As we struggle to live in a morally loose society, we need the examples of great men and women to encourage us. James pointed out that the prophets of the past serve in this way. “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:10) Many prophets come to mind: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. All of them lived exemplary lives in difficult circumstances. Many other great prophets are mentioned, but we don’t even know their names.
In our Sunday a.m. Bible class, we have been reminded of the difficult life of Daniel. He quickly gained the respect of Babylonian kings. Belshazzar said of him, “…illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you.” (Dan.5:14) When Daniel’s enemies attempted to find some condemning flaw in his life, “they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.” (6:4)
Here is the amazing thing about these prophets: while they were well known as great, godly people, at the same time they were despised and hated. They suffered violence and attempts on their lives. Yet they insisted on living righteous lives in their difficult surroundings. It would only be until future generations that they would be acknowledged for their patience and godliness, as James and Jesus later testified (James 5:10; Matt.5:12).
So, what is the lesson for us today? While it may be useless to live in an upright manner when nobody around us seems to care, God cares; people you may not know may care; people of the future may look back and care. Above all else, you are to care. Like the prophets of old, you are to live your life the way God wants it lived, not to please everyone around you.
This may be hard to do, but when has it ever been easy?
– Tim Johnson
We’ve all been encouraged with the great characters found in Hebrews 11. The people listed there lived their lives by faith, which is the focus of the chapter. In moving terms the author describes the courageous nature of each of them and the heroic things they did way back in history. While some of them became famous in the Old Testament, many lived out of history’s view. It didn’t matter if anyone was watching them, they lived and died for the Lord anyway.
One statement in verse 38 stands out, although it’s only parenthetical: “…men of whom the world was not worthy.” How could people who were forced to “wander in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” be considered so great that the world wasn’t worthy of them? Surely such people looked miserable, stressed, poor, and weak. What made them remarkable is that they endured hardships because, in their circumstances, it was necessary in order to be faithful. They chose the hard road because it was the only road to heaven. God considers people like this to be the greatest in the world. Faith makes all the difference.
What a contrast to the people today the world considers great. Attention always goes to the fabulously rich, to the outrageous, rebellious, immoral, and the reckless. The world likes people like this and gives them honour. But God views people of faith as the cream of the crop.
Don’t spend your time worrying about getting rich or trying to look cool and reckless. You might get some attention, but God will only shake His head. He wants you to live for Him in a way that will move you to sacrifice and endure hardships – if that is necessary – and to make the right decisions for yourself and your family, no matter the social repercussions. If you do, in God’s view, the world is not worthy of you.
Read Hebrews 11 again. Could your name fit in there?
– Tim Johnson
The citizens of the Island of Crete didn’t have a very good reputation. Paul quoted one of their writers, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). Not very complimentary. Yet there were congregations of the Lord’s church present comprised of people struggling to reflect Jesus in their lives. So Titus was instructed to teach “things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (2:1). He was to help them live sound, moral, sensible lives. Like well-fitting clothes, life needs to fit who we say we are. Continue reading
The Book of Revelation gives us many names for Jesus Christ, all of them designed to teach us something about Him. In the first chapter He’s called “the faithful witness” (v4), and repeated in 3:14. A witness, in a legal setting, is someone who confirms the truth of something they have seen. In the New Testament, a witness is someone involved in preaching what he has seen and knows. The apostles were witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and as Peter explained in Acts 10:41-42, they were ordered to preach and testify this truth. This was often difficult because apostolic preachers regularly faced violence, opposition, and threats of imprisonment and death if they continued to preach as witnesses. Therefore Jesus urged them to be faithful in their important work as witnesses, despite the dangers. Continue reading
We welcome our speaker today, Kevin Cleary from Meaford. He’s chosen to teach us about faithful living when we face the world’s pressures – and Christians do grapple with some peculiar kinds.
Jesus was no stranger to “tribulation,” which is another word for the pressures that come at us from the world. He spoke of it in John 16:33 shortly before he was arrested and killed. These events weighed heavily on him, yet he did not shrink back in fear. He faced them with confidence. He expected pressure from the world, and he taught his disciples to expect the same. But he gave them a reason to have courage: “I have overcome the world.” Soon he would rise again from the dead and be victorious over all that the world did to him. Continue reading