REPOST(TOP 10 POST OF YEAR) #8
This is the first in a multi-part series exploring how Christians can live missionally in difficult times
These are the times that try men’s souls.
These words open up Thomas Payne’s pamphlet, “The American Crisis.” Now, I am not going to pretend to know what it was like in the days leading up the American Revolution. Nor am I, in any way, trying to make direct comparison of those times with ours. But, I think we can all agree that the time in which we live are indeed soul trying – gut wrenching times.
Not only is historical Christianity being ignored and intellectually challenged, but, for the first time in recent memory Christianity is being tried in the court of public opinion and being found morally, ethically, and even socially bankrupt. I remember sharing the gospel with people and having them reject the message by using the excuse, “I am not good enough to be a Christian.” Or “When I get older, and ready to settle down as a goody-goody, then I will become a Christian.” While those excuses are still given, more and more, Christians are hearing, “I don’t want to be a Christian because I’m not a bigot.” Or “Why would I want to join a hate group?” Christian beliefs and values are now seen as un-American and to be avoided at all costs.
These are indeed disheartening and confusing days in our country. Most of us grew up in a culture that welcomed, and even affirmed the core elements of our faith. We had the luxury of resting easy. This is no longer the case.
But what does this mean for God’s mission? Do the problems and current cultural strains mean Christians should back away from God’s mission? By no means!
As frustrating (and even frightening) as this is, it is important to remember that, except for a very brief moment in world history, the normal position for the Christian church has been as a persecuted and harassed minority. In fact, even a quick study of the scriptures shows that days like ours (or much worse) were predicted and anticipated. And with this in mind, it is important to realize that where the US church finds itself today, harassed and publicly mocked, is not abnormal. It is biblical.
Dear Christian, welcome home!
Jesus promised: “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were friends with the world, the world would love you…” (John 15:18-19)
I want to give 10 goals for living missionally in these difficult times.
Goal 1 – Live a life of courage not fear
We are not the first generations of Christians to be forced to live in difficult times. In fact, in a study of Christian history, it is more like we have been on vacation in a foreign land and have (in some ways) come back home.
I know these are difficult days. But, the fact that this is our home turf is actually good news. Our faith was designed for this world. We can live with courage. Think of all the times in the Bible when God’s people are told, “Do not fear. I am with you.” When Jesus gave the Great Commission, he promised to be with us till the end of this age. These current troubles do not negate his promise. We live courageously because of this promise of Jesus.
Goal 2 – Live a life of Prayer
John Piper, reminds us that prayer is not a domestic intercom by which we call for more creature comforts, but rather a wartime walkie-talkie, with which we cry out to headquarters to send us what we need for survival and success in the mission. (see Let the Nations Be Glad, 69)
We can neglect prayer when things are peaceful. Now, many of us need to learn the life of prayer. Prayer has always provided strength and power for God’s children. If you have neglected prayer in the past, let me beg you to begin learning to pray. Start today and learn to live a life of prayer.
Goal 3 – Find Strength in the Word of God
The Bible is God’s Word. This simple sentence cannot be neglected. The book on your nightstand or the app on your phone is the very revelation of God. In it He is telling us what is true.
His mission is revealed.
His will is revealed.
His ways are revealed.
The Bible is more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10) Don’t fill up on the words that do not satisfy. Learn to make the scriptures the anchor in these trying times.
Goal 4 – Anticipate, but do not shrink from, difficult times
I am asking God for a generation of Christians who will not shrink back in the face of modern difficulties. God’s mission is advancing and we are his agents of mission in the world. He has called us and has sent us. We dare not retreat.
This is our time!
This is our generation!
We have been brought into the kingdom for just this time!
Keith Green, famously said: “This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls.”
Let’s not allow the difficulty of the day cause us to abandon Christ’s commission to “make disciples of all nations.”
Next week we will look at goal’s 5-7.
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com