Lambs Among Wolves

 Luke 10:3   (KJV)   3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

We are to go share and spread the Good News of salvation to the lost, and to make disciples of all those who believe. Each has a calling; each has a race to run; each has responsibility. But we all are sent to the same hostile world. We are sent out as lambs luke-10-3-lambs-among-wolvesamong wolves. There’s no mandate to change our nature; we’re not called to be like wolves. Our difference will be obvious; it’s natural for wolves to try to hunt, attack, and devour us, but we are to stay our course.

Hostility is real; persecution is real, but God’s presence is more real. He promises to deliver us all the time. He may deliver us from them; He may deliver us through them, but He will deliver us. Others may question this. Martyrs abound. Where is God’s deliverance in this? These are legitimate questions, especially when asked from a perspective void of the eternal. Praise God for His light that shines in our understanding. We see better; we see clearer; we see more.

We’re aware of the supernatural and the eternal. This helps navigate through the world of the wolves better. We reach out to them without becoming like them. Many times they mistreat us. I remember a Middle Eastern sister in the Lord who was asked by some fanatical religious zealots to vacate their house at 12 midnight that same day, or they will be killed. They left everything they worked so hard for. That in itself was difficult, but even their journey of leaving their home became a dangerous escape attempt. They had to take unfamiliar paths because death also waited along the main thoroughfares. She shook as she shared the experience.

Some of us aren’t spared. That doesn’t spell failure on the part of God. He never fails. Death for us in the grand scheme of things isn’t tragic; it isn’t the end; it’s a passageway ushering us into an indescribable, incomparable, most blissful experience ever—right in the presence of our Father—He Who loves us most, He who we love most. That’s why although we fully appreciate God’s earthly blessings; we’re not attached to them; we understand that our real citizenship is dual: temporal and eternal, and our eternal home far outweighs what we now have.

So we go—lambs among wolves, lovingly, carefully, fearlessly, faithfully, empowered by God, changing this world, while longingly waiting for the next.

 

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The Blessed Rejects

Luke 6:22   (KJV)   22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

Even with experiences considered as horrible, a believer is still so blessed. To be hated; to be rejected, excluded, or ostracized; to be mocked, slandered, and ridiculed; to be vilified, insulted, and cursed—in the natural, being dealt with in such ways can be very painful. luke-6-22-the-blessed-rejectsBut even in the middle of these seemingly very hurtful treatments, we still have reasons to leap for joy. All the sufferings we undergo because of our relationship with our precious Lord Jesus, taken altogether, are nothing compared to the glorious rewards awaiting us.

What God allows, it’s for our good. We trust Him as the One in complete control of everything. Yes, there are many factors involved; free will plays a big part. But even the most rebellious of men’s choices still play within the masterful orchestration of our Divine Maestro. That’s why we enjoy acting the way He tells us to. What matters most to us is loving, trusting, and obeying Him.

We may not have luxuries in life, but we’re blessed because we have access to the inexhaustible resource of our Dad’s Kingdom. We may not afford the most exotic food in the world, but we’re blessed because He satisfies our mouths with good things so that our vigor is renewed day by day. We may have nights of weeping, but we’re blessed because joy comes in the morning. We may be rejected by people, but we’re accepted by God.

We can love our enemies, love those who hate us, do good to those who do us bad, bless those who curse us. We leave vengeance to God; we don’t have qualms about parting with our material possessions to give to those in need; we know it’s more blessed to give than to receive. We forgive those who wrong us and pray for those who maltreat us. These we do never for a show but out of the goodness of God-changed, God-surrendered, and God-trusting hearts. This is the portrait of a unique breed of people—those blessed by God.

Song of Justice

Revelation 5:9   (KJV)   9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation

What has become almost a slogan to us and the local church I go to are these words: “There’s no life better than that of a believer.” At times others may wonder: how can that be true? Believers are objects of ridicule, rejection, attacks, torture, and even death. This is true for believers—whatever part of the world we find ourselves in. We don’t deny this; in revelation-5-9-song-of-justicefact, the more real the persecutions are, the more we see the comforting truth in that slogan. Despite all the sufferings unique to being God’s people, we still wonderfully enjoy a life of love, joy, peace, power, and freedom.

