“Abused, Maligned, Slandered?”

Posted: October 9, 2014 in Christian Life, James

 

Do you ever feel like the trials and tests in your life are more than you can handle and that no one else knows or really cares about you and your problems? Recently, when I was out getting a bite to eat, I struck up a conversation with a man, about my age, who told me about himself and that all his relatives were either dead or lived far away. He felt like he was all alone in this world. Since I’m a Pastor, I invited him to visit our church and told him that I believe he would find folks who would show him Christian hospitality and that there are people who really do care about others as God cares about us (1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 13:5).

Refuge. To the tune of “O give me a home where the buffalo roam…” Chuck Swindoll wrote, “O give me a church where folks in the lurch are encouraged, then healed from above; where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and where the truth is modeled in love.” I really like that. Of course, our church isn’t perfect. I’m not a perfect Pastor and we don’t have perfect people. Some of us have been through many trials and hardships in life but God has brought us safely through dangers, toils, and snares by His amazing grace. He wants us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4). Unlike some shepherds who drive their sheep, we try to lead God’s sheep into green pastures by still waters for the refreshment of their souls/emotions and spirits/minds (Psalm 23). Do you need to be refreshed by the Word of God?

A Loner? When I was much younger, I used to think that no one else had the same kind of temptations and trials that I was having. Then I came on these words in the Scriptures, No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Really? I also learned that the great Apostle Paul struggled, in the early stages of his Christian life, with the same kind of temptations that I was having with my sin nature (Romans 7:15-25). He found the way of escape by his being rightly related to God the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16, 25). It’s God’s will that we don’t sin (act lawlessly), but He knows that we will sin from time to time. When we sin, we can/should confess our sins to the Father right away and then claim His forgiveness (1 John 1:9-2:2).

Urgent! I needed and really wanted to find the escape hatch that would set me free from the guilt and shame that accompanies sin. God graciously directed me to a graduate school where I was taught Biblical truth concerning my three spiritual enemies: the devil, my own sin nature, and the present world system. Each one of these spiritual enemies tempts us differently to derail us and make us ineffective Christians. We must use different methods to overcome theses three enemies. Do you know how to live a victorious Christian life? Are you teachable and willing to change when you’re shown the truth from God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:2; Romans 12:1, 2)?

Application. When I began to apply these truths to my own life, I began to sin less often. Have you ever considered this: Each time we’re tempted to sin, we’re given the opportunity to demonstrate either our love for God by resisting the temptation (James 1:12) or our love for ourselves by yielding to the temptation so we can enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25)? If sin didn’t bring us pleasure, we wouldn’t engage in it, would we? Think about that for a moment or two.

Abused? Have you ever been abused by others who have power and money? Some of the early Christians had this happen to them. James, the Lord’s half brother, addressed this matter and gave Christians some instructions on the right way to respond to this (James 5:1-11). He wants believers to be long suffering, to anticipate the imminent return of Christ, to establish our hearts, and not to grumble and gripe. To illustrate this, he talks about the patience a farmer needs as he waits for precious fruit. But James also wants us to consider some people from the past who suffered greatly.

Prophets. The Old Testament Prophet Abel was murdered by his own brother, Cain because God refused to accept his sacrifice (Genesis 4:8). Elijah stood up against the 450 prophets of Baal and slew them after God demonstrated that He alone was the true and living God. Then King Ahab’s wife Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life (1 Kings 18, 19). Later in Israel’s history the Prophet Isaiah was faced with opposition from the Jews and religious leader. He may have been the one who was sawed in two for proclaiming God’s Word faithfully (Hebrews 11:37). The Prophet Jeremiah was opposed by the king and the religious leaders of his day. He was told not to prophecy in the name of the Lord and when he refused, he was thrown into a dungeon with mire (Jeremiah 11:21; 37, 38). The Prophet Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den because his peers were jealous of him (Daniel 6).

Job. This patriarch was a man of integrity but became the object of Satan’s attacks (Job 1, 2). His friends who came to see him were miserable comforters (Job 16:2). They accused him falsely of many things. But when the test was over, God blessed Job with a double portion (Job 42:12; James 5:12).

Christ’s Twelve Disciples. Although the Scriptures don’t record much about their deaths, we do have the traditions that were passed down to us by the early church fathers. (Read Fox’s “Book of Martyrs” for more information.) Apparently only the Apostle John didn’t die a horrific martyr’s death. The deacon Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:58). James was killed by King Herod with the sword (Acts 12:2).

Expect It. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Many Christians have and will continue to be persecuted until Christ returns. (Read “The Voice of the Martyrs.) But the sufferings of this life aren’t worthy to be compared to the glory of the future (Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 4:8-18). The “Crown of Life” awaits Christian martyrs and those who resist t emptations up to the point of death, if necessary (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).

Long Suffering. Not every Christian is filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) or has the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) to display before others as the need arises. One part of this fruit is long suffering. It needs to be displayed toward others who unjustly mistreat us. Don’t take vengeance into your own hands to gain a moment of pleasure (Hebrews 11:25). The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the God-man, will take vengeance on those who mistreat others. He’ll do it in His own time and in His own way (Romans 12:9; Revelation 6:10). He’s long suffering and waits for people to repent (change their minds) and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins…and rose again bodily on the third day (Acts 16:31; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4) for the forgiveness of their sins (2 Peter 3:9; Ephesians 1:7). Will you earn the “Crown of Life” for loving the Lord more than the momentary pleasures of sin (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10)? Christ’s approval of our lives is all that really matters in the end (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Glorifying God. The Christian’s purpose should be to glorify God by making Him know to others (1 Corinthians 10:31). Christians can do this when we display before others the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness (strength under control), and temperance (Galatians 5:22, 23). Will you magnify the Lord with us and exalt His name (Psalm 34:3)?

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