Summary: During times of hardship we need to remain strong and stand in the face of the opposition.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen”. With these words, a monk of the Augustinian order by the name of Martin Luther began the Reformation. He had written many books and pamphlets regarding the Bible and what God’s Word says, more than a few of these writings disagreed with the teachings and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. Ordered by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor to recant, or deny, his writings, Luther found he could not do so. With his declaration, Luther knew he would be excommunicated from the Church (and during that time excommunication was akin to a sentence to hell) and his freedom, perhaps even his very life, would be in jeopardy, and indeed the Holy Roman Emperor declared that anyone could kill Luther without fear of legal recourse.
Martin Luther was just one of many people who have been told to go against the writings and teaching of God or suffer the consequences. We have been told in the book of Esther that Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, was supposed to bow down to the Persian Haman and almost lost his life when he did not. Daniel’s three friends were told to worship an idol of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, clearly in violation to God’s commands, or be thrown into a fiery furnace, and these three men refused, accepting their fate. We know that during the time of Roman persecution that many Christians suffered humiliating and painful deaths rather than deny God and His Word. Being a Christian in some countries today carries a sentence of death, and even in our own country Christians are looked down upon and made to endure unjust persecution. It seems as though following God and His rules angers people and the stronger we stand with God and follow His law, the stronger the ridicule becomes.
When Jesus spoke to the Pharisee Nicodemus, recorded for us in the book of John the 3rd chapter, Jesus told him “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deed were evil”. Ever since the Fall our hearts and minds have leaned toward evil, toward darkness. All people, Christian and non-Christian both, try and hide from the Light, as our deeds are evil and we don’t want others, and God, to see what we do. This darkness inside us leads us down paths that go against God’s will. We have heard and may even know Christians that have a hard time forgiving people. And if those of us who stand in the light can have the darkness influence us, then those who stand apart from the light are even more influenced.
One thing all people want to do is to blend in with everyone else. No one wants to stand out in a way that goes against the behavior of the world. One of the ways of the world is wealth. It is perfectly acceptable to stand out with a great accumulation of money, but those who view money as only a means to live and not as symbol of status are viewed as strange and are criticized for their beliefs. It is this desire to fit in that can cause many people to walk to the darkness of the world. The desire to be accepted is strong and in the world to be accepted means we have to become like the world.
And we can also find that the devil is behind many of our attacks. The fallen angel had darkness within him and rebelled against God’s rule and has brought that darkness into the world, with that he brought sin to God’s people. The devil will call to us, tempting us with the darkness. We will be tempted with all sorts of items that will look good and are very appealing to us, much like how he tempted Eve with the fruit. The devil will stand before us like some sort of Darth Vader telling us “You don’t know the power of the dark side”. Ok, so you gotta image I sound like James Earl Jones.
Yet, the power the devil tempts us with is not a real power. He will try and give us the power to be in control of our lives; that we can do what we want to do. He will offer us the power to have fun in our lives without the boundaries and restrictions God places on us. He will present us with the abilities to become respected and powerful, only to find these abilities never truly materialize. The only thing the devil can offer us is darkness, and for those of us who live in the light, the only thing darkness can bring is death.