Summary: We are saved by grace and it is God's grace that helps us to stand when faced with persecution from without and complacency and temptation within. So many have 'fallen by the wayside'. God and God alone can help us to stand firm no matter what the world,
‘Whoever stands firm to the end will be saved’.
Sermon – Why we must stand firm
The day will come, according to Jesus,
when men will hand over their brothers to be killed;
fathers will hand over their children to be killed;
children will hand over their parents to be killed;
Christians will be hated by everyone;
Christians will be persecuted;
Christians will have to leave their home towns and run away.
And they call the Gospel the ‘Good News’!
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is also recorded as saying
that in spite of all this trouble and persecution,
the Gospel of salvation will be preached,
must be preached,
until He returns, and all will be judged.
And in spite of all the trouble, persecution,
Jesus says we are not to be afraid of people,
for while they may be able to kill our body,
no one can kill our soul.
Jesus is saying that it is better to suffer here for a short time,
if we have to,
than give in and give up;
because those who turn away from Christ
and seek an easy, trouble-free life,
will not be allowed to enter into eternal life,
with the Father, the angels and the saints,
and join that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ mentioned in Hebrews 12:1.
According to Jeremiah 20
there was a time in Judah’s history, about 600BC,
when things were bad for God’s people.
It makes you think:
was there ever a really good time for God’s people?
Ever since the temptation of Adam and Eve,
the devil has gone out of his way to make life difficult for followers of God.
Anyway, in Jeremiah 20 the prophet complains to God
how the more he tried to be true to God,
the more people plotted his downfall,
and made life very difficult for him.
He felt so depressed at times
that he thought God had deceived him.
In this state of dejection he even tried to turn his back on God
and stop preaching God’s word, but he couldn’t,
so he fell back on his faith, his trust in God’s righteousness;
and prayed that God would take revenge on his enemies.
So, even though persecuted and suffering, rejected and lonely;
Jeremiah ends up saying:
‘Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord;
the God who rescues the oppressed from the power of evil men’.
This should be our attitude also
if and when WE are mistreated by those who hate God and the Gospel.
It would be so easy to retaliate and curse those who curse us,
but we are supposed to different;
God calls us to be different.
Jesus says we should love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us,
not pray that they fall into a deep pit or die a painful death,
which is what the natural man would pray,
but that they repent and become fellow believers,
which is what the spiritual man should pray.
Jesus has warned us
that WE might one day be arrested, tried, and even killed
for our Christian faith.
Christians in Pakistan and India (so called Friends of the west) are persecuted;
Christians in many other countries are
(refer to reports by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Open Doors); why not us?
It might soon be our turn!
We have to be on our guard,
because, according to Jesus, who loved to tell parables,
and use illustrations from real life,
we are like sheep being stalked by a pack of wolves!
But even in spite of this, He says:
‘Do not worry’ because He will be with us,
and He was with Jeremiah in the time of his trouble,
and the way He was with every true believer facing opposition and persecution
because of the Gospel;
and if trouble comes our way, He will be there with us too.
I watch repeats of ‘Hill Street Blues’ on TV
and each episode starts with ‘Roll Call’ round about 7am
in the basement of the Precinct House or Police Station.
After giving his announcements to the uniformed police officers
and plain clothes detectives, before they go out on duty,
the Station Roll Call Sergeant, Philip Esterhaus, always says:
‘Hey! Be careful out there’,
because, even though they probably do not need to be reminded of it,
the streets are crawling with low lifes and criminals,
many of whom are armed and dangerous,
and especially hostile to Police officers.
As God’s people,
we go out into a world that is largely negative if not hostile about God
and hostile to the Gospel and Christian morality.
Police officers COULD stay in Police Stations all day
where they would be safe,
but they would not be doing what they are paid for.
They are needed out in the streets and shopping centres,