Escape or Endure… To which are We Called?

And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who ...Hebrews 12:1-61 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. The Discipline of God 3For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,   Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;  6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”

While most reading this blog will have some familiarity with the first two verses of the above passage, verses three through six are likely less familiar; and for the most part misunderstood concerning their practical purpose in our lives of faith.

Consider the word “endured” used twice in relation to Jesus suffering on the cross. Remember only a 2 verses before, the writer challenged the Hebrews to live their Christian life, as a race run with “endurance”. This “endurance” is from the same word in the Greek; meaning our endurance is to be lived like His (in similar trials and troubles for His name sake).Why did the inspired writer do this? To contrast Jesus’ magnificent suffering with how weak and whiny the Hebrews faith had become.

I challenge you to read this passage through to verse 17 (on your own time). You will find the word of God directly attributes bitterness to how we endure suffering on behalf of Jesus Christ; suffering related to our faith. The point, when we have the wrong perspective of the circumstance we are in and how we ought to pray and walk in them, we often are disappointed and become disenfranchised in our faith. To find ourselves there is a short fall into bitterness and compromise.

Why am I writing about this? Because for the past few months among all the virus lock-downs, constitutional infringements, unnecessary murder of George Floyd, protests and now politically pushed riots, Christians (in America especially) have been anxious, fearful, confused and often clueless as to how to respond or even pray about our situation.

Let’s affirm, God’s word is profitable for correction, reproof and instruction in righteousness, that we may be profitable in our walk of faith (II Timothy 3:15-17). Let us also affirm that by the Holy Spirit, who is present with believers from regeneration, we partake of Christ’s divine nature and have all we need for life and godliness and have received precious promises (II Peter 1:2-4). Among those promises we are guaranteed to escape the second death and God’s wrath, which is poured out on the unrepentant in Christ’s second coming.

That is definitely a Hallelujah escape! AMEN! But alas let us understand we are not promised to escape the wrath of man or its instigator… Satan and his demonic minions. As a matter of fact as we barrel towards Jesus’ return, we are assured of some definite truths, I’d say prophetic guarantees from the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:1-71 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

CAN YOU SAY CHECK! We are living in those times, but still further in the same chapter…

2 Timothy 3:12-13 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

CHECK #2! Yet further still…

Matthew 24:11-14 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Luke 21:12-19 You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.

CHECK #3!

We could go further still, with John 15:18-26, where Jesus declares the same, but it is sufficient to declare we are not only blessed to be saved but privileged to suffer for His name (Philippians 1:29). These scripture portions above and countless other New Testament passages reveal all Christians who live godly will suffer persecution and trouble, yet Christians in America continue to pray in ways which speak of escape rather than practicing endurance, for Christ’s sake.

Consider the Covid-19 virus. Did Christians not pray sincerely or hard enough for it to be eradicated? No! But we were not praying according to God’s will. Let us admit that the excess of wasted time with sports and entertainment all but came to a standstill. People in America could no longer hide in fantasy land to avoid dealing with death, it was and still is to a lesser degree everywhere. Many lost people became open due to a renewed or awakened fear of death.

Also the veil of unlimited provision was lifted immediately, as we could no longer take for granted what is needed would be available. And what of the church of Jesus Christ, whom found out how much we need to gather together through what amounted mostly to being shamed into staying home.

We must remember that this virus was either ordained by God or allowed for his purposes. Purposes which are still being worked out.  Without the quarantine of a nation of people free to do what they want when they want, the wide spread violence and anti-authoritative behavior would not have been possible. You may ask why? Simply because locking free people down causes anxiety–with all the media bashing about who was right and wrong, it created cynicism of authority (whether rightly or wrongly)–people became unfamiliar dealing with each other and the police.

The murder of George Floyd was a match on that gasoline. What could God’s purpose in that be? Realigning powers to fit His end times plan. Which does not include America as a Christian Utopia.

We must understand that Jesus did not die on the cross to redeem the Untied States of America, as a nation. He died on the cross to save individuals from every nation tribe and tongue. These redeemed with the blood of the Lamb of God, make up the Kingdom of God.

Herein we return to Jesus’ suffering on the cross and the admonition in Hebrews 12:2-6. We Christians in America must regard the suffering of the church since its birth, and understand since 1948 more Christians have been martyrs for the faith than in the prior 1900 plus years (hated by all nations). Our brethren have been led as sheep to the slaughter all day long, live in abject poverty and governmental fear; yet they don’t pray to be taken out, but to have faith to endure, until Christ comes for them. Their hope is not a return to the glory days of their nation, but Jesus coming for them in the clouds.

Please listen to what I am writing…

The bad things we see, will grow worse. There will be periods of release, where it will look to be getting better, but alas trouble will return with the heat multiplying. This will happen, until there will be one hated class of people in the United States, as is in almost every other nation… Followers of Jesus.

Now is the time to check ourselves, as we have not yet shed blood in our struggle against sin or the wicked. Let us remember Jesus endured the cross, yes for our redemption and the joy set before Him; Praise His Holy Name! But He also endured the cross as an example that we can endure for Him, with the joy set before us; which is absent from the body in death is present with the Lord or should we endure until the last trumpet, we will be raptured to see Him and be with Him forever.

Men and woman of God, our times are bringing the toppling of many things we held dear. Many of these things are good things, like laws,  statues, names of city’s, and national ideals, of which many died to protect. It is heart breaking, but their demise causes us to hold to the only dear thing which will not burn in the day of the Lord… our holy faith, given to us by Christ Himself. This is the one thing that no one can remove from us.

So as Christ endured, we must as well, as Jesus proclaimed to us all…

Luke 9:23-25 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

Let us rejoice in escaping God’s wrath and the second death. Let us pray that we may endure any hardship coming, on his behalf, that we may shine as lights in this perverse generation (Philippians 2:124-16).

 

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
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