Tag Archives: Steadfast Faith

Responding to the Growing Spiritual Darkness.

Our nation and the world have witnessed an overwhelming amount of change the past couple months following the death of George Floyd. Many voices for change have been positive, such as the efforts by peaceful protestors to secure racial equality and justice for the African American community. Other voices, however, have adopted violence as their primary tool for change, evidenced by the devastating riots sweeping through many of our cities – creating chaos, social upheaval, and a trail of destruction. These agitators seem intent on hijacking the peaceful effort to end racism, and using the moment instead to create anarchy and fuel revolution. Many in the movement are especially hostile to the Church and God’s people.

Using social media and intimidation to eradicate dissent, these militants demand allegiance to their radical worldview. They are intolerant of those who disagree, insisting such people be fired from their jobs, suspended from their colleges, removed from their communities, and canceled from the culture. Their aggressive and threatening tactics have had a disturbing effect on people across the country.

Many now live in fear that something they say could cost them their career, their reputation, their safety, or their freedom. As a result, many have resorted to silence, self-censorship, or an outward embrace of an ideology they inwardly loathe. These acts of timidity and compromise are understandable when you consider the stakes.

Sadly, these feelings of fear and trembling have infected those inside the church as well. Feelings compounded by the growing effort by many elected officials to place restrictions on church attendance, Christian worship, home-based Bible studies, and obedience to our Lord. Afraid of the power wielded by these civic authorities and angry agitators, and intimidated by their threats and belligerent postures, many Christians have silently submitted to the state. Others have reluctantly conformed the expression of their faith to the rigid restrictions of elected officials, unelected militants, and self-appointed social media bullies.

As I considered this changing cultural landscape and reflected on what God would have His people do, a very relevant verse of Scripture came to mind.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT).

This verse, which no doubt many readers will be familiar with, is both encouraging and challenging. It draws a clear distinction between the spirit at work in the world and the Spirit that rests on God’s people, offering us a reminder that “He who is in us (the Holy Spirit) is greater than he who is in the world (the spirit of antichrist)” (1 John 4:4). The Spirit of God strengthens us to confront and respond to those who sow chaos, hate, and deceit; to those who seek to weaken and dismantle the church.

We must remember that we do not operate in a spirit of fear, cowardice, or timidity. The world, however, does because it is not empowered by the Holy Spirit and does not have the love of God in its heart. But God’s love does abide in us, and that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18).

Some may disagree and say, “Look at the disciples who trembled in fear when a storm jeopardized their safety on the water. And what about, Peter? His fear of an angry mob caused him to lie about his relationship with Jesus the night before Christ’s death on the cross.”

It is true that Peter and the other disciples displayed fear and timidity during their time with Jesus. But all that happened before the Holy Spirit descended on them in Jerusalem. Post-Pentecost Peter, in contrast, boldly proclaims Christ wherever he goes, even when Jewish religious leaders threaten him and subject him to flogging.

Instead of being saddled by a spirit of fear and timidity, then, we are emboldened by the Holy Spirit. This is not the generic power of influential and mighty people. It is power infused by the Holy Spirit. “’Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). We are supernaturally empowered to behave with boldness.

That supernatural boldness, in turn, is to be used for supernatural purposes. We are not empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our worldly dreams, achieve worldly success, or satisfy our selfish ambitions. Instead, we use it to advance God’s agenda, do the Lord’s will, and proclaim the Good News of Christ to a dying world.

Holy Spirit power confronts evil, protects the oppressed, cares for the exploited, speaks for the voiceless, intervenes on behalf of the marginalized, defends the helpless, comforts the downtrodden, encourages the discouraged, opposes the wicked, extends hope to the hopeless, and stands for righteousness.

Perhaps most of all, Holy Spirit power speaks truth to a world engulfed by lies and deceit. When society lies, misrepresents, fabricates, distorts, and deceives, we must counter with truth. Truth grounded in Scripture: unvarnished, hope-restoring, soul-nourishing, sin-exposing, outlook-encouraging, purpose-giving, God-glorifying, biblical truth.

