Morning. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
Continuing our JOY series this morning.
Last week we talked about Finding JOY in suffering.
Today we’re going to talk about a similar but distinct topic…finding JOY in opposition.
If you weren’t here last week, we covered the heavy aspects of suffering… What it means to find JOY even in the midst of broken relationships, addiction, sickness, and even death.
And today we’re going to focus more on a different kind of suffering: Opposition.
Christians often call this kind of suffering persecution.
When you are being opposed for your faith in anyway.
And we’ll look at this rather broadly: So, think of a couple of different types of opposition: 1) Being persecuted in any way for your faith, 2) And just the different difficulties of living out the Christian faith
Because living out the Christian faith is hard.
It’s like running up the hill against the wind
To not live for Jesus, is like living on autopilot. It’s the natural thing to do. It’s like just coasting down the hill.
So if you are trying to live for Him, you are GOING to face more opposition, and it will be hard.
Christians often wrongly just say, “Just live for Jesus and everything will be rosey!”
Well, uh, kind of. I mean, you can certainly find more JOY in God, but it’s difficult. The Bible calls it the narrow road. It’s an uphill, windy climb.
IMPORTANCE OF A GLOBAL MESSAGE
Today’s topic is one of those topics that reminds me of the importance of Christians around the globe listening to and teaching each other.
There are a few topics that Christians in America can give a lot of insight to our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe.
That’s not an arrogant thing. It’s just that we each have different strengths and weaknesses
1 of the things American missionaries have particularly helped with around the globe is good Bible teaching.
There’s no shortage of universities and seminaries in this country, but there certainly is around the world.
But this concept works both ways. There are some things we struggle with as followers of Christ in this country, and I think it is imperative that we listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world.
And today’s topic is one of those things.
Unless revival hits this country sometime in the next 10-20 years, we are going to cross an unfortunate crossroads.
The debate has already started amongst Christian leaders if we are living in a so called “Post-Christian” culture.
Personally, I would say that as an entire country, it’s slightly premature to say that, but there are parts of this country where that’s already true
Church attendance has plummeted in the last 25 years. In MN, 23.2% of people are in church on any given Sunday. So, we could probably estimate that maybe 30% of people in this state attend church once a month. Maybe 35%. That’s not quite “Post-Christian,” but you better believe it’s different than it was 25 years ago. You can probably even anecdotally assess that yourself
Yet, there are parts of this country, like MA, VT, NH, ME where only 11% of ppl are in church on a given Sunday.
On the west coast it’s not much better. Around 14%.
And like I said, unless revival comes to the church, and I pray it does, we are going to live in a “post-Christian” culture in our lifetime. A culture where Christians are unmistakably a minority.
And as we unfortunately head towards this, and passionately pray it doesn’t happen, we have a choice to make about our course of action.
And I think we need to look to not only God’s word but to our brothers and sisters in Christ in places in the world for wisdom.
Because as it stands right now, and as Christians are holding onto power for dear life, I think we are making a mistake in our course of action
And the mistake is the language I just used. We are trying to “hold on to power” (to protect our benefits as Christians)
WHY? I think…it’s because we FEAR suffering. We don’t believe that God can work through suffering too…even though Jesus Christ changed the world through suffering…not from taking it by force by the way
But we are starting to be confronted with this issue as we are at least becoming more of a post-Christian nation. Should we have to suffer? Face opposition? We’ve never really had to face that question before. Christians have always been such a majority that they haven’t had to face any real opposition.
This is a topic, that in our country anyway, we’re fairly inexperienced on how to Biblically live out opposition.
And in the postmodern culture in which we live, Christians are and are going to continue to lose rights they once had and thus face more and more opposition.
You can’t pray in schools anymore because some ppl don’t believe in prayer
You can lose your job for talking about your faith to a coworker
When prayer is asked for at national events, different religions are increasingly asked to participate
It’s becoming increasingly offensive in this culture for Christians to state their opinion on issues of life and morality
It’s also now looked at as narrow minded for Christians to believe in one truth as opposed to believing that a multitude of truths are equally possible (which is the postmodern way to assess things)
And all of these things that I just mentioned are just the beginning. Just the tip of the iceberg in what we will likely see in this country over the next 25 years.
Opposition to Christianity is really just beginning. And we have to ask NOW, how will we handle it?
We can continue to do what most have been doing the last 20 years, which coincidentally hasn’t worked, “which is fight for power over again, or we can serve with love under”
Let’s look to the Bible, and I’ll explain what I mean
PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HATE YOU
First of all, Jesus expects that we should suffer opposition as his followers.
(John 15:18-19) – NIV
18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
Paul writes a similar thing to his apprentice Timothy
(2 Timothy 3:12) - NIV
12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
So, the Bible understands that there’s something about the lifestyle that you will live by following God that is going to ruffle the feathers of people around you.
Which should be our first indication that it would be odd for us to then try and eradicate and erase all opposition.
BY saying, “You can’t do this to us. We’ll sue! We’ll call our lawyers!”
That’s a little bit futile, right?
Granted there are some things (i.e. human rights, etc.) that are worth fighting for, but we can’t get rid of opposition.
And if we do, we’re doing something wrong.
Because Jesus just said the world will hate his followers. And that’s not going to change because if you’re really living for God, people are going to oppose you. I don’t care what country you live in
GOD CAN REDEEM SUFFERING
Here’s where I think the confusion is: We think, that the only way to win is to have power over somebody.
