Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Suffering for Righteousness Sake

by Michael C. Garrett

Unfortunately, many of us have discovered that the member’s of our family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, they often look upon us – and when they hear these ideas and some of the things in which we believe – as being bizarre, curious, eccentric, odd, outlandish, peculiar, strange, unusual, and even weird. And as I’ve mentioned before, I understand why they think these things, because they have never heard them. They’ve never heard the idea of Feast of Trumpets or Atonement, or Feast of Tabernacles. Because their religious leaders – their priests, their ministers, what ever they call them – they have never taught them the truth from God’s Word. And all that I can say is that we need to be understanding and patient with them, because, you know, someday they will understand these terms.

If, because of your personal convictions to observe God’s true Holy Days and weekly Sabbath, some of the people around you may conclude that you are strange. And that shouldn’t shock you! If you would, turn back to 1st Peter – because he’s discussing a little different subject here, but he makes a statement which I think applies to this. 1st Peter chapter 4, verse 4 – “In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.” And so there are times when we are observed and people outside of our group they speak badly about us, and notice chapter 3, verse 16 – “having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” – and someday they will be ashamed of what they have done, and they will ask to be forgiven and they will apologize, and at that time everything will be understood.

Notice chapter 2, verse 12, in 1st Peter – he alludes to this again – “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God IN THE DAY OF VISITATION.” – when Jesus Christ returns to this Earth and you – His saints – have been resurrected and are a part of the Kingdom of God – when that day occurs those people around you who had ridiculed you, or mocked you – and when they finally understand, “O’ no, he was right!” “She was right! She did have the truth of God!” “They did represent God! They were truly ambassador’s for the Kingdom of God!” And then they’re going to come to you and ask forgiveness and they’re going to glorify God that in their lifetime at least they got to know one of you. And they were around one of you. And I think it will make their conversion at that future time period much easier.

Yes, sometimes people do speak evil of us. And sometimes people even go out of their way to make trouble for us. And, believe it or not, in my opinion, this is one of the meanings of the Days of Unleavened Bread. It’s not the main meaning, or the top five or six, but it’s one of ‘em. I think. And if you would, turn back to Deuteronomy chapter 16 – where Moses was inspired to write about the Days of Unleavened Bread, Deuteronomy 16 and Leviticus 23 talk about the holy days. Deuteronomy chapter 16, verse 3 – “’You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, THE BREAD OF AFFLICTION …’” – and if you look up in the Concordance, that word “affliction” there - can mean trouble. The bread of trouble. If you keep the ways of God, you are going to have some problems ever so often! And because of the problems other human beings attempt to create for us it can at times be very problematic and difficult to be a follower of Jesus Christ. They’ll go out of their way to sort-of put things in your path.

Notice Acts chapter 14, verse 22 – this is a statement by Paul, and this is a profound comment. Sometimes when I have talked about this general subject before, it reminds me of the song that I believe Lynn Anderson sang two or three decades ago – some of you Country and Western fan’s will remember it – ♫♪I beg your pardon, (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden♪♫. Well, God, maybe could have sung that song to all of us! No where in the Bible does He promise us a ‘rose garden.’ That things would be, just, peaceful and calm, and easy – and just everywhere you go people will be laying down their robes for you, and bowing to you and treating you like royalty. He said just the opposite. Here, through Paul, “…’We must through many tribulations enter [into] the Kingdom of God.’” I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden! And notice 2nd Timothy chapter 3 – Paul says something very similar to that – verse 10 – “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11) persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra – what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.” “Yes,” he says in verse 12, “and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” – it will happen to you sooner or later! And, if it never has… I’ve had some people say, “Well Mike I’ve never had a problem from anybody at any time!” And all I can say is that you must not be doing a very good job of doing what you’re supposed to be doing! Maybe you’re sort-of compromising on some edges there. You know, Jesus Christ set us an example for all of us to follow. If you would, Hebrews chapter 4 – Paul wrote some ideas. These are powerful concepts, and I love reading them, every time I do, I just go wow! Hebrews chapter 4, verse 14 – and I have referred to this verse before, because I love this passage and what it means – “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest …” – and as I’ve said before, we don’t need a priest, some guy in a dress coming to us and telling us how to cure the problems in our life or go into some secret little booth and tell our secrets to and he mumbles at us and we mumble back, and he gives us the command to do so many laps around the beads and presto-chango every things fine! We don’t need a high priest, because we already have a High Priest! “…who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [our profession, or this calling that we have].” And this next part, I think, is poorly worded, the English, it says, verse 15 – “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,” – which means, properly translated, we ‘DO HAVE A HIGH PRIEST WHICH CAN BE TOUCHED BY THE FEELINGS OF OUR INFIRMITIES!’ “…but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

