Suffering in the Footsteps of Jesus
Theme: Suffering for Christ in the U.S.: how will we handle it? Rom. 8:16-18
A. We’ve already discussed the suffering that exists in this world because of sin.
- How God cursed Satan, man, and the earth because of sin. Gen. 3:14-19
- How sin further compounds the suffering experienced in this world.
- How God allows/wills for His children to suffer in this sinful world. Lk. 24:26; Jas. 1:2-4
B. More specifically we realize that persecution comes against Christians for proclaiming the name of Jesus. Rom. 8:16-17
- Pakistan (Oct. 9, 2008): Gulsher Masih and his daughter Sandul Bibi charged with violating the ‘blasphemy law’.
- Bangladesh (Aug. 6, 2009): Three tortured in Bangladesh for proclaiming Christ.
- Tehran, Iran (Aug. 11, 2009): Women told to recant their faith in Christ.
- Nigeria (Aug. 11, 2009): Death Toll Climbs in Attack by Islamic Sect.
C. The fact is, however, such affliction upon Christians in the U.S. has been relatively very mild.
- The writing is on the wall: our decades of comfort are turning to increasing conflict.
- We need to gird up our loins, prepare ourselves to endure the coming afflictions, and count ourselves worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. Cp. Acts 5:41
WHY HAVE WE (CHRISTIANS IN THE U.S.) SUFFERED SO LITTLE?
A. In the U.S. today our nation has had a history of security, peace, comfort and wealth.
- We know that God is able to lift any nation who seeks after Him. Prov. 14:34
- Our history is filled with people/events in which our God and Savior was at the forefront of our conscience.
- During this time the Lord’s church experienced great growth and untold peace. Cp. Acts 9:31
B. At some point our ‘free society’ started minimizing our God and the name of Jesus Christ.
- We have come to accept that “Jesus” is only acceptable within the walls of the church building.
- Not coincidentally, we – like Israel of old – have become a prideful and complacent nation. Cp. Deut. 8:11-14
C. In step with our national decline (Prov. 14:34) is a weakened, watered down, and materialistic church in this country.
- Instead of reaching the message of Christ to the lost we are content to limit the message of the cross to believers: gospel meetings, bible studies, forums, lectures, etc.
- Instead of primarily contending for the faith against non-Christian religions we fill our pulpits, journals and websites and time fighting among other churches of Christ. cp. Mk. 3:25
- Instead of being generously benevolent among our saints we stockpile the Lord’s money to protect ourselves from the proverbial rainy day (or more beautiful buildings).
D. In reality, we’re (currently) not being afflicted in our cause for Jesus Christ.
- Satan doesn’t have to attack God’s people if we are not trying to win souls for His cause. Cp. Mk. 3:25
- If Satan is not attacking us will our Savior condemn us? Cp. Rev. 3:1-3
THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL: FROM COMFORT TO CONFLICT
A. The reports of conflict and affliction within this country are steadily growing.
- Lodi, California (Aug. 5, 2009): The right to pray in Jesus’ name.
- Columbus, OH (Aug. 10, 2009): Teen (Fathima Rifqa Bary) threatened with life converting from Islam.
- Lubbock, TX (Aug. 11, 2009): Jack Cummings (elder, Green Lawn Church of Christ, Lubbock TX): threatened by Muslims for their teaching/preaching Jesus Christ in prison.
B. We need an attitude/endeavor shift if we’re going to meet the challenge.
- Will we become like the church of old: worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:41
- This attitude is a paradox that many Christians in this country have difficulty grappling.
- Many of us will fall away because we will not want to give up our comfort and ease (and will look for another church).
Our endeavor needs to expand beyond the four walls of our fellowship: teaching and preaching. Acts 5:42
C. Our lives need more closely follow in the suffering footsteps of our Savior. 1 Pet. 4:1-2, 12-16
- When this happens we shouldn’t be surprised when our attitude/endeavors follow more closely to that of our Lord.
- We will be hated by the world (not simply disliked) for Christ’s name. cp. Matt. 10:22
- By persecution/affliction coming from our government.
- By jihadists.
- By atheists.
- By homosexuals.
