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Faith Toward God (30)

As we continue with our study on why so many Christians are fearful and lack faith in God, we shall take our scripture text from Matthew 16:23-26: But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?. In these verses of scripture, we see the root causes of fearfulness among Christians, manifesting as worry, anxiety, fretting, timidity, and trepidation. So far, we have noted that when the Lord talked to Peter about his interest in the things of men rather than in the things of God, we deduced that Peter was exhibiting his fear of anything that was going to destabilize his desire for lifeearthly lifeand in the process, was trying to dissuade the Lord from doing the Will of God. The Lord, after rebuking Peter sharply, turned to His other disciples and told them that anyone who does not deny himself, who is not taking up his cross and coming after Him, cannot truly be a follower of His, and by that token, lacks faith, and, is fearful. Thus, we arrived at three root-causes of fear among Christians today, as follows:
1. They are not interested in doing the Will of God. When a person is not interested in doing the Will of God, his passion inevitably will be for the things of men; which means that he will have more regard for doing such things than for doing the Will of God. And it is the will of whom you fear that you will do; hence, Christians who are not desirous to do the Will of God are fearful and worry about many things;
2. They are not prepared to deny themselves. Denying oneself, or self-denial, is the forgoing of personal interests for the pursuit of Gods purpose. And because many people want to have their future in their hands, many Christians, like the people of the world, are unable to forgo their desires, goals, and personal ambitions for Gods Will. And in the pursuit of these personal issues, they worry, fret, and so on. But when a person has made up his mind to forgo those things that can make him great and successful in a worldly sense, and entrusts his entire life to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, come what may, he is effectively putting fear to death in his life;
3. They are not prepared to carry their cross and follow Jesus. The cross is a symbol of the Roman form of the most cruel and humiliating punishment, applied to criminals, slaves, robbers, and so onpretty much like our modern day gallows (where people are hanged to death), or the wooden stake to which people who are executed are tied. In Roman times, not only were people affixed to the cross until they are dead, but the person to be so affixed to the cross must carry the cross itself. Thus, in Roman times, when you saw a person carrying a cross, it meant that that person was going to his execution. Therefore, to carry ones cross is to begin a journey that will culminate in ones own execution! Not only was the Lord Jesus saying to His disciplesof which you are one, if you say you are a Christianto deny themselves, but also, that they should make up their minds to die for the sake of the pursuit of Gods Will! Indeed, the Lord intends that all those who will be called Christians in the true sense of the word would never be afraid to die, which is something virtually everyone else is unwilling to do. But when you have made up your mind, if necessary, to die in the pursuit of Gods Will, then, nothing can frighten or terrify you. Thus, fearful Christians are usually terrified by the thought of death. So, today, our churches are filled with people who are praying against death! But for the true Christian, his slogan in doing the Will of God is, If I perish, I perish!
And now, to the fourth root cause of fear in Christians:
4. They want to preserve their lives here on earth. The Lord Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 16:25, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. The same thought is conveyed in John 12:25, He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. The bottom line is that anyone who truly desires to live with Christ in eternity, must be ready to lose his life here on earth; but the man who does not intend to lose his life here on earth but desires to preserve it, will eventually lose, not just his earthly life (for all human beings shall die), but also life in eternity. It is one thing to be prepared to lose your life, and a completely different thing when the reality of departing this world is stirring you in the face. And yet there are many who through the centuries, have given up their lives for the sake of the gospelfor these ones, the promise of eternal life is guaranteed! The bible tells us of the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 7, who was stoned for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in Acts 12, the bible records the execution of James, the son of Zebedeeone of the two brothers whom the Lord had told that they would certainly be baptized with the baptism with which he was to be baptized. Church history indicates that Simon Peter, a foremost apostle was crucified on a cross in Rome, but upside down at his request, not counting himself worthy to be crucified in the same manner as the Lord Jesus Christ. Then there is Paul, the apostle, who Church historians document was beheaded, also in Rome. All these men, and many others less prominent in their Office in the Church of God, were killed for their faith in God through Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 11:35-39, we read from the Easy-to-Read version of the bible, There were women who lost loved ones but got them back when they were raised from death. Others were tortured but refused to accept their freedom. They did this so that they could be raised from death to a better life. Some were laughed at and beaten. Others were tied up and put in prison. They were killed with stones. They were cut in half. They were killed with swords. The only clothes some of