Tag Archives: Trials & Tribulation

Remaining Faithful to God in an Increasingly Evil and Hostile World

As the world descends into darkness and escalates its embrace of evil, practicing the Christian faith and proclaiming the gospel grows increasingly difficult. And as government hostility towards, and intimidation of, Christians accelerates across the globe, those who despise Christianity are emboldened to threaten, malign, and discriminate against believers without the fear of recourse. And it’s not hard to imagine a future where society marginalizes and cancels believers who refuse to conform to its morality, businesses refuse to serve Christians who reject their extremist ideology, and employers terminate those who dare to follow Christ in their personal lives.

In such depraved and disturbing times, remaining faithful to Jesus will be more challenging. The dark forces of this world will align and make every effort to eliminate every expression of faith, biblical truth, and the gospel. To persevere through these rapidly evolving times, Christians must prepare now! Here are four actions you should implement in your life immediately (if you are not already doing them) to stand steadfast with Christ in this evil age and advance His agenda in a hostile world.

1) Study the Bible daily. This sounds so obvious and yet is so critical for your faith to endure the troubling trials on the horizon, or perhaps even at your door. Scripture tells us to “study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it” (Joshua 1:8). Though most of us are familiar with this verse and some have even memorized it, too few put it into practice consistently.

God wants us to study the Bible on a regular basis, not just read it. Allow Scripture to soak into your soul and nourish it. And when the Holy Spirit lays a passage on your heart, as He often will, reflect on it throughout the day.

Of course, this commitment requires you to free up considerable time on your schedule, which will mean scaling back on hobbies and investing less time on entertainment and leisure activities. Doing so may be challenging but remember the words of Jesus: “If anyone wants to be My disciple, he must give up his own way, take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Beginning today, choose to prioritize Bible study over worldly activities.

This is an inflection point in your faith journey. You must decide whether to take God’s Word serious or ignore it and continue to pursue the passing pleasures of this world. But beware, choosing the latter will leave you unprepared for the spiritual battles that lie ahead.

2) “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As with the verse from Joshua, Scripture challenges us to implement another ongoing spiritual discipline into our lives; this time prayer. Going through life in a state of constant prayer accomplishes several things.

First, it sharpens our awareness of God. The Lord opens our eyes to how He is at work around us. Second, it magnifies our gratitude for God. We see more clearly the blessings He provides and refrain from allowing momentary trials to derail that gratitude. 

Third, we respond to people in a more Christ-like manner. It is very difficult to curse the driver who cut you off, sabotage the colleague who took credit for your hard work, or snap at the rude and unhelpful post office clerk when you are in continual prayer.

Fourth, prayer heightens our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s presence, His leadership, His power, and His wisdom. He equips us with the strength to confront evil and share the gospel with boldness.

A cultivated prayer life also requires discipline and focus. There is no right way to pray. Prayer can include words of worship, expressing our love for God, acknowledging His glory, and praising His name. It may include intervention for the sick, the lost, the needy, the hopeless, and the dying. Pray that God softens the hearts of those who oppose Him, and that those with power, influence, and leadership positions in this world would use them for good and not evil. 

Pray for revival; that God’s Spirit would ignite the hearts of those living in your town, region, and country, and that He would draw them to Him. Pray that God would give you an understanding of His Word, boldness to share that Word, and discernment to distinguish between truth and deceit.

3) “Do not be conformed to this world.” (Romans 12:2a). The world is perishing and everything in it. As such our lives should not reflect the world, but Christ who transforms us into His likeness.

We are a light shining in a world that loves the darkness. Any time we compromise God’s standards and truth with the world, our light shines a little less bright. We yield God’s moral authority to the world’s depravity. 

Moreover, compromising God’s Word lends legitimacy to the world’s wickedness. Essentially, we give the world ‘a license to sin’ when we follow their example instead of modeling Christ in our words, behaviors, and decisions.

That is why it’s critical we represent Christ faithfully in every aspect of our lives, as His ambassadors in this world. This includes areas where much of the church mirrors the world: how we spend our money, how we invest our time, and how we chase ‘the good life.’

Ask the Lord to reveal behaviors, decisions, and priorities in your life that conform to the world. Request that He transform you in those areas to better represent Him, His standards, and His Word. Doing so will not only mature your faith, it will provide the world an attractive and accurate reflection of Jesus Christ.

4) Count all things as loss for Christ. For most of us, this action will likely be the most difficult to implement on an ongoing basis. It is rooted in the apostle Paul’s words to the church at Philippi. “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things as loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8). 

Paul recognized that a genuine commitment to Christ results in losing many of the things we value in life. If we are not prepared to suffer the loss of those things, our faith may flounder when we must choose between Jesus and that which we cherish.

For your faith to endure the coming trials and tribulations, you must count as loss all things you value in this world: career, reputation, comfort, home, safety, freedom, and life itself. If you prize any of those above Christ, you jeopardize your faith. For when society demands you renounce Christ or risk being unemployed, unpopular, uncomfortable, unsafe, homeless, incarcerated, or executed, you will likely turn your back on the Lord.

