Heard any good opinions lately? If you’re reading this, chances are you spend some time on the internet, and the internet has been pretty crazy lately. Take a deep breath. When we all disagree over so much, the only common ground seems to be found in the idea that the world is becoming scarier. But is it? Is the world really more terrifying today than it’s ever been?
I would never want to make light of the terrible tragedies experienced in Paris, or any of the other painful, recent reminders that our lives are incredibly fragile. I just mean to point out that you would be hard-pressed to find a moment in our human history completely devoid of pain, oppression, and suffering. Even in our nation’s young history, we’ve heard stories of backyard bomb shelters, nuclear proliferation, and devastating World Wars. Scary stuff, but we’re still here.
Christianity is based on the story of God, who won the ultimate victory by enduring the cross and overcoming its shame. The rest of the New Testament is addressed to people living out their new faith under extreme threats of violence and hardship. Why then, as a Christian, am I so slow to know how to respond in scary times?
I’m not looking to enter a political debate. I believe that conversations centered around national policy are good and important. However, I learned long ago that I am much more interested in working toward the kinds of change that come from the inside out. Fear immobilizes us in the face of challenge. It is the currency of our enemy. By training our hearts, we can bankrupt our enemy’s plan.
1. Endure with Joy & Thanksgiving.
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…
- Romans 5:3-5
I was listening to a podcast from a local Portland pastor by the name of Josh White. He said something that I think is so timely. “Self preservation is our natural reaction when it becomes too difficult for us to believe that this life isn’t all we have.”
This doesn’t make sense for a Christian. Our faith is based on establishing our hearts’ hope in a better future. Faith in God actually enables us to transcend our current distress to enjoy heavenly peace and resolve. That’s miraculous.
The Greek word for “endurance” and “endure” appear many times throughout the New Testament. Thriving under the weight of difficult circumstances becomes more than a running theme - it’s a defining characteristic of the Christian life.
This doesn’t mean that the search for joy is never a struggle. I think the bible is filled with reminders to carry on through hard times because the followers of Christ need to hear it - a lot. If you are struggling with some kind of stress, be open with God. Begin an honest dialogue with your Savior, and ask Him to save you. It’s a dangerous prayer, but those are really the only kind that honor our limitless God. If you are not a Christian, I hope this helps you understand what this faith is all about.
2. Ease the suffering of others at our own expense.
For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
- 2 Corinthians 8:2
Here is a line of thinking that would be difficult to find in the New Testament: Get some stuff - as much as you can. Build a wall around it. Create your own “little kingdom” and keep outsiders out. This is the kind of thing that families argue about at Thanksgiving. I don’t want to start a fight. I’d rather get to the meat and potatoes. Christianity is all about Giving.
God gave us life, He gave us grace, and He gave us Jesus. By giving His life, Jesus gives us hope, He gives us salvation, and He gives us His Spirit. His Spirit enables us to give like God gives. God gives sacrificial and freely. To look like God, our giving has to look like His.
Proverbs 19:17 - Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
In Christianty, we are always trading worthless things for eternal treasure. When we focus on our fear, we are blind to others and indifferent to their needs.
3. Speak life.
It is so easy to slip into the landslide of negativity. The nature of fear is to latch on, and to infuse. Our normal conversations become filled with endless discussions about the terrible state of things. The more we focus on the scary things, the more power they have over our lives.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
- Proverbs 18:21
Our conversations can be enormously powerful. When we find peace and security in Christ, we can help others to do the same. Lots of people are afraid of confronting fear with hope. They don’t want to “Jesus Juke” somebody. Here’s the problem: we are encouraged to lift each other up.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.
- Hebrews 10:24
It’s so important to be informed of what’s going on, and to understand the brokenness around us. However, we cannot be tempted to dwell. Find hope, and help others see it. Do it with real love. Be thought and sincere.
4. Point others to genuine rescue.
If all we’re doing is propagating a hollow religion, it would be opportunistic to reach out to unbelievers in difficult times. However, if we truly believe we have an overcoming hope, it is so selfish of us not to share.
“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.”
- Hebrews 12:28 NLT
Which do you believe? Is your hope based on the glorious rescue of Jesus, both now and forever? Look around. Do you see people who need to know what you have? Do they need to see something real? I thought so. Me too! What are we waiting for?
to find out more about our church planting journey in Portland, Oregon visit us at pastoraaronbennett.com