Truth points people back to God. Truth reveals the sin in our lives. Truth makes known the Creator. Truth unveils God’s love for us. Truth discloses our need for repentance. Truth communicates God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Truth speaks to our need for regeneration, redemption, justification, and sanctification. Truth informs us of God’s holiness and His desire that we pursue godliness, righteousness, and obedience. Truth shifts our focus away from ourselves and our circumstances, and reorients it towards God and His magnificence.

Truth exposes and refutes the relentless litany of lies the god of this age tells us: God is not real; God does not care; God did not create the heavens and the earth; God is not omnipotent; God is not worthy of our worship; Jesus was just a man; Jesus is one of many ways to God; Jesus did not live a perfect life; Jesus was not resurrected; Jesus is not coming back; We are good enough; We can earn our way to heaven; We can say the sinner’s prayer and keep living the same lives; We are the centrality of the gospel; We can ignore Scripture when it doesn’t appeal to us or it makes us uncomfortable; We control our own destinies; Absolute truth does not exist; Sin is a silly invention of man; Faith is foolish; Hell is a myth.

We could spend days listing the lies that Satan sells and tells. After all, he is the father of lies and there is no truth in him. And deception is one of the defining features of the end times and the antichrist who “through his cunning will cause deceit to prosper under his rule” (Daniel 8:25). The antichrist’s reign is built on lies crafted so cunningly that they deceive everyone in the world except those sealed by the Spirit of God. Billions of people will embrace and peddle his deceptions in the end, including the powerful, wealthy, intellectual, and elite – from politicians and business titans to cultural icons and celebrities.

Sadly, millions of churchgoers will renounce their faith and leave the church after falling for his falsehoods. These are those who claim Jesus as Lord with their lips but whose hearts are far from him. They pledge their fidelity to Christ as long as He makes them the center of His universe, gives them the worldly desires of their hearts, bequeaths them lives of comfort, leisure, success, and happiness, and makes no substantive demands of them. They proclaim Christ as long as it benefits them materially, socially, financially, and professionally. But as soon as their (faux) faith jeopardizes their career, their status, their safety, their prosperity, their reputation, their freedom, and their lives, then they repudiate Jesus and disown their faith. These are those prophesied by Hosea, God’s people who are destroyed for lack of knowledge (truth).

In addition to a Spirit of power to speak the truth boldly, the Lord gives us a Spirit of love. Love bestowed on us by the Spirit is supernatural, allowing us to love not as the world does but as Jesus loves. Unconditionally. Sacrificially. Selflessly. And not just love those who love us in return, but the stranger and enemy as well.

Love should also compel us to speak truth to those who have yet to surrender their lives to Jesus: friends, strangers, colleagues, neighbors, associates, and family alike. Refusing to share the Good News of Christ with those around us is the ultimate act of selfishness and reveals an absence of genuine love for those in our lives.

Keep in mind that a considerable cost exists for boldly proclaiming Christ, speaking truth, and sharing the Gospel. Jesus warned His followers: “You will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are My disciples. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:9-10, NLT).

It seems that truth has never been as much a reality in America as it is now. Fortunately, God gives us a spirit of self-discipline (as Paul reminds us above in 2 Timothy 1:7). And as with Holy Spirit power and love, Holy Spirit self-discipline is supernatural. By the Spirit we will remain steadfast, faithful, and unshakeable in our faith irrespective of the hate, violence, and bullying that confronts us. When faced with incarceration, fines, criminal prosecution, and state-sponsored discrimination we will not compromise, soften, betray, or renounce our commitment to Christ.

Friends, the speed with which our society is devolving into a land of unbridled immorality is breathtaking. It appears we are hurtling towards the end of the age at an ever-increasing velocity. Witness the escalating violence, greed, idolatry, pride, perversion, and selfishness that define our nation and compare that with these words from the apostle Paul:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NKJV).