And I think I’ve heard people at times express, “Well, God just doesn’t know what I’m going through!” Well, maybe theoretically God the Father has never gone through it, but Jesus Christ sure has! And He suffered to the point of death, and He was tempted in everything possible, yet without sin! So don’t say, “Well Jesus Christ never had to deal with this!” Yes He did! And He passed the test perfectly! And He had God the Father right there with Him! Verse 16 – “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help [us] in time of need.” And I love that, that’s so powerful and beautiful! Chapter 5, verse 7 – referring to Jesus Christ – “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8) though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” – and so Jesus Christ as a human being learned that discipline – that all of us are supposed to learn – to stay close to God and in the end rely upon God to get us through!

And Jesus Christ gave us some prophecies for the end-time. Which are not promises of a rose garden. Matthew chapter 10, if you would turn there. And I’ve talked about Matthew 10 a couple of times, and I have said, that when I was out in Pasadena, this was taught as a history lesson, that way back when – maybe 29-30 A.D. that this happened to the disciples. And I now realize with time that this was not just a history lesson, but it is a prophecy of the end-time. He says in verse 5 – “…’Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, …’” – and verse 6 – “’But go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. 7) And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom [from] Heaven is at hand.’ 8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, …’” and He says in verse 16 – “’Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17) But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18) You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19) But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20) for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.’

(Mr. Garrett preaches a more polished understanding of Matthew 10:17-20 in the article Prophecy Series – End Time Babylon; with this prophetically applying to the Two Witnesses).

And then, notice verse 21 – “’Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22) And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.’” – I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Just the opposite, these are the Words of Jesus Christ! But then He says, “…’But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23) When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of man comes. 24) A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.’” – and if they called Jesus Beelzebub, what are they gonna call us!? That’s another name for the devil as He says in verse 25. Verse 26 – “’Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 27) Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28) And do not fear those who kill the body…’” – but rather fear God who is able to just destroy everything – permanently, forever! Verse 32 – “’Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in Heaven.’” – do you know that this verse and verses like it is what Billy Graham used and people like him to legitimize the so-called altar call!? “You must confess yourselves before men!” And so, “Come down!” and the choir playing Just As I Am, and all the people come walking down the isles like zombies! And they stand in front of a stage and the choir is singing, and according to Billy Graham THAT’S ALL THEY HAD TO DO! “To make it to Heaven!” as he would say. And if you think about it – if that’s all you had to do to ensure eternal life – find me a football stadium tonight, because that’s pretty easy! Just walk down some steps, stand there and feel a little odd, and Billy Graham prays over you, and POOF! – you made it! It’s sort-of like the Catholics, just do what-ever you want, but, every so often go to church and go to the confessional – presto-chango – everything is alright! Well it’s not that way, you and I both know it – it’s a lot more complicated than that. Verse 33 – “’But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in Heaven. 34) Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.’” – I beg your pardon, I NEVER promised you a rose garden. Verse 35 – “’For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36) and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37) He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.’” – and in other passages, He talks about father and mother, and children, lands, country, homes, your job, your career. If you put anything BEFORE God you are committing a form of idolatry. Verse 38 – “’And he who does not take his cross …’” – now Jesus Christ had a horrible mission to fulfill at the end of His life. And all of us – what ever job we’ve been asked to do that’s what we’re supposed to do. And do it to the best of our ability. He that doesn’t follow that mission, “…’and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.’” – and for those people who try to find their life by hiding in a cave or going to some strange compound somewhere, well, if that’s what you’re gonna do, you’re gonna lose your life in the end. And, if you have to be put to the test and you have to lose your life for “…’My sake …’” you shall find life. The implication – for all eternity. And so those are some of the Words of Jesus Christ about the end time.

