Thursday, June 29, 2006

Are We Worthy?

WorldNetDaily tells the story of a Navy chaplain who is facing a possible court-martial for "praying in Jesus name" and sharing the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ. Read this story here.

As I was first reading the story, I was outraged. I'm sick of the "politically correct" society we live in, where you can believe or say anything you want, unless it offends somebody. What kind of freedom of religion exists in this country if a Navy chaplain is not allowed to teach the Truth?

But last night I was forced to take a step back and look at this story with a new perspective. We are going through the book of Acts in Bible study, and as I brought up this chaplain's story last night, my mind went back to chapter 5. Here, we are told of the persecution the apostles faced at the hands of the high priest, the Sadducees, and the Sanhedrin. They are imprisoned for preaching the gospel of salvation through the crucifixion & resurrection of Christ. Then they are freed by an angel, in order that thay may continue their preaching. The next day, they are brought in again, and are flogged and released, being ordered "not to speak in the name of Jesus." The last two verses of the chapter are what gave me new perspective:
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:41-42, NIV)
The apostles had just been imprisoned and flogged. What is their reaction? Are they grumbling and complaining about injustice? No! They are rejoicing! Why? Because "they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" of Jesus Christ! It was this very persecution that helped spread the gospel. Why should I be surprised that things haven't changed that much? The Name of Christ, and His crucifixion & resurrection, is still a stumbling block & foolishness to the world, but it is also still the power of God and the wisdom of God to those whom God has called.

Don't forget that God is in control, and that suffering & persecution are often His tools for spreading the glory of His grace. It is my prayer that we would be able to say with the apostle Paul, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:8) Likewise, let us "rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:3-5)

1 comment:

Noah Braymen said...

(this is a little long)

Good perspective Josh...

I think it's hard to maintain that attitude sometimes, so we must fight for it. I think if we were to boldly share Jesus Christ at work we might experience being fired and possibly legal ramifications similar to the guy you were talking about in the article.

This is a form [Navy chaplain’s court-martial] of suffering, but it's more elusive and complicated than being flogged or beaten by an authority that has no connection in the morals and opinions [“sovereignty”] of the people. This current situation is a legal punishment by a legal system in which we supposedly have a say, right?

Also, “legally” these kinds of punishment are against the law of our land as the people have supposed “sovereignty” here, and a possible majority of people here would disagree with this action. Because of this we feel that we have some ownership in how the government acts, and we are definitely experiencing challenges on the aspect of “freedom of religion” and “freedom of speech” that our government claims it is responsible to maintain.

So, if a lot of people disagree with this action…the emotions of being upset may be warranted in that God may be giving those emotions to you (in fact He probably is). He may use those feelings to contribute to changing the view of the culture in some way. We do need to have the attitude/mind of Christ [Phil 2:5] and imitate the apostles [2 Thes 3:7, 9; Hebrews 13:7] in rejoicing in their sufferings [Ro 5:3; Col 1:24; Acts 5:41-42] but we do need to seek justice in humility [Micah 6:8] and speak the truth in love [Eph 4:15].

I don't believe the connecting of (1) physical suffering under a government that doesn’t uphold “freedom of religion and speech” with (2) legal suffering from a government that does uphold these freedoms is a complete non sequitur. There are some complications in this circumstance because of the “supposed” difference between the governmental systems of the circumstance of the apostles and the current circumstance for the Navy chaplain. We do need to remember God is Sovereign over all things and in control of all things though, but this isn’t a reason to detach ourselves emotionally from the situation…ultimately resulting in no action…etc. Maybe we should write a letter to our senator, the president, or other folks that are supposed to be representing us?

Also, I don't think it's wrong to not want to suffer for the right reasons [Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; Hebrews 5:7-8; John 12:27], or if someone is suffering to desire it to end or that they be healed [James 5:13-16], to the glory of God.

We must have the attitude in the midst of all kinds of suffering similar to, "Lord, accomplish Your will however, with whomever, where-ever, and whenever, for Your purposes, in anyway You might choose. Help me to be obedient to be used by You in the midst of this in some way," And if He chooses suffering we should rejoice; if not we should rejoice! Our goal should be the same in all circumstances, to exhibit/communicate the glory of God through living/speaking the gospel for the enjoyment of all people.

That was long…any thoughts? In resting in God’s sovereignty what action do you think we should take? A stance of prayer for our government and leaders is always good. Do you think letters really work? Anything else?

In Christ