Regardless of how close we are to end times, though, we are definitely entering a season of deep spiritual darkness in this country. God appears to be withdrawing that which restrains sin (2 Thessalonians 2:7), allowing our nation to pursue its lusts and desires unfettered.

Which means things will get worse. Society will celebrate sin more unabashedly and condemn morality more harshly. Rebellion against God will increase in intensity. We will witness horrifying acts of wickedness on an almost daily basis. And rampant depravity will saturate society.

Brothers and sisters, we have a biblical mandate to confront this growing evil in society. But we must awake from our spiritual slumber. We must steadfastly stand in the gap, speak truth, and show love. And encourage others to do the same (encouragement is oh so important in these troubling times).

We must not fear the forces of evil. We cannot remain silent as the enemy attacks our faith. We must resist the temptation to timidly withdraw from the battle before us.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

What Legacy Will You Leave?

The Bible is filled with individuals who honored, obeyed, and served God with unbridled passion. We learn of one such man in the book of Acts, named Apollos. Luke dedicates only a few verses to him but in that brief account a powerful and enduring legacy emerges.

Luke describes the man as “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24, NKJV). In other words, he possessed real zeal for reading and studying the Bible. But Apollos was not content with keeping God’s Word to himself. We are told that he, being “fervent in spirit, spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord.” (vs. 25). He invested his time telling others about Jesus and equipping them with a biblically sound foundation in the faith. And he did so enthusiastically.

Luke then shares a brief anecdote that reveals Apollos’ humility and thirst to learn more about Christ. After speaking boldly in the synagogue at Ephesus, two believers pulled him aside and “explained to him the way of God more accurately” (vs. 26). Apollos demonstrated a teachable spirit and readily embraced the truth the pair shared. He was not a know-it-all who believed he had all the answers.

Subsequent to this encounter, Apollos decides to travel abroad and minister to the lost and saved alike. Luke informs us, “he greatly helped those who had believed through grace [and] vigorously refuted the Pharisees publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (vs. 28). That brief but powerful passage reveals several more attributes of Apollos.

First, he assisted other believers. Luke does not provide details but makes clear that the help provided was significant. Second, he corrected those who attempted to undermine Scripture and lead others astray. Apollos displayed a real passion for preserving the integrity of God’s revealed Word. Third, he demonstrated boldness for the Lord and did not allow vocal opposition from others to diminish his public proclamation of faith. In short, Apollos was a tireless advocate for the Lord.

Though only five verses, Luke’s narrative on Apollos reveals a tremendous witness who faithfully served the Lord, did his utmost to build the church, and lived his faith in action. He was bold, mission-oriented, teachable, grounded in Scripture, fervent in his faith, and a determined expounder of the gospel – both in word and in deed.

What a legacy! Imagine the reception he will receive in heaven, not just from God but also from a multitude of believers whose lives he impacted for eternity. He certainly exhibited for us (and others) a Christ-like lifestyle and invested his time on activities with eternal value. In the process he served as a tremendous role model for those who need to see what it means to love Jesus with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength.

What legacy will you leave when you pass from this world? If someone described your life in a couple short paragraphs, what would they say? What actions, attributes, and behaviors define you? Do you demonstrate passion for unbelievers, the downcast, and the Lord? Does your conduct reveal boldness in faith, a zeal for missions, humility, or a servant’s heart? Take time this week to reflect on these questions as you consider Apollos’ example.

If your life has focused more on the world and less on God, more on the temporal and less on the spiritual, more on yourself and less on others, then consider making some changes. Remember, it’s never too late to build a new legacy that prioritizes the Lord, your faith, the church, and proclaiming the gospel in word and in deed. As you do, you may find others modeling their lives after you and following your example.

Unconditional Faith.

