At church this morning, the pastor talked about Ephesians 6 and the armor of God. He didn’t leave it there though, he brought it full circle to being a soldier in God’s army. And he did all of this in the context of “the end” coming soon. He wasn’t fear-mongering or anything like that, but there is definitely an increase in pressure on the church to conform, which could easily transform into persecution somewhere down the line. It doesn’t really matter what your thoughts on the end times are, you can see that it’s going to become harder and harder to actually be a Christian. So that brings us to one essential question: have you counted up the cost? We throw that phrase around a lot in the midst of our Americanized “persecution,” but have you thought about what standing up for your beliefs could end up costing you? I know I don’t like thinking about it, so you probably don’t either. But really, are you prepared to give up everything for Christ? Could you give up friendships that you’ve invested years of money, tears, and time for, but they don’t want to be associated with you anymore? Could you let that promotion slide by because the company won’t promote someone who won’t toe their line? Or worse, would you allow yourself to be demoted or even fired rather than stop speaking about the power that transformed your life? What if you stopped getting tax write-offs for giving to the church? Would you still tithe? What if it came to the point where churches that didn’t adhere to certain teaching restrictions were fined or even outlawed? Would you change your beliefs to fit what was told to you or would you follow what the Bible says? What if the majority came to the conclusion that Christianity as a whole was degrading society and needed to be stopped? Would you follow the crowd to protect your American rights or would you cling to God’s promise that He will work everything to the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose? Let’s take it a step further: what if your life was at stake? What if it was decided that imprisonment wasn’t enough to keep Christians silent – I mean, just take a look at Paul and you know it won’t – and they decide that the only way to keep this infection from spreading is to kill it? If someone found out you were a Bible-believing Christian and threatened to report you to the authorities to have you executed if you didn’t renounce Christ right there, what would you do? Would you stand tall and use your last moments to encourage your fellow brothers and sisters to live for God no matter what, or would you bow out to live life regretting your lack of commitment? “But Kyle, I have a family to take care of.” You know what, good point. What if, instead of you, someone threatened one of your kids because of their faith. You might trust God with your life, but what about your son’s or your daughter’s? If they chose to stand up for the faith you’ve claimed, would you be proud of them and encourage them to live it out with whatever life they have left or would you try to convince them to back out? How confident are you in God’s plans?
I know this is a lot of heavy stuff filled with hypotheticals, but how you answer these questions when you truly take the time to examine yourself tells you a lot about your faith. If you’ve just read through all of this without thinking about what you would actually do – not just what you’d like to think you’d do – then go back, answer all of those questions honestly. No hiding behind excuses, just the truth.
When all you have on this earth seems lost, will you deny Christ like Peter did or will you be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when faced with the fiery furnace? When they were told to bow down to the golden idol or be executed, they responded with this: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” -Daniel 3:17-18 (NLT)
I’m trying harder each and every day to put more trust into God than my own efforts, and I hope you are too. If you aren’t, there will come a day when you need to choose either your way or God’s, and there won’t be any turning back.