Yesterday I read a blog post that was linked on the Focus on the Family Facebook page and I just found myself nodding in agreement. Finally, someone else said it! I am not alone in my thoughts and battle.
Wanted: Tough Christians is a post by Gary Thomas, and it begins with a pretty powerful one-liner – “This is not a generation in which weak Christians will do well.” This piece really articulated part of my disappointment in the American Church. With churches on every street corner, why are a majority of American “Christians” so weak in the faith? It isn’t because they lack access to other believers. My belief is that the size and structure of our churches easily allows attendees to be present, but not really active. Even some of the believers who are “involved” to the max, those who are the most busy with works, those who you would figure are strong in faith, are weak.
I am sure I will say this a million times in my life: Just because you go to church that does not make you a Christian. Just because you believe that the Bible is true, it does not make you one of God’s children. The Bible says that even the demons believe in Jesus and fear Him. Demons definitely are not saved.
In his post Mr. Thomas discusses the life of the prophet, Jeremiah, who stood firm through the many trials in his life. His family and friends forsook him, his country men thought him a traitor, and he spent time in the most horrible of situations physically. Yet, he remained faithful to the job that God had called him to do. Even after he was cast into a cistern and left to die.
“Jeremiah lived to see another day, but he certainly never became a popular and revered religious leader, the equivalent of a bestselling author or a popular speaker on the religious circuit today.”
It seems that the most popular of our modern day religious leaders, the ones that churches flock in droves to do the latest book studies of, are the ones that are saying what tickles the ears but their works are not producing fruit. Their books contain enough of the Bible to be considered “Christian” by bookstore standards, but contain no true calls to radical righteous living. No true calls to follow the example of Christ. They are just Christian enough to make us feel like we are “active”.
We live in a country where we can freely practice Christianity. Currently our only real struggles are battling the media’s attempts to put “failed” Christians in the lime light and some liberal minded people’s shenanigans trying to remove Christianity from association with the government. Yes, it breaks my heart that Christians have to have their sins aired in this country thanks to the media. Although, I can’t say that I am overly concerned about the government’s association with Christianity, so long as they do not start associating with another belief system and forcing it on people. God gives us free will, so I believe our government should do the same.
If you are super opposed to that opinion, think for a minute if the majority of the U.S. population were Muslim, as they are the fastest growing religion in the world. Would you want that forced on your children? I wouldn’t, and I believe that genuine faith is created out of choice not force.
While we are over here worried about the media and liberalism, our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are being brutalized, raped, beheaded, and slaughtered for their beliefs. There are also those who are not Christian, but will not accept radical Muslim beliefs that are dying in the cross fire. They are experiencing the worst of persecution. They are suffering and dying by the sword. All for the sake of not denying Christ. That is strong faith.
“Who among us today would have the strength, the perseverance, the courage, to live such a life and endure such a ministry? A weak man or woman, expecting nothing but prosperity, comfort and health, would wilt within two weeks.”
Meanwhile in America, we have churches the size of stadiums that preach that God wants you to be happy, wealthy, and healthy and “Christians” flock to that message like flies to sugar. The leaders of these droves are best selling authors. Their services are aired on television. They are welcomed onto day time television talk shows. Was Jesus ever readily embraced by the society around Him? These so called “Christian” leaders pick and choose what they believe from the Bible, and pretend God is some magic fairy who just sprinkles you with prosperity dust once you say the “Get Out of Hell Free” prayer. And we wonder why people are leaving the American Church in droves and seeking answers elsewhere?
Anyone who spends about five minutes reading the Bible can see right through the prosperity nonsense. Jesus faced persecution – we will face persecution. The world hated Him – they will hate us. There was low ground, middle ground, and high ground in the early Church’s life. The same will be true for us. So if you are not adamant about seeking Christ and growing strong in the faith, when the middle ground comes you are going to fall off the wagon. Even those so-so in strength in the faith will fall off when it hits rock bottom. The only way you are going to make it through is by establishing yourself on The Rock. Establishing yourself takes time and effort. Yes, we are saved by grace alone, but to be sanctified takes us coming to the Lord continually. That is how you grow in strength.
According to the book of Acts, one of the Apostle Paul’s great ministries was “strengthening the souls of the disciples” by “encouraging” them with the words, “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The early church expected persecution and so was strengthened and encouraged by it, as opposed to being cast into a season of doubt and despair.
We serve a God of many kindnesses and mercies, who treats us far better than we ever deserve. But we also serve the General of all generals, who leads His men and women into battle for the truth. Brothers and sisters, we need to take up our spiritual arms and march bravely forward. We need tough Christians in the days ahead.
If you believe that your walk with Christ is going to be through meadows filled with unicorns and fairies, you are sorely mistaken. If you are truly fighting in the war for the truth, you are going to encounter some battles that are ugly. The difference between outcomes in the weak in faith’s battle and those who are strong in faith will be drastic. I agree with Thomas’s assertion of the outcome. The weak will “either “adjust” their message accordingly or collapse into bitterness, thinking that God hasn’t kept up His end of the bargain”. The strong will be victorious in Christ and will come out even stronger on the other side of the battle.
If someone who really knows you were to describe your faith, would they describe you as weak or strong? How would you describe your own strength? We can all improve in areas of our faith, but what is your overall faith like? If you were faced with a sword today and told if you do not deny Christ your head would roll, what would you do?
If you are strong in faith and can emphatically say you would not deny Christ, Praise God. Pray for those who will choose the contrary. Pray for those who are actually having to make the choice. If you second guess your response, I pray that you seek the Lord today and pray for Him to bring you closer to Him and to increase your strength.
Once we are in a place of strength, I believe it is our God given duty to strengthen those around us. To build up the Army of God. Make no mistake, we are not here to live out our days in some false rainbow and unicorn filled reality while the world burns down around us. We are here to do battle against darkness which is rampant through out the world. You may not always see it in your corner of suburbia, but if you believe in Christ, your heart should be hyper aware of the struggle of your brothers and sisters in The Faith around the world. It should be breaking as if that was your actual physical brother or sister, or your son or daughter.
So what say you? As the darkness starts to overcome our country and starts to rear its ugly head around the world, are you going to run and hide or are you going to stand up and go to war? If you profess to be a believer and think the thought of spiritual war is a tad bit over zealous, your faith may be weaker than you think.
All need grace and all is grace, friends!
I approach Your Throne today with a humbled heart. May You strengthen my faith where it is weak. Please, draw me closer to You and build up my spiritual strength. Help me to see how I can reach out to those who are weaker than me and help them gain strength in You.
I pray for my brothers and sisters around the world who are facing the worst of persecution, because they love You. I pray that they remain steadfast in their profession of Christ and that they are well aware of the greatness of Your love for them. Encourage them that even though the battle may be treacherous, the war has already been won.
It is in Your Son’s beautiful name I pray.