name of Joel Osteen. Apparently he once said: “You’ve got to give God permission to increase you. Stretch your faith. The only thing that limits Him is your ability to receive.”