This action will seem unreasonable and unacceptable to those who professed Christ with the understanding that no demands would be made of them. They will reject these verses and deny that Jesus expects them to count as loss anything they cherish. 

But for those who counted the cost before coming to faith in Christ, the opportunity to sacrifice those things they value in order to know Him more deeply will resonate with their souls. They understand that nothing is of greater value than eternity with the risen Lord who sacrificed His life for them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, a season of unimaginable darkness and depravity is drawing near, which will unleash unspeakable acts of violence, oppression, and destruction across the planet. Hate, greed, corruption, and lawlessness will increase exponentially. Love, generosity, justice, and holiness will diminish drastically. Consequently, the world will need believers to speak the truth and live like Christ more than ever, though doing so will incur the world’s wrath like never before.

But remember, the war the world wages against Christianity is spiritual in nature, though the world does not acknowledge that. For that reason, prepare for the battle by immersing yourself in Scripture, establishing prayer as a daily priority, refusing to confirm to the world, and counting all things you value as loss for Christ.

And now I leave you with these words from the apostle Paul:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6:12-18, NLT).

The Call of Christ.

In reading the gospel accounts of Christ’s life and ministry, have you ever noticed how often Jesus declares that those who follow Him will face challenges, trials, and difficulty? He succinctly summarized this truth during His sermon on the mount, proclaiming: “Difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14, NKJV). It is interesting to note that Jesus links the difficulty of discipleship with the scarcity of those who find salvation. Since most people reject the former (discipleship), they never truly embrace the latter (salvation).

Of course, Jesus is not suggesting works play a role in our salvation – that is entirely a product of God’s grace and mercy. What He is saying, and makes clear over and over again throughout His ministry, is that anyone who genuinely embraces Him as Lord and Savior will necessarily follow Him as a disciple. You cannot have salvation in the absence of discipleship. To confess Him as Savior is to pursue Him as Lord.

The manifestation of that pursuit, however, will be as diverse as the entire body of believers. Nevertheless, despite that variation, some commonalities exist in every model of discipleship. A few are revealed in three brief encounters Jesus had with a trio of would-be disciples. Luke describes it like this:

As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ He said to another person, ‘Come, follow me.’ The man agreed, but said, ‘Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach the Kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:57-62, NLT).

We learn several important insights about discipleship in these encounters. First, it requires sacrifice. We must put to death our own agenda and replace it with God’s. This is an unpopular view with many Christians because it inconveniences us and disrupts the lifestyle we want to live. We would prefer Jesus simply adopt our agenda as His and pepper His blessing on our plans.

But Jesus leaves no room for ambiguity as to what He expects of those who want eternal life. We are to lay our lives down for Him just as He laid down His life for us. As He told His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let Him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25, NKJV).

The linkage between discipleship and denying ourselves could not be clearer. We must die (to self) before we can live (for Him). Sadly, this is one of the most ignored truths in many churches today. It is also one of the most resisted truths by those who profess Jesus as Lord, because our sin nature refuses to abdicate its place on the throne of our heart. It readily allows us to proclaim with our mouths that Jesus is Lord as long as that proclamation does not translate into our abdicating full control of our plans, decisions, and lives to Him. But once our faith in Jesus begins to inconvenience, discomfort, or disrupt our lives, our flesh (sin-nature) adopts a posture of virulent resistance, knowing its very survival is at stake. It will inform us how unreasonable, extreme, and ridiculous it is to follow Jesus when such obedience infringes on our desires and dreams.

That’s why Jesus’ encounter with the three would-be disciples is so instructive. It demonstrates in no uncertain terms that following Jesus often requires we live in a manner that flies in the face of social convention. Society places expectations on people, as does the church, and too often we allow those standards to dictate the degree to which we follow and obey Jesus. But in the passage above Jesus makes clear that obeying Him sometimes require we ignore the demands of society (and even the church). When facing such situations we must remain faithful to God and not the voices around us.

Additionally, there will be instances when family and friends make demands of us that seem sensible but contravene the timing, decision, or action God has communicated to us. In Luke’s passage above the third would-be disciple wanted to say goodbye to his family before following Christ. Jesus’ response seems severe. We wonder, ‘why can’t the young man take a day or two to bid his family farewell before embarking on his journey with Christ?’ It makes no sense, we tell ourselves. Surely Jesus does not intend for us to make similar choices in our lives. Surely faith does not require such irrational acts of obedience.

And yet, it does. Jesus interaction with each of the three potential disciples makes clear that the call of Christ supplants the desires of the flesh, however reasonable. Discipleship requires we prioritize obedience to Jesus above the seemingly sensible requests of friends and family. Though the path Christ calls us to pursue will vary by individual, each path will involve an element of sacrifice and denial of self. When the Lord leads us down one fraught with difficulty and inconvenience, we must resist the temptation to yield to moderation, social convention, worldly logic, and the demands of loves ones. It is the least we can do for the Savior who sacrificed so much for us.