Who else enjoys that kind of reality? Where else do we find that? For many others, when they suffer, they don’t see life in a good light. But we believers still surprisingly do. Sheep among wolves and being enemies of the world where we’re operating isn’t a pretty picture seen from common eyes. We’re fully aware of that, but we know that the glory that awaits us is superbly and inestimably much greater than the sufferings we’re undergoing right now.

In the natural eyes, we look weird—even crazy. We love our enemies; we bless those who curse us; we pray for those who persecute us; we don’t rejoice in the misfortunes of those who attack us. It’s not that those of God are void of any sense of justice; we are. That’s why there’s singing in the presence of God for the worthiness of our Lord Jesus to break the seals and open the scroll. These things are associated with judgments. Why the singing? Praise God; we who unjustly suffer here on earth for being a part of His redeemed are spared from these horrendous judgments. This is the time of our much awaited vindication. In fact, this is the time when the meek, gentle-hearted martyrs will pray for vengeance—and that desire and action is welcomed.

We excitedly look forward to that day. Our precious Lord Jesus will be revealed in His awesome splendor and glory. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess—even His enemies—that our Lord is Lord. They have to; it will be very obvious. Judgments will be poured out, but not to the blood-bought saints. No, we won’t be suffering then: no more sorrow, tears, sickness, pain, death; we will be rejoicing.

Too Good for the World

Hebrews 11:38   (KJV)   38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

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Believers who are persecuted and whose very lives are threatened that they have to lose their homes, leave their communities, and forced to leave life’s comforts willingly undergo such experiences not because they are not worthy of this world—that they are below the world’s standards. The converse is true; it’s the world that’s not worthy of them. That’s why they would rather suffer than compromise with the world.

There is the world; there is us. Our precious Lord Jesus makes it clear: there is no “unequally-yoked” marriage between the two. The world utterly hates us because we love our Lord. The world hated our Master; much more so will it hate His followers. No sweat. We’re not missing out on anything. We’ve been blessed with everything we need for life and godliness; our super-gracious heavenly Father gives us everything for our enjoyment.

Others can’t comprehend this. We live in ironies—or do we? Whatever we give up for our Lord, He returns to us—thirty, sixty, hundredfold, and with them, suffering. We have nothing, but we have everything. We live by faith in God that can move mountains, shut the mouths of lions, quench the violence of fire, bring people back from the dead; it’s by that same faith in our God that we are tortured, cruelly mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawed, struck with the sword, beheaded, displaced, became fugitives. Ah, these are ironic in the world’s perception, but not with eyes of faith. We count all our earthly experiences for our Lord Jesus as honor and privilege; we see them working altogether for His sovereign purpose and for our best; we also see beyond all this bodily experiences–we see the glory awaiting. That’s why we don’t turn back.

 

Of Crown and Righteousness

2 Timothy 4:8   (KJV)   Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

There is seemingly an interestingly direct correlation between righteousness and our attitude regarding the return of our precious Savior. Why of all the different rewards and crown to be given, the crown of righteousness is given to those who love His appearing? 2-timothy-4-8-of-crown-and-righteousnessMy humble theory is this: We who are excited about His return—we who are deeply longing for our blessed hope and that blessed moment when we’ll meet our dear Lord in the air—live righteously.

To the best of our knowledge, the Lord’s return is imminent; He can come literally any moment of the day. That’s why we’re constantly waiting; with this, we’re constantly prepared; we don’t want to be like the foolish unprepared virgins in the Lord’s parable. We fight a good fight; we run a good race; we keep the faith. We try—as best as we know how—to live as good reflections of our righteous Father. There’s still a long road before us on the way to our predestination: our conformity to the image, or likeness, or character of our Lord Jesus, but we’re destiny-bound.

We prepare ourselves, we also help others prepare. As we do, the Lord’s also preparing to step back visibly into human affairs. There’s a famous cliché: there’s a payday someday. For us, there’s an awarding ceremony someday—very soon. He’s also preparing our eternal homes. Right now, we carefully guard ourselves against the ever-increasing evil surrounding us. The closer the curtain of this “age” comes to a close, the more ungodliness increases. With that, hostility and persecution against us increase; our suffering increases all the more. But we’re undaunted; the Lord has so sufficiently readied us for whatever lot we get; He also more than adequately empowers us.

