"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Calm in the Storm

As I remembered that last week was the last message on purity, I found myself at a loss for what to teach today so I want to finish up on something that I had taught a while back. Originally this message was a continuation of the one entitled "A Lukewarm Mindset" which focused on John 18 and how Peter acted in the face of oppression and how this parallels with today. I want to split up this second half of the message and, today, speak on His providence in the face of oppression.

Now, the message on the lukewarm mindset left off looking at the attributes of a lukewarm Christian, how they give the appearance of a genuine Christian but crumple under pressure and submit to the world. And now, like many Christian messages, I want to change roads and look at how we face the oppression that people find their faith crumpling under.

It isn't breaking news to any genuine Christian that oppression is slowly increasing in the world. In some places its far worse than others, but nevertheless, it is increasing and we know this can come in many forms too. I remember, a while back, there was a substitute teacher at my school who was a devout Atheist and we had some pretty decent conversations on morality and religion that resulted in us not getting any work done (totally not my fault). One day we were talking during break time and somehow the topic of a literal view of creation came up and when he found out that I do take it literally, he responded with something along the lines of "Its one thing to believe in God, but you don't really believe that's literal, do you?!"

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed at his disappointment with me but this took little toll on my faith; I'm used to mockery for my beliefs on the creation account. But let's broaden things for a moment and ask: what about younger Christians who are simply trying to defend Christ and Him alone? And they find themselves feeling weighed down by the oppression, because, unfortunately, Satan knows our weaknesses and will do what he can to crush our faith. I'm sure he would enjoy nothing more than to see a young Christian crumple under oppression and for the faith to die.

But just as Satan and his demons don't take days off from attacking us, nor does God leave a day without a promise of His peace. The phrase "Do not be afraid" or similar phrases with the same meaning is repeated 365 times in the Bible.

Now, I've come to accept the definition of a coincidence being "A miracle where God chooses to remain anonymous" and for the number of promises on this topic to be the exact same number as that of day in the year is just amazing and shows nothing less than His providence in our lives.

Now, since the intended purpose of this blog is to keep the youth in mind specifically, I do want to take a moment and speak to them directly.

Guys, the most common thing we will likely hear from non-Christians who are against God but won't openly discriminate against Christians are going to say things along the lines of "You're too young to understand the world" or "You'll grow out of it". And they see our faith as something childish, like believing in Santa, that we grow out of overtime.

Job 32:8 NIV says, "But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."

These words were spoken by Elihu in the book of Job. He was the last one to speak out of all of Job's friends because he was the youngest and yet the words he spoke were the wisest.

The understanding we have of Scripture is His gift to us. People will say that you are too young to understand when it is they who not even realise that it is God who gives understanding in the first place.

Now, as God has led me to write more and more of these messages, I find that so often do the messages return back to the central providence of God: the peace He brings, His light burden, His easy yoke. And now that we arrive at the topic of oppression, His providence is just as valid and just as applicable.

Matthew 11:30 NIV says, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'"

In the midst of this oppression, He gives us this promise. This promise of a light heart, of rest, and as mentioned before, of courage. And He doesn't fail to continue to remind us of this: 

John 16:33 NIV says, “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.”

Time and time again, not only does Christ recognise the oppression of the world and the fight we have before us but He PROMISES us that we will have peace in His because He has overcome the world so that we would not be afraid. 

And some might be thinking, "Dude, you're just spouting Bible verses here, what am I learning?" 

But isn't this what we need? To simply have His Word? 

I recall a sermon a while back where the speaker humoursly commented that sometimes he felt that we would learn more in church if we would just read the chapter rather than having someone trying to teach a sermon on the chapter. 

And, in a way, its too true. We find ourselves too reliant on what other Christians are teaching us and not allowing ourselves to nurture our own souls with His Word. 

We need those few simple verses each day of His promises to restore us in the midst of oppression, two hours each Sunday won't give you the same refreshment nor will it give you the same direction in the midst of oppression. 

But His Word? It equips us with exactly what we need to stand firm in the face of oppression and it alone is sufficient. Let His Word give you the calm you need in the storm. 

God bless you all. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

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