Worth it

We live in a culture where compromise is rampant. Tolerance. Coexistence. Even among those who would call themselves believers. With all that is swirling around us, bombarding us, it is difficult to be faithful to Christ, to His Word, and to His Truth. So many days I ask the question “Is it worth it?” Is all this endurance, and pain, and faith worth it? It absolutely is. It’s worth it because this is not where our story ends. Today’s sermon at church reminded me of that.

I woke up this morning just exhausted. I was tired from a good, but taxing week. A week of crazy dreams, a week of battling my flesh and enduring the cravings, a week of faithfully seeking after Jesus. It has been good, but exhausting.

I really didn’t want to get up to go to church because I was spent. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically. Just utterly spent. It would have been easier to stay in my bed. It would have been easier to just say I can’t do this anymore. It would have been just easier to give in to what my flesh was desiring. But I didn’t. I got up, and wearily went to church.

As I drove to church this morning, I remember my thought and prayers being “Lord help me believe that all of this is worth it. Help me to believe that this suffering and struggle has purpose, and that one day things will get better.” The Lord was already ahead of me this morning as His Word hit me right where I was at.

On Sundays, our church has been doing a Sermon Series entitled More than Conquerors. We’ve been looking at Jesus’s letter to the churches in Revelation. Today we were in Revelation 2:18-29, and looking at Jesus’s letter to the Church of Thyatira.

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:18-23).

In each of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus not only speaks words of affirmation, but he also calls for them to repent and turn from various things. Here in Thyatira is no different. He recognizes their works, their love and faith, and their patient endurance. But He has this one thing against them. That they have compromised. They have compromised in that they are both trying to please the world and Jesus. There is a woman in their congregation who is leading them astray. Jesus likens her to Jezebel from the Old Testament. She is proclaiming that God has said that it’s okay to take part in the rituals and festivals of the days, sexual immorality, and there are those in the church who have compromised. Jesus is calling the true followers of Jesus to repent of these practices, and to turn back to Him wholeheartedly. The warning is that those who do not repent, and turn back, will be judged through a great tribulation. Jesus though in love calls them to return to Him and to stop compromising.

It is easy within our cultural, multi-faceted, diverse context, to understand the plight of the Church of Thyatira. Within this culture, these festivals affected their livelihood. Their jobs. And by not attending the festivals, they would face persecution, possibly even death. Unlike the Thyatiran’s, we are not subjected to death because of our differences in beliefs with the world, but we are faced with ridicule.

When we take stands on the issues of this day, we will be seen differently. Our reputations may be affected. We may be passed over for promotions. We may be seen as bigots and haters just because we have different beliefs. And that’s tough. It’s tough to be different. To be outcasts. But it won’t always be this way. Here was the main encouragement, I got from today, in my own fight to not compromise and give in.

“But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.  Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Here Jesus encourages those who have not compromised. He tells them to hold fast to what you have until I come. Hold fast to me He says. He says that the one who does will truly win in the end. That the script will be flipped. That the outcasts, and the hurting, the cast offs, and the broken, will be brought near, that they will be given authority over the nations. There will be no more crying. Or hurting. Or disappointments. Or being looked at funny. We will be at perfect peace. Most importantly, Jesus says that I will give to him who conquers and endures to the end, the morning star. Himself. Jesus is referencing the Old Testament writings that talked about the morning star coming, and then in the Gospels where Jesus is referred to as the morning star.

Wow. What an incredible encouragement. That there is hope for us who hold fast to Jesus. It may not seem like it in this moment, in this time of exhaustion, and fighting off our flesh, and not compromising, but it will be worth it in the end. In the end, we win. In the end, we get peace. In the end, we get comfort. In the end, we get it all. So hold fast.

Hold fast when you can’t hold on any longer. Hold fast when you are exhausted and tired of fighting. Hold fast when the world throws you out, and when you are discouraged and depressed. Hold fast to Jesus, for a time is coming, when our holding fast will pay off. Hold fast.

I don’t know where you’re at today. Maybe you came into the day like me. Discouraged, tired, wondering if it all is worth it. Know that it is. Know that Jesus is with you in the fight, in the doubts, anxieties, hurts, disappointments, and when the world pushes us away. Know that He knows where you’re at, and He’s just saying to you and me, hold on child. Hold on with all you have, to my word, to my truth, to my goodness, my love, for I’ve got you. We will make it to the end. For we are more than conquerors through Him who have saved us and is continually saving us every day.

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Blessings.

