The television network ABC is taking criticism for one of the hosts of the daytime talk show The View suggesting that Vice President Mike Pence's practice of praying to God is like a "mental illness." His "talking to Jesus" and then hearing Jesus talk to him is foreign to the host and funny to her audience.
Of course, Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27).
Just this week, President Trump's nominee to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought, was finally approved by the Senate Budget Committee and will get a full vote by the Senate next week. Despite the fact that there is to be no "religious test" for government service, Vought was targeted by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, in his confirmation hearings last June for his Christian faith, suggesting he held Islamophobic views and declaring that he was "really not someone who this country is supposed to be about."
This kind of mocking of Christians and the Christian faith has become common in our society. These stalwarts of "tolerance" would never make a similar criticism of Islam or its adherents, but Christianity has become "fair game." It is part of the rather mild but alarming persecution of Jesus-followers of our day in the Christianized West.
More severe and even deadly persecution comes from Islamic terrorists in other parts of the world. ISIS soldiers and other radicalized Islamist have lined up and shot Christians "in the name of Allah," in Muslim dominated countries in Africa and Asia.
With Islamic terrorist groups like Boko Haram still on the prowl in northern Nigeria and with systemic governmental corruption, Islamic (Fulani) tribesmen are "defending Islam" by raping and killing villagers, unabated.
Even in civilized Europe, an 85-year-old priest was brutally murdered by Islamists during mass in his church in France, less than two years ago. Similar deaths have occurred among Christian Copts in Egypt.
Waiting for Christ's Return
In Paul's first epistle to the persecuted Thessalonians, he urged the believers to confidently endure affliction and faithfully wait for the return of God's Son, Jesus the Christ, from heaven (1:10). He explained that before the ultimate "wrath to come" Christ will return to resurrect the godly dead and rapture (catch away) the living believers and all will be forever united with our Lord.
This was to be shared as comfort to the bereaved (4:17-18) and joy to his expectant subjects (5:9-11), even amid suffering and affliction (1:6-10).
This "waiting" has been described by. Peter (see 1 Pet. 3:20) as "the divine longsuffering" and likened to the pre-diluvian days of Noah, "while the ark was being prepared." Noah's family of only "eight souls" endured the mockings and afflictions of a "corrupt" world that was "filled with violence" or lawlessness.
Jesus said that in the last days, even religious people will think they are doing God's work when they "persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely" (Matt. 5:11).
Even in the first century, the apostle Paul noted the affliction and trials he faced:
Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers; in weariness and painfulness, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness (1 Cor. 11:25-27).
Now, 20 centuries later, Christians continue to wait in patience and with endurance, as we face our own trials and persecutions. In tough times like these, God has given us His "precious promises" in the Holy Scriptures, which we can hide away in our hearts to give us great hope and help to carry on.
Two key admonitions—for the harsh days before us:
First, Colossians 3:15 urges us to "let the peace of God ... rule in your hearts. And be thankful" (Col. 3:15). His supernatural presence will continue to help you control your thoughts and emotions, giving you His peace and a thankful heart. Even in times of affliction and persecution, we can rejoice that we now have peace with God through the cross and can experience the peace of God ruling in the core of our beings. Paul said:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39).
Second, verse 16 of Colossians 3 prays that we will let the word of Christ dwell in us richly... An unknown author has said, "The Bible is bread for daily use, not cake for special occasions."
Scripture needs to be observed, absorbed and obeyed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 affirms that all Scripture "...is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness" to the end that we may be "... complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."
David Jeremiah suggests that we can encourage ourselves with Scriptures we have hidden in our hearts. They can remind us that goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives, that all things work together for good, that all these things will be added to us, that we can cast all our cares on Him, that He freely gives us all things to enjoy and that we can trust Him with all our hearts.
Remembering these great scriptural truths will release "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Col. 3:16b) through our inner beings. Jesus said, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).
The apostle Paul taught the Romans about the prayer life of believers, when "we do not know what to pray for as we ought." On those occasions "the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses" and "...intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26_.
Many believe this references supernaturally empowered "prayer language," a private, devotional exercise of "speaking in tongues," as explained in I Corinthians 12 and 14. Paul affirmed his own use of speaking in tongues to edify or build himself up in his private worship of God (1 Cor. 14:18).
Jude 20 likewise urges us to build ourselves up in our daily lives with God by "praying in the Holy Spirit." Again, many understand this as encouragement for us to speak to God (1 Cor. 14:2) in our private prayer language often.
Colossians 3:16 says we can also sing songs in our spiritual language, expressing ourselves in melodies with words of worship and phrases of praise given by the Spirit, and not our own intellect or understanding. This private expression of the "fullness of God" (Eph. 3:14-19) may be part of the "rivers of living water" which Jesus promised in John 7:38, 39.
Sixty years ago, gospel songwriter Stuart Hamblen wrote a song about spiritual faith and perseverance that became a favorite of many. In "Until Then," he perceptibly wrote "... heartache here is but a stepping stone along a trail that's winding always upward. This troubled world is not my final home!"
Then, the memorable chorus calls us to unitedly affirm:
"But, until then my heart will go on singing,/ Until then, with joy, I'll carry on!
Until the day my eyes behold the city, Until the day God calls me home."
Ordained to the ministry in 1969, Gary Curtis served as part of the pastoral staff of The Church on The Way in Van Nuys, California for 27 years (1988-2015). The last 13 years of this time, he was the vice president of Life on the Way Communications, Inc., the church's not-for-profit media outreach. Now retired, Gary and his wife have been married for 51 years and live in Southern California. They have two married daughters and five grandchildren.
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