Notice John chapter 16 – He gives some more comments where He could have said ‘I never promised you a rose garden.’ ‘I never said it was gonna be easy all the time.’ All He said was, ‘I’ll be with you!’ And, all He said was, ‘If you stay close to Me, You’re gonna make it!’ That’s the promise! It’s not peace and safety and fuzzy little warm flowers everywhere and little squirrels – peace and happiness. John chapter 16 – some of the last Words that Jesus Christ said on this Earth as a human being. Verse 1 – “’These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be [offended, overwhelmed and walk away]. 2) They will put you out of the synagogues [churches]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you [also killing metaphorically] will think that he offers God service. 3) And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4) But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.’” -  and so when those things start to crash around us we need to remember, “Alright!” Don’t be shocked, don’t panic! God – Jesus Christ – told us that we’re going to have some of these troubles! But He also told us that He would NEVER leave us and that He would NEVER forsake us!

Now, not all the problems come from the outside world. Many times the problems we suffer through come from, sadly, tragically, within the Church, or people who claim to be members of the Church. 2nd Timothy – this is a verse that I love, this is sort-of a life-line to me awhile back when I had some people ganging up on me, and trying to kick me and punch me, stab me, and choke me, and any other analogy you want to use. And Paul said about this in 2nd Timothy chapter 4, verse 14 – “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. …” – now who is Alexander!? I don’t know. I don’t think we know. I think we can only surmise, I can’t prove it from the Bible, but, it is my instinct that Alexander the coppersmith was in all likelihood a member of the Church of God and probably, in my opinion, an elder. Maybe even a regional leader. And he decided to make trouble for Paul. And Paul’s comment was, “…May the Lord repay him according to his works.” ‘God, deal with him the way he deserves to be dealt.’ And I don’t think we’re going to hear very many good things about Alexander the coppersmith in the future. He said, verse 15 – “You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. 16) At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. …” – so even Paul had to go through an awful lot of disappointing times, but, Paul being the warrior that he was, he just wouldn’t give in to anybody – and he just kept marching forward doing the will of God and doing it, probably, in the whole Bible – second to only Jesus Christ! I think Paul is that much of a Biblical warrior in what he did. I personally think that he might be the man that God puts in charge of all the Gentiles. If King David is in charge of all the Israelites, then maybe Paul – and that’s only my opinion.

If you would, turn to Matthew chapter 13 – a parable that all of us have read, all have heard before, probably heard minister’s talk about – even me. But I think it gives us some information about sometimes troubles come from within the Church. And if you read this parable and only take it at face value, I think you should be a little more relaxed, because it shouldn’t surprise you when things happen! You should just say, “Yeah, well Jesus told us!” Verse 24 – “…’The Kingdom [from] Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25) but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares [weeds] among the wheat and went his way. 26) But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop then the tares also appeared [weeds also appeared]. 27) So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares? [where did the weeds come from?] 28) He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ [to rip up all the weeds!?] 29) But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.’” – He said, ‘just wait, be patient.’ Verse 30 – “’Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, …’” – and I think the illusion there is very clear – the ‘lake of fire.’ “…’but gather the wheat into my barn.’” – I think the illusion’s pretty clear there – into the Kingdom of God. And then in verse 34, He gives us a little more of an explanation. Verse 36 – “Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. …” – I’ve asked the question: Who’s house does He go into!? And, in all likelihood, it was probably His house that He went into. And, Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong talked about that quite a bit, how Jesus owned multiple homes – and it’s just the opposite of what Protestant’s so many times have tried to tell ya ‘bout the ‘poor Jesus,’ homeless, bedraggled, wondering through the countryside ‘no place to lay His head.’ No, Jesus, apparently, had multiple homes and I’m sure they were fine. And, I’ll betcha He built them Himself! Being that He was a construction man in His youth. “…And His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’ 37) He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of man.’” – so that would be Jesus Christ. Verse 38 – “’The field is the world, the good seeds are the [children] of the Kingdom, but the tares are the [children] of the wicked one.’” – they are in effect servants of Satan the devil. Verse 39 – “’The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40) Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41) The Son of man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42) and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43) Then the righteous will shine forth as the Sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him [or her] hear!’” – and that’s what Jesus said! If you’ve got ears to hear, listen to this story and try to figure out which side of the equation you want to be on!

