“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:1-3).
The Bible offers powerful warnings about guarding against falling asleep in the midnight hour. Our foremost concern should be about our personal walk with Christ. We need to ask, “How can I escape the consequences if I neglect Jesus and drift from him?”
David, the author of so many psalms, grew weary of his struggles. He was so tired in soul, so embattled and beset by troubles, all he wanted was to escape to a place of peace and safety: “My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest’” (Psalm 55:4-8).
Like David, many of us yearn for escape when we’re enduring times of fearfulness and weariness. We want to slip away to some place that’s far away from people, away from our problems, battles and struggles, where things are quiet and peaceful. And so, some turn inward, living in constant discouragement, about to give up the struggle to trust God to bring them through.
Right now, the Body of Christ is in the midst of a “perfect storm.” Hell has erupted, and Satan has launched an all-out attack on the overcoming church. Many believers are in retreat, wanting out of the struggle completely. They’ve decided, “I can’t do this anymore! I won’t leave Jesus, but I’m going to find an easier way.”
Here is a truth every believer should get hold of: we find the power and glory of Christ primarily in the midst of the storm! We all remember how Jesus manifest himself when the boat seemed to be sinking (see Mark 4:35-41). And just as he did for the disciples, he shows up in the midst of our storm, calming the winds and the waves. Indeed, his strength is given to us most in our times of weakness.
Paul testifies, “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Jesus tells the church, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Why does the world hate the true church, its pastors and parishioners? A true Christian is loving, peaceful, forgiving and caring. Those who obey Jesus’ words are self-sacrificing, meek and kind.
Common wisdom tells us that it isn’t natural to hate those who love you, bless you and pray for you. So, why are Christians so hated? Jesus says simply, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you … If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20).
The church, ministers and believers are hated because of their mission, which is much more than telling lost people, “Jesus loves you.” You may draw back in surprise when reminded of what our mission is. Simply put, as Christians we are to take back from the ungodly what is most precious to them: self-righteousness. It is to translate them into a freedom they think is slavery.
Jesus said, “I chose you out of the world” (John 15:19). This strikes at the very heart of why we are hated. When we were saved, we got “out of the world” and accepted our mission to insist that others also “get out of the world.”
“You are not of the world … therefore the world hates you” (15:19). Christ is saying, in essence, “The world hates you because I called you out of your condition. And that means I called you out of their fellowship. Yet, I didn’t just call you out, I then sent you to call everyone else out.”
Here’s an encouraging word, though. Even though the world hates and persecutes Christ’s true disciples, we find a growing love and godly affection among the members of his church. Indeed, as the world around us grows increasingly chaotic, the incredible love of our fellow believers grows more precious.
As Christ said, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
“Love your enemies … hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great … He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful … Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you … For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:35-38).
According to Jesus, an enemy is someone who has cursed you, hated you, or persecuted you (see Matthew 5:44). By his definition, we have enemies not only in the world, but at times in the church. Paul said, “Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another” (Colossians 3:12-13).
Bearing with (forbearing) and forgiving are two different issues. Forbearing means ceasing from all acts and thoughts of revenge. It says, “Don’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, endure the hurt. Lay the matter down and leave it alone.”
In addition to forbearing, we must forgive from the heart. This encompasses two other commands: loving your enemies and praying for them. Jesus never said the work of forgiving would be easy. When he commanded, “Love your enemies,” the Greek word for “love” doesn’t mean affection but “moral understanding.” Simply put, forgiving someone isn’t a matter of stirring up human affection; rather, it means making a moral decision to remove hatred from our hearts.
When Saul was pursuing David with intent to kill him, David had an opportunity for easy revenge when he found his pursuer asleep in a cave in which David himself was hiding. David’s men urged him, “This is God’s doing! He has delivered Saul into your hand so kill him now and avenge yourself.” But David would not; instead, he cut off a piece of Saul’s garment so he could later prove he could have killed him.