One of the most powerful examples of faith found in the Bible involves three young men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Many of you will recall they were exiled Jews living in Babylon, along with their friend, Daniel. Over time they had distinguished themselves as leaders and were entrusted with administrative powers to manage the king’s affairs.

Eventually, the king issued an edict demanding everyone worship a statue of gold, a violation of the Lord’s command that people worship Him alone. Anyone defying the decree would face immediate death by being thrown into a fiery furnace. The declaration forced these young men to make a critical decision. Where would their loyalty lie: with God or with the king; with their faith or with their careers? Would they compromise their faith by trying to have it both ways: loving the Lord in private while publicly obeying the king’s decree?

Once the order was made public, colleagues immediately leveled accusations against the three young men. The rabble-rousers informed the king that this trio of Jewish exiles refused to obey his proclamation. Furious, the king demanded their instant obedience, taunting them with this rhetorical question: “Who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Daniel 3:15, NKJV).

The young men responded, “O king, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand” (vs. 16-17). What a bold witness. The men not only refused to obey the king, they used the encounter to testify of God and His omnipotence. Instead of destroying their faith, the king’s threat fueled it.

The three men then declared, “But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (vs. 18, emphasis added). With those words the Jewish exiles removed any doubt about their commitment to God. They knew He could rescue them from the fiery furnace and the painful death that would result.

But if, for whatever reason, He chose not to, they would refrain from denying Him or serving a false god. Their faith was not predicated on God blessing them, making life easy, or protecting them in the face of danger. They trusted Him implicitly, even if doing so yielded intense pain and a brutal death. They understood that God worked in ways that did not always make sense to them and therefore would obey Him no matter the cost. What a powerful testimony.

Job possessed a similar perspective and evidenced a comparable commitment to God. His faith was not predicated on having his desires met or his agenda fulfilled. It did not ebb and flow with the tide of God’s blessings. Instead, it remained steadfast in the face of whatever circumstances he confronted, including a series of relentless and brutal attacks by Satan that left all ten of his children dead, destroyed his wealth, and weakened his health.

Yet in response to that collection of tragic events, Job didn’t shake his fist to the sky and curse God. Nor did he renounce his faith in the Lord. Instead, Scripture tells us “he fell to the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20, NKJV). What a remarkable reaction. Despite being unaware of what had precipitated the catastrophes or why God would allow them, Job instinctively placed his trust in the Lord and praised Him. He knew that out of the ash heap of overwhelming pain and tragedy God would raise up something good.

Not surprisingly, Job’s response pleased God, who subsequently described him as “a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil and still holds fast to his integrity (Job 2:3). Though obviously grieved and devastated by the news of the calamities, Job resisted the temptation to blame God. Instead, he found solace in his Creator and worshiped Him in the midst of his tears.

That response, however, shocked and angered his wife, who remarked contemptuously: “Do you still hold to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9, NKJV). Her statement captures the predominant view of faith in our secular society: unless faith yields immediate and lasting temporal benefits, what’s the point. Sadly, that perspective infects many churchgoers today as well. As long as the sun shines on their lives, they remain loyal to God. But the moment tragedy strikes, their faith weakens or collapses altogether.

Job provided the perfect rebuke to such faith, telling his wife: “You speak as foolish people do. Should we accept good from God but not adversity as well?” (Job 2:10). Later Job would proclaim, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15, NKJV). Job did not withhold his own life from God nor condition his obedience on understanding God’s purpose. He assented to follow, worship, and praise God irrespective of his circumstances or the condition of his life.

Do you possess a similar commitment to God? Is your faith as steadfast in the midst of painful trials and difficult circumstances as was the faith of Job? Are you willing to obey God, no matter the cost, as were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego? Confronted with a comparable choice between life and death, would you choose the Lord or your life? As our world grows increasingly hostile to God, a modern version of the scenario confronted by that trio of Jewish exiles seems more and more possible in our generation. Are you prepared to stand firm for God? I pray you are.