A. Satan will take notice and start persecuting us like he does those who are martyrs for Christ. 1 Jn. 2:18
B. The question is – which one from among us will follow in the footsteps of our suffering Lord?
*See 8/27/2009 Update at the bottom of page
 For the last 8 years I, along with Robby Rhodes and Charles McGowan from the Green Lawn congregation have traveled to a prison every third Sunday to conduct bible studies, worship, visits and encourage the inmates who have become followers of Jesus Christ. The numbers are growing and we have been very encouraged with the work. However yesterday, we got a taste of what I believe is the future of Christianity in America.
Just before our assembly began about 15 inmates who have never been to our assembly showed up and asked if they could join us in our worship. Our Christian brothers welcomed them. As one of our brothers (who is an inmate) began the assembly several in the group, (who were Muslim) began to openly and rudely interrupt the assembly by asking questions and challenging the young Christian man who was trying to start the assembly by reading scripture. It became very apparent that these visitors did not come to listen but to interrupt and indoctrinate. They were starting to become belligerent and finally I stood up and told them that this was a Christian assembly for the purpose of worshipping the Creator of the Universe, and His Son, and that they were free to stay, learn and observe, but that it was neither the time nor place for such a public debate.
This seemed to calm them down only for the moment. The guard who was outside the room heard their shouting, stepped in and ordered the men to be quiet or leave. Later Robby Rhodes had to again address the Muslims because of their constant interruptions of the assembly. Later, when our brothers in Christ began passing the plates for the Lord's Supper, the leader of the radical group grabbed a plate of bread, dumped it in his lap and told the whole assembly to "Eat this."
At that point some of the Muslims came over to me and the other elders and started calling us Satan worshippers, white pigs and evil. They vowed to stop our preaching and teaching of Jesus. I thought, "How blessed we were to be verbally attacked because of the Name of Jesus.
Remember it was Jesus who said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11, 12). I believe that If it were not for the presence of the guard it would have become very violent, and possibly deadly. It will not surprise me that our continued visits will eventually lead to our being attacked and harmed.
Our guard was a female about the age of 50, and it is my firm belief that if those men had wanted to, they could have harmed or even killed us yesterday before she could have received the help needed to squelch the attacks. It is my conviction that yesterday was a glimpse of the future for all Christians in America. I also believe that any faith that is not deeply rooted in Jesus will not survive the future when the attacks come. Maybe this is God's way of getting our minds back on the important things in the kingdom of His Dear Son. I have also concluded that we must pray for those who have been too deceived by the teachings of a man named Mohammed. I ask for prayers for me, not necessarily for my safety, but that God will continue to give me the boldness, wisdom and courage to continue preaching and teaching the gospel about Jesus Christ and Him crucified and the kingdom of God. All praise and Glory to Him.
*Updated on 8/27/2009
From the elders at the Greenlawn church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas:
August 18, 2009
An email sent by one of our shepherds has become widely circulated. It was intended to reach a small, select group of leaders in order to inform them and solicit their prayers for wisdom, courage, and persistence. Unfortunately, the email was forwarded beyond that scope and has developed a life of its own. Many people have called or written asking about the events and details of the email. This statement is intended to answer your questions and to clarify some details that became known after the original email was sent.
First, the events happened on July 19, 2009 at the prison in Snyder, Texas. It was a Sunday assembly held at the prison for followers of Christ. It did not happen, as some have misunderstood, as an interruption to one of our church assemblies at the Green Lawn Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas.
Second, the elders who were teaching in the prison that day were initially informed by the inmates that the instigator of the interruptions was a Muslim, but after the report was written we found out that the instigator was a member of a religious cult, not a Muslim as originally reported. However, later in the assembly, other inmates joined in to interrupt the assembly just as the email records.
Third, the email was meant to bring awareness to leaders of the Green Lawn Church of Christ about the prison ministry, and the potential dangers involved, so that they would go to God in prayer on behalf of the ministry and ministers involved. Like disciples of the past and present, we want to speak boldly, faithfully, and truthfully even in the midst of persecution.
Finally, the email was not meant to be incendiary or a rallying point for some Holy War against Muslims. Our hope is to call all men from all nations and races to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ. While there are obvious differences between Christianity and the Muslim faith that we would not overlook or minimize, we believe that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), not any type of religious or political turmoil.
We apologize for any confusion and hope that this will sufficiently answer your questions and concerns.