Well, most of the problems which occur within the Church are created when people say things which they should not say, or they pass along information or stories often totally incorrect. Which simply should not be passed along to others. And often it’s done on purpose, and it’s done in order to discredit, harm, or even to ruin and destroy someone. And they’re often motivated by jealousy, envy and just some strange warped sense of vengeance and justice.

Well, regardless as to the source of your problems, troubles and afflictions, if you suffer for righteousness sake, and if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed. But understand that God the Father and Jesus Christ will be with you and they will reward you! Notice 1st Peter – there are several passages throughout the Book of Peter, where he talks about this concept. 1st Peter chapter 1, verse 3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, …” – and eventually Heaven will come to the Earth. Verse 6 – “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7) that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the [appearing] of Jesus Christ, …” – so when Jesus Christ returns He will reward you for your faithfulness and your diligence, and for the battles which you fought. 1st Peter chapter 2, verse 19 – “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20) For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” – now this is something we don’t normally do – as humans we don’t do this very well. But what he’s saying is – if you’re going down a highway at 65 mph, and it’s a 55 mph zone, and the officer puts on his lights and pulls in behind ya, don’t carry on like some horrible things happening to ya! You were speeding! He was doing his job. Just pull over, smile, and sign the citation. And say, “Ya got me!” What can you say!? I was speeding and he’s the law officer and he’s simply doing his job. But I’ve heard people just, “Well I can’t believe he pulled me over! He shouldn’t do that – blah, blah, blah!” That’s his job! Don’t be surprised, don’t act like you’re being hunted down – you know, because you keep the Sabbath! No, you’re a speeder! And, all of us have probably had that experience. But he says, Verse 21, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22) ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was [guile] found in His mouth’; 23) who, when He was reviled, …” – and this is tough as a human being. This is not easy – “…did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him [God the Father] who judges righteously; …” – that’s the example He set for us! These are not easy things to do, it’s like when Jesus said, ‘pray for your enemies,’ ‘do good to those who persecute you.’ Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite that mature yet! I have these moments where I struggle what I’m supposed to do, what I’m supposed to say. How I’m supposed to react. But that’s the direction we’re supposed to be going! The Way that Christ would do it! Chapter 3, verse 14 – “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, [happy are you].” O’ I’m happy, can’t you tell!? Now, again, we’re supposed to be happy – in theory. And that’s the direction we’re supposed to be going, but I’m telling you on a human plane it’s not that easy. Because we naturally, often want to strike out verbally, or physically, emotionally, or psychologically in some way. But we’re supposed to simply understand that we represent Jesus “…’And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’” Verse 16 – “having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17) For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” – Now, if you go out and rob a liquor store and you get arrested, don’t think, “Well I’m suffering for Jesus!” No, you’re just a thief, an armed robber, and you’re probably going to go to the state penitentiary, which is maybe where you need to be so you can’t hurt anybody. But, if you suffer for doing well, you have earned respect in the eyes of God and you will be rewarded.

