“Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.” (Acts 14:21-22, NIV)
Paul and Barnabas were now headed into three new cities – new fields of ministry. The first thing they did was to strengthen the disciples. By teaching these disciples what it means to feed on God’s word and walk in His Spirit, these disciples grew closer to the Lord. But that’s not all. Paul and Barnabas also encouraged them “to remain true to the faith.”
You and I both know why that encouragement is needed. It is tempting to back down. It is a temptation to give in. It is a temptation to go along with the crowd. Here was their encouraging words: Hardship is part of the deal… Part of what it means to be a Christian is to FACE hardship with courage and NOT back down.
Paul would face many hardships himself. Some of those in these churches would be thrown to the lions. Recently I was reading about the Anabaptists who were persecuted and murdered for their belief in the biblical interpretation of baptism. Can you imagine?
About a month ago I got a letter from a foundation called Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The letter was a warning. New Life Church (along with about 60,000 other Evangelical churches) is being watched and will be reported to the I.R.S. if we get involved in politics. The letter went on to cite case after case of churches losing the non-profit status (by the way, every case they cite was either incorrect or an outright fabrication). But I’m afraid that most pastors won’t check into that letter and, out of fear, will remain silent. The letter was intended to keep Evangelicals from speaking out during this election period.
Who should determine what is spoken from the pulpits of churches in America? We must remain true to the faith. We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.
This Sunday, I will be honored to joyfully participate in a great American pastime. Since the founding of our nation, pastors have preached what are called “Election Sermons.” (These were sermons written and preached specifically about political/spiritual issues…sometimes preached before an election, sometimes preached to newly elected officials. Here’s an example: http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=50 ). I will preach an election sermon this week.
Tuesday will mark a significant day in our country, not only for us, but for our children. If you are not sure if you will vote or how God would have you vote, please make sure to attend Sunday. I promise I won’t tell you who to vote for – but neither will I mince any words. And if you have a friend who is struggling with these or similar questions, bring them. I will be discussing what I call the “Big Six.” Six issues – all present in this election – that the Bible has a position on.
I hope you will come and bring someone. Also, don’t forget that on Tuesday Nov. 6 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. – as long as the polls are open – we will have the Living Room open for prayer. If you can’t come by to join us, pray at home!