Walking in the Light – Part 2

This month we are continuing our discussion concerning how we can deal with our feelings when we are spiritually different from those whom we usually find ourselves surrounded by, both Christians and non-Christians. To read last month’s article, see Part 1.

Here is the e-mail request that began this series of articles:

It would be great to have an encouraging Corner, one about how our walk is so very different from what even other Christians’ walks are.

It’s not easy making conservative Christian choices, even more so for a single, conservative Christian mom—there’s got to be more than one of me out there—a mom who’s the mom and the earner, who requires her children to obey, has modesty standards, limits outside influence and has her focus on the raising of her family, and having to do that alone.

Yet what’s really interesting is that every time I’m about to give in to what the world tempts, God steps in to remind me, usually through somebody else or somebody else’s situation, that the conservative choices I, or we, have made, are the right ones.

Being different from others often creates a sense of loneliness in our hearts. We may find ourselves longing for like-minded fellowship and companionship. This loneliness isn’t unique to us. Look at Paul’s experience with being different and the results in his life: “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:16-18).

Here we observe Paul’s reaction to being so different that he was left completely alone, and he was the only one left standing for God’s truth. First we see he had a forgiving spirit toward those who had wronged him. Next, he didn’t focus on his sense of loneliness, nor did he make finding others who were like him his priority. He most certainly didn’t compromise or change his message.

Paul chose to continue to be busy about the work the Lord Jesus had given to him. His mind and heart were fastened on that work, which is then where he put his thoughts. He could continue in what he needed to do because the Lord stood with him. He didn’t have to stop for a season to find others who would support the truth he held so dear. He looked to the Lord for strength and continued to preach the message of the Lord Jesus.

I believe we can learn from Paul’s experience with loneliness. The consequences of his being different were much greater than the consequences of our being different. He faced physical persecution, imprisonment, and banishment in addition to his loneliness. Yet he continually stood firm. For the time being in our nation, when we choose to follow the Lord Jesus in all aspects of our lives, our persecution is not actual physical hardship like Paul experienced. We are different, perhaps lonely, and often we face peer and family pressure, but we are not fearful for our lives.

The following verses give us the Lord’s direction for how we should face any hardships that we would have in our lives as a result of standing firm on the truth of the Word. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:1-4).

Just like Paul, we are to be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ. We are to endure any difficulties that come our way because we belong to the Lord Jesus, we are fighting His battles, and we want to please Him. Our loneliness gives us opportunity to turn our focus fully on the Lord Jesus and off the distractions of this world.

In these situations, we find there is no comfort except the comfort of Jesus Christ. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:3-6). The Lord gives us comfort in our struggles, and He has a purpose in our learning to lean on His comfort, grace, and strength. We will pass on to others in need what we have learned.

While we may feel like the only ones making the choices we are making, it is probably much the same as it was with Elijah. “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal” (Romans 11:2-4).

Elijah was convinced he was the only one who was remaining faithful to God, but there were seven thousand others who were just like him. He simply didn’t know them. He wasn’t able to have fellowship with them or be encouraged by them. Isn’t it interesting that the Lord didn’t tell Elijah to go find some of the seven thousand? Instead He wanted Elijah to remain faithful to the call He had put on his life.

We may grow weary in our walk when there aren’t others who are like-minded to encourage us. However, Scripture has direction for us in this as well. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).

As we remain in the Word, growing in our walk with the Lord Jesus, we gain direction for our daily lives and strength to follow through with commitment. We can choose to let our minds be filled with thoughts of self-pity because of a lack of like-minded fellowship, letting this consume us and our time. Or we can serve the Lord Jesus, learning how He is a Friend like no other. May we be women who will steadfastly stay obedient to what Jesus has taught us even when we are different from others around us.

Worldly Friends – Part 2

Last month we discussed the seriousness of friendship with the world. Please see Part 1 if you didn’t read it last month or you want to review its information. We discovered that a friend of the world is an enemy of God. Therefore, it is a dangerous thing to have worldly friends due to their influence in our lives and also our children’s. One question this might bring to mind is how are we to harmonize the command “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. . .” (Matthew 28:19-20) with Ephesians 6:4 that tells us to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

To answer this, we must realize that Jesus is not commanding our children to reach the lost. That is our responsibility as mature believers in Christ. Children are children (big surprise?), and those they are around will greatly influence them. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). Therefore if we don’t want our children to be worldly, we can’t have our children spending time with those who are worldly. This may be a shock to some, but Ephesians 4:14 is clear, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Reaching the unsaved or ministering to worldly Christians is our responsibility not our children’s because our children will be pulled down by worldly associations.

Some may not agree with the idea that children are not called to reach the lost or restore worldly Christians, but Scripture always agrees with Scripture. The Holy Spirit led Paul to write in Ephesians 4:14 that children will be tossed about and influenced by those they are around. Whether it is worldly Christians in clubs, teams, school or even church, they will exhibit a strong negative pull on the godly youth the more time they spend together. Certainly, the lost are far, far worse in their influence than even a worldly believer.

Consider Jesus’ disciples, who were men that Jesus was training personally. When Jesus first sent out these grown men, yet immature in their faith, He sent them out two by two. “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7). Missionaries today often go two-by-two because there is spiritual encouragement and accountability when two are sharing with the lost. The Lord is not going to send out a child to reach those who will be a stumbling block to his own faith.

Then let’s answer another question that begs to be asked. “Why would a child of more faith be pulled down by associating with a worldly child of less faith?” Aren’t we who are saved to be stronger than the world? “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). However, we still have the flesh to contend with, and Paul speaks clearly to this war.

Paul describes the battle that rages within each believer in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Surely, no one reading this would consider his child more spiritually strong and mature than Paul. Paul shares his struggles in doing what is right in Romans 7:18-19. Briefly, here, Paul says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” Even a spiritually mature person like Paul struggled in following the Spirit; therefore, our children will be pulled down by worldly associations.

Every saved person has two natures within him—a new saved spirit and the flesh. These two are at war constantly, and the battle is what Paul is describing in Romans 7:15-25. As we grow in Christ by reading the Word and making obedient choices, our spirit grows stronger in the Lord Jesus and more able to resist the pull of the flesh. However, even someone like Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, acknowledges the reality of the struggle. If it is such a battle for the mature, then that explains why children are so easily swayed.

A good example of this might be the game called tug of war. When you have only two people on the ropeeach one pulling against the other—the strongest one wins. However, it is no contest when there are two on one side pulling against one on the other. That is why a Christian youth is pulled down by a worldly youth (Christian or lost). You have two against one. The worldly youth joins forces with the Christian youth’s flesh, and the two are more powerful than the Christian’s spirit can resist. The result is one more Christian youth being pulled to the world.

Parents frequently tell us that they can’t find like-hearted friends for their children so they just pray for their children and believe that their children’s faith will not be harmed by worldly Christian friends. If one doesn’t heed Scriptural warnings, disaster will likely result. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3). I have heard deep sorrow in the voices of many parents who have shared with us over the years about how they lost their children due to worldly friends, and the greatest tragedy is that it could have been avoided.

May each parent be on guard and resist the fallacy that their children won’t be harmed by worldly friends. We parents are the ones who are called to reach the lost and restore the worldly brother. Even then we must be on guard as well. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Here Paul is exhorting us to come alongside a stumbling brother and help restore him. Furthermore, Paul adds a caution that we should be careful in this effort to restore because we might also be tempted in the sin that snared our brother. Even those mature in Christ are in danger of being pulled down by the worldly brother.

Next month we will continue this discussion on living in the world, loving those who are worldly, and not condemning them.