Fundamentals of Christian Growth Part 18

A person who is living a godly life will live in a way that people will be able to notice. Their lives will either bring the ungodly to a place of conviction or rebellion to soothe their conscience. This is why Paul tells us that those who are pursuing God experience persecution (2 Timothy 2:12).

Living a godly life will mean moving in a different direction than the world around us. This will cause us to stand out. Persecution is the natural consequence then of living a holy life!

It is almost like society is being driven downstream by the devil to their destruction. He will not resist a person who flows with the crowd. Satan though will resist those who choose to move in a different direction to pursue God.

We will experience problems in this life as we pursue God and begin to grow in Him. He is not the source of the trials, troubles, or persecution that result in our pursuing Him. 

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
John 10:10

God is not the source of sickness, poverty, or any number of other problems that we may experience. Satan comes to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy” with a goal of stealing the Word that may have been planted in our hearts. 

And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
Mark 4:16-17

One of the greatest hindrances to spiritual growth is the belief that God is in control of everything. If we can just grasp the fact that this is not true and that it is Satan who is the source of our problems it would change everything. 

A person could walk into the average town in any country and open a bar without any resistance. In my experience they would even be accepted by most of the local churches as an outstanding member of the community!

The person who walks into the average town and starts preaching the goodness of God will be resisted. I once read that the thing for which Oral Roberts was persecuted the most was his “audacity” of saying that God wanted to do good things for people. 

There is this perception that God is the source of all suffering that has been spread by religion. Ministers will not hesitate to tell the sick that God has a reason for putting that sickness on them. If we really believed this was true, we would not seek medical help to get better. The doctor would only be helping us get out of God’s will!

Paul tells us the persecution follows a godly life. Jesus told His disciples that Satan will use persecution to steal the Word planted in our hearts. From these two statements we could actually say that persecution is a primary indicator that we are growing in our walk with God!

Satan wants us to compromise. He does not want us to stand on God’s Word. Afflictions and persecution are the main tools he has used to cause people to move off of their commitment to God.

Persecution comes in many flavors and formats. It may come from a family member criticizing us, a coworker making fun of us, or neighbors refusing to speak to us. Regardless of how it comes, persecution’s main goal is to get us to back off of our faith.

Most people do not understand why these things happen. Some interpret afflictions and criticism as a mark that they are wrong. If this was true then Jesus, the disciples, and Paul must have been off course! The Gospel account and book of Acts are full of accounts detailing the persecutions experienced.

I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
1 Corinthians 10:21-32

Paul knew something about persecution. This did not stop him from pursuing God! We need to develop the same conviction he lived by!

Christian growth will occur in the life of a person who makes a commitment to stand on the Word of God regardless of what people may say to them or may do to them. 

Many years ago I served a church as youth minister in a denominational church while in my second year of Bible school. This was a typical youth group that was more social than spiritual which is found in the majority of churches today.

Over time a hunger began to grow in my spirit. The Wednesday night cookouts and volleyball games were no longer enough and I began to spend time seeking God even more than I had ever done before.

I began to talk to the pastor about my desire to see God touch the young people. He counseled me to be satisfied that they were attending church. The church was satisfied by the young people showing up and filling pews on a weekly basis.

There was an inner struggle and one Monday I skipped out of my classes to spend the day in prayer. The Holy Spirit began to teach me about expectancy that day. This is a trait found in the great church leaders of the past that is missing in most of the Church today.

My time of prayer extended into Tuesday and then again into Wednesday. I found an expectancy growing in my heart for the Holy Spirit to move and touch the young people at church. As I continued to seek God this became a burning passion. I found myself even willing to resign if God did not move! Unbeknownst to me this would be a Wednesday like no other in that church. 

We usually met in the youth room to pray over our activities and the food. I arrived at church and saw one of the deacons at the grill preparing the hamburgers and hotdog. The young people were waiting for me and appeared to be as indifferent to God as they were every other week previously.

I always played a song of worship, prayed a prayer, and dismissed the young people to enjoy themselves. My back was turned towards the room as I started the tape. The first words of the song began and I heard chairs crashing behind me. It seemed that my prayer time had been wasted! 

I was stunned by what was going on when I turned around. The young people were not playing or joking around as I had expected was going on. They had been overcome by the power of God! The noise behind me had been their chairs being knocked over as they were knocked out of them.

I had started the music at approximately 7 p.m. The young people lay under the power for more than an hour and then began ministering to one another. It was absolutely miraculous and I just sat and watched.

Our pastor sent his wife in at 9 p.m. to check on us. We had not come out for the cookout or games as was normal. She came in to put a stop to whatever was going on because it was a school night and the young people needed to get home. The power overcame her and she crumpled to the ground! I still could only sit and watch. We did not leave that room until well after 11 p.m.!

Revival had come to our youth group but not without persecution. The church board met with our pastor the next day. He called me afterwards and told me that an agreement had been made that this would be a one time occurrence. This was not something I could agree to so the pastor fired me!

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