Throughout the pages of the Bible we find examples of faith. We find those who are weak in faith and those who lose faith quickly under almost any circumstance. We also see examples of those of tremendous faith. Those with faith that never wavered, never broke down, never cracked, never gave up or gave in.
In the New Testament age we know that individuals died for their faith in Christ. We know individuals were imprisoned for their faith. The Apostle Paul wrote most of the New Testament from prison. Even the bars of this cold, dark and twisted world was not enough to silence his love for Christ and the brethren.
When we start to complain because of the hardships we face because of our faith in Christ, considering the following: Stephen in Acts 7 was stoned to death for his faith in Christ, James the son of Zebedee was beheaded for his faith, Philip was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterward crucified. Matthew was slain with a halberd (a combination spear & battle-ax). James the less was, at the age of 94 beat and stoned by the Jews. Matthias was stoned then beheaded. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross (later known as St. Andrews Cross). Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria at the great solemnity of Serapis their idol. Tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down. Paul “gave his neck to the sword”. Jude was crucified. Bartholomew was beaten and then crucified. Thomas was thrust through with a spear. It is believed Luke was hanged (Fox's Book of Martyrs). All these men and other individuals died for their faith in Christ. If that wasn't enough Nero is credited with “dressing Christians in shirts made stiff with wax, and fixed them to trees and then set them on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them (Fox's Book of Martyrs).
It’s clear that such sacrifices were not made lightly. Men and woman throughout the ages have determined to sacrifice their lives to remain faithful to God. Such verses as Matthew 10:39 reminds us of the reward of those who sacrifice their lives for Christ. “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”.
The next time we think getting up early on a Sunday is a sacrifice remember those who gave so much more. The next time you go on vacation and skip services remember those who gave it all. The next time you start thinking the church is too demanding remember what Christ gave for you.
Surely our sacrifices are nothing in the sight of those who gave their lives and is nothing compared to what Christ gave for us. It’s time we all remember that being a Christian is not for the weak, but for the brave and the strong. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” 1Co 16:13.
This a familiar question. It can pose a lot of different scenarios. A person or a congregation will often ask this question in many forms before making a decision on any matter.
Let's consider this question as it relates to us. As we take a deeper look one may ask a thousand different questions. We will begin by looking at how this question can affect us individually.
The same as you…
What if someone in the church lived just as you did? What if God was just as important to them as He is with you? How important is God to you? Well, many would say He is very important, but, is that really true?
Importance defined by some…
Some would have you believe that God is important to them because they attend services, “as often as they can”. They come to Sunday morning worship service. They bow their heads during prayers. They partake of the Lord’s Supper. They put something in the contribution plate. They softly sing along with the congregation. They sit still during the lesson. Does this mean God is important to them?
God is important to some because they read their Bible. Some read God’s word once a week, others every day, but does this mean God is important to them?
Still, others define God’s importance to them by how long they have been a “member”. Just how does the Bible define a “member” of the Lord’s church? Someone who has been baptized into Christ (Galatian 3:26-27); someone who attends regularly (Hebrews 10:25); someone who is a “student” of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15); Someone who shuns sin and strives for Godliness (Romans 6:6)? These basic requirements seem simple enough. However, those who often use their membership as proof of God’s importance in their lives, often do not meet these basic requirements that God’s Word has set forth.
So the question remains for us to consider. What if someone made God just as important in their lives as He is in yours? On which path, then would your example place them?
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV)
In life there are many reasons for tears. The loss of loved ones. The loss of our job. The loss of our home in a storm. There is no greater reason for tears than for sin. Christ lamented over Jerusalem because of their sins and lack of desire to come to Him. Notice His words in Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Today, we still weep for similar reasons that Christ wept. Trying to help the faithful remain faithful is a struggle that must be dealt with every day. In like manner, the struggle to restore the unfaithful is one that wears on the heart of man. Both troubles can bring tears to anyone’s eyes.
It is common for a person to weep over their own sins. Perhaps because of the guilt the person feels for committing the sin or perhaps the relief they feel after confessing their sin(s) to the Father. Weeping is not a sign of weakness like so many would have you believe. Shedding tears is often a result of our emotions. Without a doubt, the eternal nature of one’s soul, the temptations and wickedness that war against the soul are sure to cause tears from time to time.
Preachers, not unlike concerned elders and members, sometimes weep for those who have strayed from the faith and those who battle greatly to keep the faith they do possess. Such things as those who will not commit to God as He deserves, or those who will not come out of sin, or those who despise Truth are situations that can wear a person down. They can cause us to wonder about not only the state of an individual or of the local church but the state of the Lord’s church in general.
Let us never become so cold and callused that we do not weep over those who have strayed from the faith. Sometimes it seems what causes an individual to stray is a small matter, in such cases this only makes the situation even more distressing. Let us pray for them, reach out to them and at times we may find ourselves weeping because of them.
Let us never take sin so lightly that we do not weep because of those trapped in its snares (Heb 12:1). Let us pray that our tears will be tears of joy because of righteous decisions and not tears of heartache.