Notice chapter 4, verse 4 – we read this earlier – “In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, …” – you don’t go to Christmas parties, or Easter pageants or all of that folderol. They will think evil of you, they will talk about you behind your back. Verse 12 – “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; …” – don’t freak out when you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, and then all this chaos erupts. Verse 13 – “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory [shall be] revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14) If you are reproached for the name of Christ, [happy] are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified [and will be glorified]. … 16) Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. … 19) Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” And, chapter 5 – Peter has one more little section. Verse 9 – “Resist him [referring to Satan the devil], steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10) But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, [They will make you] perfect. [you will be] establish[ed], strengthened, and [They will] settle you.” – you will be in the Kingdom of God!! Those are some of the promises that Peter made.

If you would, turn to Romans chapter 5 – Paul makes this comment. And again, on a human level, it’s hard to comprehend. It’s not easy to do, but I’m saying – this is the direction we should be going! And maybe we should be trying a little harder at times to get to this place. This place of spiritual maturity. Verse 1 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” -  rejoice in the fact that someday you will be resurrected! Verse 3 – “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, …” -  Ah, happy are you if you go through this!? Again, when I have to go through some of this, I don’t think, “O’ wow, I’m so happy!” “I am so blessed by having all this stuff thrown on me!” But, we’re actually supposed to understand we are doing God’s will and in the end He will get us through it.

He says, “…glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces [patience].” – how many of you believe that maybe we live in a society which is almost totally devoid of patience!? Go 55 mph on the freeway some time and see what happens to you. Go 65 and see what happens to you. People are just, “I gotta go faster!” “Faster!” Or, all the fast food – “Got to have it now! Now!” We live in a society which is not very patient, and therefore most likely we have had some of that virus creep into our systems, and maybe we are not as patient as we should be. It’s one of the fruits of God’s Spirit. Verse 4 – “and [patience], character; and character, hope.” – because AFTER you go through trial and tribulation and you see the hand of God rescue you on the other end it gives you HOPE that God will always fulfill His promises. And in the end God will always get you through these problems! Give Him time to work it out His way, but on the other end of the tunnel He will be with you and you will be in the light of God! Verse 5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – so, these are wonderful concepts! You know – Paul didn’t just talk it. Paul didn’t just go around preaching a bunch of stuff, Paul lived it!

And there’s a story in Acts chapter 16 which I marvel at! Every time I see it I just go, “Wow!” And I must confess, I’m not there yet! This is not the way I would be acting. Acts chapter 16, verse 16 – you’ve heard the story before. There was a certain damsel – a young lady possessed of a demon. That made her a fortune teller. And she made a lot of money for her master’s in the fortune telling business. Verse 17 – “This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the Way of salvation.’” – and this happened over and over, as it says in verse 18 – “And this she did for many days.” And finally, Paul just couldn’t take it anymore, he was running out of patience. He turned to the spirit and said, “…’I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’” And the demon came out of her the very same hour. And when her master’s realized that their livelihood was gone, they caught Paul and Silas and took them to the marketplace and to the rulers and verse 20 – “…they brought them to the magistrates, and said, ‘These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21) and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.’ 22) Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.” Slashed over and over! Verse 23 – “And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24) Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison [probably the darkest dankest part] and fastened their feet in the stocks.” Now, Verse 25, if this were Mike Garrett, and at midnight Mike Garrett lay in the corner – he’d be whimpering – that would probably be my natural reaction. I’m not at the level that Paul and Silas are. What did Paul and Silas do!? They prayed and sang praises unto God – so loudly that the other prisoners heard them, probably woke them up, and probably some of the prisoners were trying to throw things at them! “Shut up over there!” Well, Verse 26 – “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” A miracle from God! Verse 27 – “And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to [commit harry carry right on the spot]. “O’ no, these prisoners got loose! They told me to never let them go! My life is destroyed, I’m gonna kill myself!” Supposing that the prisoners had fled. Verse 28 – “But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ 29) Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.” – why!? He probably understood that Paul and Silas had some pretty powerful Heavenly friends on their side. Verse 30 – “And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ 31) So they said, ‘Believe on the [name] Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’  32) Then they spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33) And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34) Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” – what an amazing story – Paul and Silas, being whipped and beaten, illegally, and then singing praises to God, praying unto God, an earthquake occurs – they could leave, but they don’t, and a jailer ends up being baptized, he and all of his household! Someday we’re going to meet that jailer – whose name was added to the Book of Life!