The Honor of Suffering

Philippians 1:29   (KJV)   29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake

It is an honor and privilege to believe in our precious Lord and Savior Jesus. Another honor and privilege is one that’s unique; it may take time for some of us to wrap our minds around it, more so, experience it: it’s our inevitable suffering as believers. With all the philippias-1-29-honor-of-sufferingenjoyable blessings we receive is this seemingly odd insertion that many of us may not find too appealing. Pain isn’t always easy to equate to something positive.

But it’s regarding this very issue that I was very recently reminded of my humbling shortfall. Depending on where you’re reading this from, your experience will most probably dictate the weight of your conviction. As for me, it was a rude awakening, yet one I highly receive and value. I almost wish that it’s just my memory that doesn’t serve me well, but, as far as I can remember, the worst suffering I’ve ever experienced in connection with me being a believer has to do with personal insults: mockery, indifference, rejection, loss of friends. They hurt, and although it may be hard to accept, those experiences may have caused me some kind of intimidation that’s why I don’t share the Good News as frequently as needed.

What brought me some kind of godly “shame” are the sufferings of other believers. The Apostle Paul was imprisoned several times, whipped so many times—he lost count, faced death repeatedly, lashed several times, beaten with rods several times, stoned almost to death once, shipwrecked several times, was always in danger of death, and finally—beheaded. Add to this the prophets before him. One was sawed in two; some were struck with the sword; they left their homes and wandered in deserts and mountains and lived in caves and holes in the ground. Add to this the other apostles: thrown down from a high edifice and smashed with a club, struck with a spear, beheaded, crucified upside down… we get the idea. Add to this our brothers and sisters living in other countries who are under a continuous threat of persecution, imprisonment, torture and even death.

Should I add mine on the list, I can’t help but feel that my share of this “honor” looked anything but pathetic. I know that we’re not competing with each other as to who suffers the most, but I humbly admit,  there’s a need for me to step up a notch in the way I live and serve our Lord—and not to be intimidated into silence by these very small share of sufferings I may potentially add to my honors.

Suffering Saints

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Mark 6:27   (KJV)   “And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison”

How many of our brothers and sisters throughout history have suffered because of their commitment to Christ? The mental torture of knowing you’re about to be killed, the physical pain–these combine together in horrible persecutions of the faithful. There are those of us who have it so comfortably in living out our faith, but this doesn’t diminish the truth that many of our fellow believers don’t have it so easy. They are under attack.

Day after day, Christians are under a tremendous amount of terrifying threats and situations in so many parts of the world. People who know not God the way we do ask, “Where is God in all this? How can He allow His people to undergo such suffering? Why doesn’t He rescue them everytime they’re in trouble?” Those questions are understandable, especially when born out genuine concern. But there are of course people we continue to pray for because they ask those questions out of spite for God who many of them claim they don’t believe anyway.

But those questions rise from more need of knowledge and understanding about our God. He’s a very good Father to His children, a very good Master to His servants. There’s no question about His rescuing power; He’s done it so many times–many of them in absolutely amazing miraculous ways. He can. But God never promised us a suffering-free life. The opposite is true: with all His blessings, rewards, grace, aid, and mercy, He declared that suffering is a part of Christian experience. And unless He comes, we will still experience physical death. The righteous suffers, the wicked prospers–this is a fact of life. But God’s ways can’t be contained in a box. There are also righteous people who prosper and wicked people who suffer the consequences of their wickedness. The sense in all this is found in the right perspective–not the earthly temporary sphere, but the spiritual eternal reality.

We don’t run after it, but suffering for our Lord is a joyful honor for us, and death is sweet; it’s a blessed experience–even in the Lord’s sight. Our suffering results in glory that far outweighs our suffering; our death is a transition from the imperfect, trouble-riddled temporal world, to the perfect problem-free eternal life. As for the pain involved; I pray that when/or if it happens, our sights and thoughts will be captured by the glory of the Lord as we see Him standing at the right hand of the Father, preparing to usher us into out eternal home.