Such wise actions are God’s way of putting our enemies to shame. This was the case when David showed Saul the piece of his garment. “Then Saul said to David, ‘You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil’” (1 Samuel 24:17). Because of David’s actions, Saul’s bitter heart toward him melted.
That is the power of forgiveness — it puts hateful enemies to shame, because the human heart can’t understand such a purely loving response.
“A bruised reed He will not break” (Isaiah 42:3).
A reed is a tall stalk or plant with a hollow stem, usually found in marshy areas or near a supply of water. It’s a tender plant, so it bends easily when high winds or swift waters strike. Yet the reed can only bend so far before it finally breaks and is carried away with the flood.
Like a reed in calm weather, America once stood proud and tall, full of purpose and promise. Our entire society honored God, and the Bible was held up as the standard for our laws and judicial system.
Yet, in our prosperity, we became like ancient Israel: proud and ungrateful. We have fallen a long way in a short time as God has been pushed out of our court systems, out of our schools, his name mocked and ridiculed. Our society has totally lost its moral compass and as a result, the America that once stood tall is now crippled, like a bruised reed.
If we got what we deserved, America would be in ruins, devastated by anarchy. But Isaiah says our tender Jesus would not break a bruised reed. Our Savior came into a society plagued by hypocrisy and rampant with sin. He wept over Jerusalem, prophesying that its house would become desolate. Yet he gave that society seventy more years of gospel preaching. Those years were filled with Spirit-anointed witnesses performing miracles, preaching hope and repentance, and issuing a powerful call to the kingdom. Jesus simply would not break the bruised reed that Israel had become.
Consider the Lord’s tenderness toward his own people. “Great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (Matthew 12:15). The word “bruised” has a number of definitions: hurt, crushed by unfulfilled expectations. Many of God’s people today need a word about our Savior’s tender mercy because they have become bruised reeds.
Beloved, this Christian walk is warfare. It means battles, weariness, wounds, and facing a ferocious enemy who is out to destroy you. It doesn’t matter how bruised you are, how bent down by your flood of testing. God has made you this incredible promise: “You will not be broken. I won’t allow your flame to go out. Your faith will be not be quenched.”
Here is your word of deliverance: Rise up and trust! The time has come for you to believe Jesus is with you in your storm and he will give you the strength to endure it.
Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, he instructed his disciples, “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus’ message was clear: “Wait on the Spirit!”
Most of us need a lot of work when it comes to the discipline of waiting. The more we rush to accomplish things for God in our flesh, the more his power drains out of us. This happened in the Old Testament over and over again. Israel was always moving ahead of God, frustrating his plans for them and robbing him of the glory he deserved as their faithful deliverer. We have the same tendency today. Our flesh is simply inclined to move ahead of the Lord.
Elijah knew what it meant to wait on the Lord. “The word of the Lord came to [Elijah], saying, ‘Hide yourself’” (1 Kings 17:2-3). These are some of the hardest words any follower of Jesus can hear. It’s the equivalent of Jesus telling his disciples, “Wait.” For the disciples, waiting was a matter of weeks (see Luke 24:49). But for Elijah, it was three years. That was the remaining length of the famine Israel endured after God spoke to him.
Imagine how hard that period was for Elijah. He had a word from God burning in his heart, but he was commanded to stay silent for three long years. Once those years passed, however, God told Elijah, “Go, present yourself … and I will send rain upon the earth” (1 Kings 18:1).
Today, some of us “present ourselves” before God’s appointed time. We end up spinning our wheels, tiring ourselves, becoming weary in doing God’s work. But, friend, the only power we will ever have for God’s work will come from time spent in prayer.
Waiting is a painful experience, often filled with boredom and sighing. For the disciples, however, waiting was anything but boring because they had Jesus’ word of promise and it made all the difference! When the moment comes for us to “present ourselves,” God will endue us with his power. What an awesome moment that will be!