He and his wife and his children. And someday we’re gonna hear that story – and I look forward to that day! Paul didn’t just talk the talk. Paul backed it up by real action and that’s why Paul is the great man of God that he is!

Well, when trouble’s begin to pile up in your life, and it seems to be more than you can bear, remember what Jesus said in 1st Corinthians chapter 10 – and we’ve all been there, we’ve all been where we think we just can’t go on – just too much trouble, “I just can’t handle this anymore! It’s just too tough!” And Paul said, Verse 13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it.” If you think you’re in a spot where you think you can’t go anymore – realize intellectually that you can go farther, because if you couldn’t take it, God wouldn’t allow you to be there! And when it gets to the point where you can’t take it anymore, God – He says here through His Word – will give you a way of escape. And Luke chapter 6 – the Words of Jesus Christ! Again, we as humans need to work on this – this is something, we’re probably not there. I don’t think I’m there. And maybe some of you aren’t. But at least we can think about getting there! Verse 21 – “’Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. 22) Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you [from their company], And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of man’s sake. 23) Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in Heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.’” – you’re simply joining a long line of servants of God that will someday be rewarded. If you have struggled this long – some of you have been in this Church for forty, maybe fifty years – over five decades. Don’t give in now, and don’t give up now! Notice what Paul wrote in Hebrews chapter 10 – if you’ve been with it this long, and when things start to get a little rough and you’re a little uncomfortable, you ought to turn to this chapter and this verse – Verse 32 – “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33) partly while you were made a spectacle [an object of ridicule] both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated;” – so just remember how much you’ve gone through! How long you’ve been at it! And if you were going to quit, you should have quit three decades ago! But if you’re gonna go this long – if you’re gonna go to the year 2020 – hang in there with the truth of God and the Church of God – don’t give up now! Because you simply have too much time put in! In the end, God will vindicate the righteous!

2nd Thessalonians – anytime I start to get a little blah, because I think people are picking on me, I turn to 2nd Thessalonians and I read here in the first chapter, Verse 2 – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3) We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4) so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5) which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6) since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7) and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, 8) in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9) These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10) when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” – someday God is going to take care of the scales of justice! And you will be in the Kingdom of God! And that is a wonderful place to be!

Revelation chapter 3 – there’s a phrase that I’ve often appreciated. Verse 9 – “’Indeed I will make those of the [churches] of Satan, who say they are [the chosen ones] and are not, but lie – indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.’” – someday, those who have tried so hard to hurt us will realize that the whole time God the Father and Jesus Christ loved us and cared about us. And, notice chapter 22 – this one little verse which sort-of sums it all up! In Verse 10 – “…’Do not seal the Words of the prophecy of this Book, for the time is at hand.’” – and how much more time is at hand now, with all of the things which we see happening!? Verse 11 – “’He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is [now] righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.’ 12) ‘And behold, I AM coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.’” – that – in the end God will vindicate us! And because of God’s love and mercy, and through the protection of His angels, and through the power of His Spirit, the righteous will be victorious, they will be conquerors! Romans chapter 8 – these inspiring words from the Apostle Paul. Talking about getting through troubles. Verse 28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. … 31) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … 33) Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. … 35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36) As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ 37) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39) nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – and so folks, that song that I sang earlier – Because He Lives – I Can Face Tomorrow – And indeed, we can face tomorrow! And because He lives – all fear is gone! And because we know that He holds the future – life is worth the living, and even the suffering is worth it – just because He lives!

And in the end God the Father and Jesus Christ will be with you, and They will reward you, and you will be a part of the Kingdom of God forever and ever. We will be conquerors when it’s all said and done.
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