Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
2 Corinthians 11:23b-27(NLT)
I’m not sure the Apostle Paul would have had a bodyguard standing over him at his book signing at Barnes & Noble. Well, he did write a considerable chunk of the New Testament, which certainly has been a best-seller for quite some time. But Paul’s royalties were never deposited in earthly banks.
When you read Paul’s account of what life was like on the missionary trail of the first century it is somewhat different than that of “American” Christianity.
In the 21st century there is severe persecution happening in parts of the world most of us have never/will never visit; we read about it or see news clips of the violence. But in the good ol’ U.S. of A. our brand of persecution centers around whether or not you can stand in the pulpit on Sunday morning, or if the music is too loud, and not what you are accustomed to hearing. Heaven forbid the temperature in the sanctuary is too hot or cold.
It’s quite different from the beatings, shipwrecks, dangers, toils and snares Paul faced – to the advent of American rock-star pastors with bodyguards.
It is little wonder the sheep wander from the fold.
But Paul predicted this too:
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3(NLT)
I believe what Jesus had in mind for his followers was going a little farther-in than the itching ears…all the way to the heart and will. This is what must be bent in the direction of Christ’s sacrifice. Genuine sheep-followers of the Great Shepherd don’t wander…they serve.
When tempted to complain about your church, pastor, fellow parishioner, or even the temperature setting in the sanctuary, remember what that old time preacher, Vance Havner once said:
Faith that is fickle at the first will fizzle at the finish!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!