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Summary: It is completely unnatural, painful and difficult to risk friendships when you are truly about God’s work, but Jesus never flinched in His pursuit of God’s will - in the end you will discover those who are there for the show and those who show Christ-like

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As I was reading in I Peter 4:1-19 from The Message I came across some passages that appear to be very timely:

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet - and before God himself.

Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus. Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless - cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything - encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!

It’s judgment time for Christians. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message! If good people barely make it, what’s in store for the bad? So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.

One of the most difficult things we face in ministry is to no longer seek the approval of others – what I call the rejection test. Jesus faced and passed the rejection test on multiple levels and provides a pathway for us to learn from and follow.

Jesus’ own family thought He was emotionally or mentally imbalanced - a religious fanatic - saying He was out of His mind: “And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself” (Mark 3:21). And, “For neither did his brethren believe in him.” (John 7:5)

Jesus’ words caused many of His followers to desert Him: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (John 6:66)

The more people heard of Jesus’ real message, the more divided they became: “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67)

All the disciples declared that they would die before disowning Jesus: “But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.” (Mth. 26:35)

Within a few hours, all the disciples disowned Jesus: “But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” (Mth. 25:56)

Jesus was separated from His Father: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Many times people use approval as a means of manipulation. The temptation is to conform to their desires. When we do they remain comfortable, blanket you with a sense of false security, and praise you for your ministry. If you don’t, they can turn on you in a moment’s notice, begin shoveling blame and accusation, cause division in the church, leave, and bring much hurt, wounds, confusion, and suspicion about God, you and the church.

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