“Consider it pure joy when you face trials of various kinds” – James 1:2
I don’t know about you, but as a believer, I’m starting to feel like a minority in our culture. I know surveys say that a majority of Americans believe in God, but that doesn’t mean our culture is filled with followers of Christ. Jesus even said, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder” (James 2:19). One trial we’re facing is that our culture is far removed from the doctrines and beliefs of the Christian faith. It is no longer socially acceptable for a store to say “Merry Christmas”, T.V. shows geared toward teenagers promote promiscuity because that is real life issues, lying and cheating is a way of life so you can gain success. Our beliefs are being challenged and the natural way to think and feel about this is to get overwhelmed, anxious, and like our rights are being taken away. But what if our culture shifting away from Christian beliefs was a good thing? Now, hear me out and know my heart. I would love nothing more than to raise our two girls in a world where everyone loved Jesus and they were encouraged to pray in school and they didn’t face such hard issues at a young age. But I don’t think expecting the world to conform to us is the answer. I think God is using this shift to let His light shine brighter.
A few Sunday’s ago our Pastor shared a story about Vanderbilt University, a school in the Bible belt, that organizations could no longer “discriminate” people who want to join or be in leadership positions based on religious beliefs. Translation, a Christian organization must allow people with various beliefs (even atheist) to be members or even leaders in their organization. Shock and awe brushed over the congregation, and then the Pastor said something very interesting. Go ahead, then that means a Christian could be the President of an atheist organization. And just as fast as the shock and awe consumed us, hope filled our hearts.
We are sometimes quick to feel oppressed by these trials. And our complaints about things being unfair keep us occupied by keeping our focus on the trial. But the moment we believe God is bigger than the trial and in control we find peace and we are motivated to follow His guidance. God told us in James 1:2 that we are to have PURE JOY, that’s right not just joy, but PURE, untainted JOY during trials. And that can be nearly impossible when we only look at our trials. So what is the bright side of our current culture crisis? The result of a trial is a “testing of our faith” (James 1:3). We are faced with the dilemma, what do we really believe about God? Do we really believe that God spoke creation into existence (Genesis 1:1-31), that God created each and every person on this earth and that God sent His only Son Jesus to die for our sins and then conquered death by raising Him from the dead?
That is our hope. In the midst of trials we can either turn toward that hope or we can be consumed with worry and feel paralyzed. We are on the side of the cross where God demonstrated power and love. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that IN ME you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Do we believe God has overcome our world and that He is able to defeat any trial we face? The answer to culture crisis isn’t getting stores to say “Merry Christmas”, our answer is Jesus. Letting our lives be transformed by Christ. Let these trials motivate us to draw nearer to God, since that’s where we find peace. And then as we draw nearer to Him, we are transformed by Him.
The transition in our culture I believe is forcing us to trust in Jesus and for our actions to speak louder than our words. “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongues, but with actions and in Truth” (1 John 3:18). There are believers in other countries who are much more oppressed, but they are still thriving. They are thriving because the thought of being persecuted for their faith pushes them toward God. If they are risking their lives, it better be for a living God. They believe God is all powerful and nothing else matters other than living for Christ. They get the words of Paul, “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Everyday they live, the name of Jesus is going to be proclaimed and when God calls them to heaven, what a glorious day because they get to worship the Risen King. To them, there is nothing that competes with living a life for Christ.
We even see this in the life of Paul, who was in jail and knowing death was imminent, he was encouraging Timothy to not be ashamed of the message (the gospel). Even though Paul was chained up for preaching the gospel, he told Timothy it was worth it (2 Timothy 1:8-12). And Paul credited his chains in prison for advancing the gospel (Philippians 1:14). When a situation seems hopeless, we can have hope because Christ overcame the world. When we feel there is corruption that surrounds us, we can be the light of Christ (Matthew 5:13). Let the light of Christ that dwells in us outshine any darkness. Let those who shame the name of Christ, feel loved by us. Let those who have no hope, turn to us because we have a hope they want. Let the world see the love of Christ by the way we love one another. Let God’s name be proclaimed in the way you live.
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