Because suffering at the hands of your opposition feels like you give in.
For example. I watched a video on YouTube this week by Voices of the Martyrs.
Story about a Columbian Christian. On bus, attacked by band of rebels. Took ppl out of bus, burned it, and then proceeded to shoot everyone.
Rather than fight back, or run, this man just tried to tell everyone about Jesus
He was shot twice, but miraculously survived.
Years later, while ministering in a Columbian prison, he met the man who shot him.
And that man was so amazed by his forgiveness, that he led Him to Christ.
God can do mighty things because of our steady belief in the midst of our suffering.
And other times, suffering at the hands of someone else is just the right thing to do. Because you’d have to do the wrong thing (like denying what you truly believe in) to avoid it
Let’s look at more of what the Bible says on this
(1 Peter 4:12-16) – NIV
12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
People need to see that you believe in something. And when you believe in something, you will suffer for it. When you half believe in something, you’ll get defensive.
This is an excellent principle from the study of psychology. The more defensive/agitated people are, often the less they likely to truly believe in something.
For example, you tell me I don’t have a sister…it doesn’t get me worked up
But let’s say you tell me, “I don’t think you’re a good singer” (and I was insecure about it), I would defend myself!
And Our defensiveness as Christians in America reveals our half-heartedness, for we often just care more about being right than we care about God’s love being shown
And I say this because I think in our American way, we’re forgetting the Biblical and spiritual truth that God’s love is stronger than any defense we might have
Because God can redeem things through suffering.
Paul gets this, that’s why he writes
(Colossians 1:24) – NLT
I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church
He says that He is glad when he suffers because he is participating in the sufferings of Christ…which were a good thing
Think about that. The greatest good to ever come to the world was through suffering and opposition.
Jesus’ suffering brought us the greatest good we will ever know
Like we’ve seen in our sermon on the mount series, Godly thinking is often counter-intuitive. The fact that suffering at the hands of opposition can bring good, doesn’t make sense to us…but it should.
If we want to reach this world for Christ. If we want to make a difference in Blaine and Anoka County for Jesus Christ…we have to get this.
Radical change and revival won’t come through us trying to get “power” back and be a “majority” so we can protect ourselves and our rights
Think about this.
Christianity has exploded in China in the last 25 years. Think about China’s government and its stance on Christianity. You can go to jail. Yet God is reaching people like crazy there.
OR, in India. I just heard this on Wednesday. In year 2000, 2% of India was Christian. In 2010, 10%. Listen, 1 billion people live there. That’s 80 million people became followers of Jesus Christ in the last 10 years.
Not because they fought, or won a war, or even passed a law. They loved people through their immense suffering and opposition.
Because when you suffer, you make people think.
This is lumping burning coals on head like Jesus said in our revenge talks.
When we fight back, good rarely comes out of it.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t try and fight against injustice. Kinda two separate issues.
But MLK JR is a good example. Malcolm X’s agenda wasn’t the answer. Superiority and power weren’t the answer. NO, the answer was to continue to love, to show God’s kindness, if they throw you in jail for doing what’s right, they throw you in jail. But trust that through your suffering, God will convict others of the truth you are trying to show through your life
And Civil Rights is a great example for us. There are some rights, some things worth fighting for. It’s not an either/or thing here (Fight OR Suffer).
BUT, if we must suffer, and sometimes we should suffer, let’s not give up hope. Certainly not. For God often works in an even greater capacity through suffering.
SHINING THROUGH SUFFERING
The issues are somewhat different, but the principle is the same. God can shine through suffering. He can shine through injustice.
Look at this passage in 2 Corinthians. Paul is talking about God moving in us, and he writes this:
(2 Corinthians 4:7-12) – NLT
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
Our human weakness and suffering provides an opportunity for God to shine through. Treasure in Jars of clay. It’s the fact that when we get cracked (when we suffer), that people can see through that crack, and see Him in us.
But if you live your life like “Don’t touch me,” they just going to see our ugly clay pot.
JOY IN OPPOSITION
And here’s where it comes full circle to our series. God is able to move so mightily through suffering and opposition
In the book of Acts, the apostles are arrested for talking about Jesus, and flogged.
It says, They rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the NAME.
But yet, that seems so foreign to us. So far from our everyday experience as being a Christian.
It’s foreign because, like I’ve said, I think we have a hard time believing God can do great things through suffering.
and He did through this…even more people wanted to listen to them after this
A willingness to suffer reveals an incredibly strong belief. And ppl want to listen to that.
And I think we also have a hard time with this because, well, to be honest, I think we would much prefer to just continue in a fairly luke-warm state of Christianity and not have to deal with it
Because I think each one of us knows deep down inside, that if we were to have boldness like that…boldness in really loving people, loving God, living out our faith, or even talking about our faith with our family, with our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, we would face opposition.
So we shrink back from it…and we continue to live an average life.
But God didn’t call you to live an average life. He called you to live out a radical grace-filled life changed by Him. And people oughta notice.
So let’s be a church that’s not afraid of suffering for what we believe in. Because we believe we have some GOOD NEWS to share!
Let’s be like our brothers and sisters in Christ in China and in India and believe that God can move through our love, even if it looks like we might have to suffer in the process.
Let’s not give up hope in what our God can do.
And when we suffer from opposition… may we find JOY. May we rejoice!
Because it probably means that we’re finally being bold for Him…and boldness is something He WILL move through.
Let’s pray He does.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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