Standing Still

We live in a culture that is very transient. Things are constantly moving and changing. Just look at the recent NBA free agency and you’ll see players moving from one team to another very rapidly. We as humans like change when we can be in control of the change. We like the idea of the “greener” pasture. We hate feeling stuck or life growing dull or stale. So whenever we feel stuck, stale, we move. We change our surroundings. We add a hobby, etc. Jesus though calls us at times as Christians to a counter cultural stance. To Stand Still. To stand still where we are and know that we can trust God that He is working and moving us forward even in our stillness and dullness.

I am in this season of standing still, and it’s been tough. It’s been tough because it’s not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. A few years back, I was in vocational ministry, leading a youth group, and even was given an opportunity to take a full time youth ministry position with great pay and benefits. Now three years later, I’m still single, I’m no longer in vocational ministry, and I work in a call center doing college admissions. To put it bluntly, this is not where I thought I would be.

Even though this is not where I thought I would be at in this season, this time has been important. This time has allowed me to rest, to reflect, to grow, and to uncover deep seeded roots to struggles I have had in my life for a long time. In this time, I’ve been able to form a deeper relationship with my brother,  get plugged into good godly places of community and support, form incredible friendships, and begin to let go of many things that have weighed me down for so long. I have been given such clarity in this season.

As I woke up this morning, the Lord brought this phrase to my mind. “Stand Still.” Now, you may view standing still as pretty passive, but it is actually a very active step. Standing still takes faith. It takes faith to stand still in the dullness, in the loneliness, in the mundane, in the routine, and believe that even in the standing still that God is working in and around your life to move you forward.

I’m reminded of the example of Moses, who stood still, seemingly trapped between the quickly approaching Egyptians, and the Red Sea, with the recently released Israelite’s complaining and cowering behind him. He responded in Exodus 14:13-14: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Standing still at this moment defied logic. Death awaited them on either side, but Moses trusted God and stood still believing that God would make a way to save His people. And He did. He parted the Red Sea, as the Israelite’s passed over on dry ground, while the Egyptian Army was swallowed up by the Sea as it closed behind them. God provided.

I’m reminded of the faith of Steven, who while being stoned, lifted his eyes to heaven and endured til the end. Daniel, who was thrust into the lion’s den, for being faithful to his God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown into a blazing hot furnace for refusing to worship false gods. Paul, who after the earthquake that shook his chains free, stayed put and didn’t leave the prison. Esther, who went before the king unwarranted, to petition of behalf of her people. Abraham, who was asked to wait on the birth of his son, and the fulfillment of the promise God had made to him. And Ultimately, Jesus, who hung on a cross, innocent, standing still, was beaten, mocked, spit upon, and died, to pay the price for our sins, that we might be free from our sins and be able to enter into a relationship with the Father.

These are our examples of followers of Christ who stood still even in the midst of trying times. They stood still because they trusted God to show up, and He did. Constantly.

Just like these Bible characters, there will be times as Christians when we will be asked to stand still. We will be asked to stay in a job that greatly under utilizes our talents, to stand still in our singleness, to stand still in our disappointments, our losses, our hurts, and our confusions. It will be in this time that we will be asked by God “Do you trust me enough to just stand still and wait on me to show up?” It is here, in this place, where we are solely dependent on God, where we learn both to endure, to rest, and to trust that God fights for us, even as we have nothing in us that is able to fight.It is in this time of standing still where the Lord shores us up, teaches us who He is, and shows us what is really important. We go deeper with Him.

While standing still may carry with it the connotation of passivity, we still have purpose. We have purpose to be faithful where we are at. In our homes. In our jobs. God has placed us where we are at for a reason in this season. We have purpose to use our gifts, and our talents that God has given us for His good, and to further His Kingdom wherever we are.

We will also need others in this time of standing still. Others that will come alongside us and stand with us, holding our arms up, as we grow tired. Reminding us. Giving us perspective. Encouraging us with the words of God. Reminding us of the example of Christ as our suffering Servant, and the saints who have the run the race faithfully before us. Pushing us forward.

Standing still isn’t forever. It’s a season, and a difficult one at that. We can take advantage of it though while we’re here, learning to trust God fully, to lean on Him, to cry out to Him, and to trust Him that He will fight for us. We can be faithful to serve God where we are, asking Him to grow us in being content. He will teach us to stand still if we will ask Him.

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’re in a frustrating season of life, where confusion and chaos reign, and you just feel stuck. Be encouraged. Know that God fights for you, if you would only be still. If you would be still, if I would be still, God would show up, and we would be filled.

 

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Picture taken from: https://www.gotquestions.org/be-still-and-know-that-I-am-God.html

Blessings.