Present in Suffering

Jesus prayed for His Disciples in John chapter 17. Not only for the 12 who followed Him and whom He taught, but for all who believe in Him [20]. He prayed for many things for them: security [15], sanctification [17], service [18], strength as one body of believers [22] etc. Note that never once did He ask that they be removed from the difficulties they faced, but that they be able to stand through them. That they may be able to display to the World around them, the love that Jesus Christ had put in each one, in a way that would attract others to Christ. [23]

I believe that is still true of His Will for each believer today. Yes, He wants us to be safe and secure in our salvation, He wants us to live holy lives and to be serving in His strength. But it is no challenge to an unsaved person to see a comfortable Christian, who has all he/she needs and wants, living a peaceful, joyful life in the Lord. [A bit like Job was before God allowed him to suffer, to show the devil, Job belonged to God]

In [14] Jesus makes it clear that the world hated His disciples, because they are not of the world!!
So many believers in recent days have been called upon to give their lives or deny their faith, others have been tortured and imprisoned and still others ridiculed, sued and debased because of their commitment to live Holy lives.
But, instead of these acts resulting in people turning from Jesus, they have made many others realize the truth of their need and come to Christ, to find that peace, joy and eternal life that is offered.
The world can see the reality of a true faith, when people are willing to give their all to follow Christ. That is why Jesus doesn’t pray that His Church will be taken out of the World or out of dangerous situations, but that they will stand through them by His grace!

At a recent conference we attended, we heard two reports, which surprised me and caused me to think much on these things.
One was from a national worker from Ukraine, whose church has suffered terribly in recent years. He said that he is not sure whether he wants us to pray for Ukraine to be free or not, as although life is difficult and uncertain, the believers keep closer to the Lord. Not only that, but the church is growing in numbers at an alarming rate, even though people realize the cost of following Jesus is great!!!
The other was from a brother who works with his fellow believers in Kobane, Syria. Just as he was getting ready to speak and show us pictures of his colleague and himself working there, he got a call telling him that his colleague had had his head hacked off by IS. In tears, he related the news to us all and his pain was palpable, as he told us the others in the church told him not to return home, but to continue the conference as ‘even if they cut our heads off we will not deny Christ.’ He also related the statistics of the many muslims who are finding Christ and how believers are more steadfast in their faith since these things happened.

So you see, it is true that often the church in persecution, not only grows more, but those who believe are more certain of what they believe and why.
Don’t you think that is why God is allowing so many things to happen concerning His Church? For to long now, we as believers have sat on the fence, trying to have one foot in the church and one in the world.
But the line of demarcation must become clearer. In the issues of same-sex marriage, abortion, divorce and betrayal, we who know these things to be against God’s Law, are in a twixt between obeying God and obeying man. But let us not be dismayed, let us see all sin for what it is and none worse than the other! And cleanse ourselves, take the speck from our own eyes, and be filled with the grace and love He prayed for us to know.

There is no doubt that the world is not at one with the beliefs of Christians. These laws being passed in our land, will mean that believers have to take their stand for what they know to be right. We trust it will help us to define exactly what are the fundaments of our faith, to look into the reasons why God made His laws and to show that Christ-like love, that He prayed would be in His people, towards those who have broken His laws.

We won’t win people by heated discussions or condescending ignorance. The only way, they will be won, is if they see Jesus in us and that means we treat them with love. We need to hate the sin and love the sinner just as Jesus showed us to.
Why are so many willing to give their lives for their/our faith in Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, etc? Because He first loved them! They saw and experienced His love and now they won’t deny Him. They know that ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ as they will be with Him for eternity!

This is undoubtedly a difficult time in our world, but it will help us determine the basics of our faith and the reason we believe. It will also make the Church as believers, who stand firmly on the Word of God, much more attractive to others, in that it shares Jesus love & forgiveness with all who seek to know Him. May God helps us to follow Him as Jesus prayed!

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