them had were sheepskins or goatskins. They were poor, persecuted, and treated badly by others. The world was not good enough for these great people. They had to wander in deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground. God was pleased with all of them because of their faith. But not one of them received God's great promise. Brethren, in some instances, people who died were resurrected, but there were those who were killed for receiving Christ, and who refused to reject Him, so that they could be pardoned; they did this so as to obtain the eternal promise of God. The Christians in the early Church, for the sake of their faith faced the most unpleasant living conditions, lived under the most hostile governments, and were put to death for refusing to deny Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God. Indeed, the Early Church was persecuted for the first three hundred years of its existence, so that there were people who were born into, and who died under, persecution, yet the number of Christians did not diminish; rather, people stood up for what they believed of the truth of the word of God. These men and women all received Gods approval that they were pleasing to Him because of the stand they took for their faith in Him. Beloved, we will have you know that no one will receive a reward for houses built here on earth, neither will eternal rewards be given for money amassed for ones selfish use, nor will people be eternally rewarded for merely attending church on Sundays. Revelation 12:10-11 states in the Good News Bible translation, Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, "Now God's salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. From the above scripture, it is clear that those who will win the final victory over the devil, who accuses believers in Christ, must have three crucial qualities:
a. They are people who have put their trust in the blood of the Lamb (that is, the Lord Jesus Christ) for their salvation;
b. They are people who proclaim, preach, and teach the undiluted word of God which is truth; and finally,
c. They are people who are willing to give up their lives and die for their faith in God.
Beloved, the people who will overcome the devils wiles and vicious attacks, and who, as a result, will receive eternal rewards in heaven are people who have all three qualities of salvation through Jesus Christ, proclamation of the gospel of Christ, and the giving up of their lives even unto death if it comes. Without all three, it is certain that a person would not be able to overcome the devil, who will be victorious in deterring such people from the pursuit of eternal life. If a man is afraid of death, his every desire will be to preserve his life on earth. Such a person will do everything possible to stay aliveincluding frequent visits to the doctors office for medical checkups; funding for the cure of diseases which they think is destroying human life; and so on. May we very quickly state here that whilst we are not opposed to advancement in medical endeavours for the unbelievers, the Christian has a Doctor, He is the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is to Him that the Christian must turn in time of need! In 1 Peter 4:12-16, reading from the Century English Version, the bible says, Dear friends, don't be surprised or shocked that you are going through testing that is like walking through fire. Be glad for the chance to suffer as Christ suffered. It will prepare you for even greater happiness when he makes his glorious return. Count it a blessing when you suffer for being a Christian. This shows that God's glorious Spirit is with you. But you deserve to suffer if you are a murderer, a thief, a crook, or a busybody. Don't be ashamed to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God that you belong to him. The bible makes it clear that suffering for the sake of Christ is to be expected of anyone who says he is a Christian. Indeed, v.19 of 1 Peter chapter 4, says in the King James Version of the bible, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. From this verse of scripture, it is evident that suffering is an integral part of being a Christian; but to suffer for a crime you committed, or, as a busybody, is justified punishment for evil and ungodly conduct or behaviour. The bible says that suffering can be according to the Will of God. Once again, we arrive at the place where the Christian must desire to do the Will of God, even though it may involve suffering or even death; and for this, the bible advices that when you are going through such suffering, you should commit the keeping of your soul to God. In Romans 5:3-4, the bible says, we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: Friend, tribulation plays a major role in the development of the believer in Christ, for the bible tells us that it works patience in us, and builds character (or what the bible calls, experience). The truth is that, there are very few Christians of moral character today, because of the fear of suffering tribulation, hardship, and even death. Because of fear of what people will say, rather than reverence for God, and, regard for what people are going to say, rather than a concern for doing the Will of God; many Christians refuse to wait for Gods timing on many of lifes issues. Instead, many impatient Christians are going about trying to cook up things that will benefit themall in a bid to preserve their lives here on earth. We conclude here by reading from Luke 12:16-21: And he [that is, the Lord Jesus] spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. In a bid to preserve his soul for many years to come, through a barn-expansion project, this man actually lost his soul. Are you trying to preserve your life here on earth by living contrary to Gods Will? You will lose your soul in eternity! Seek therefore to preserve your soul in eternity, even if it may cost you your life here on earth!

Let us pray!