“In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We were expecting hostility from the world. But certainly not from the Lord’s people.
Church is where we get blindsided.
The Lord wanted His people to know what to expect. The road ahead would be rough. They should prepare for turbulence.
The Lord would not be bringing His children around the storms but through them. We will not miss out on the tempest, but will ride it out with Jesus in our boat, at times standing at the helm and at other times, seemingly asleep and unconcerned.
The lengthy passage of Matthew 10:16ff is the holy grail on this subject, as the Lord instructs His children on what lies ahead and what to expect. His disciples should expect to encounter opposition, persecution, slander, defamation, and for some, even death. So, when it comes–as it does daily to millions of His children throughout the world–no one can say they weren’t warned.
But what about the church? Should we expect opposition and persecution there also?
Jesus said, “They will scourge you in their synagogues” (10:17), and that’s where the faithful were meeting to worship.
He said members of our own households–parents, siblings, offspring–would lead the opposition at times. They will “cause them to be put to death” (10:21).
He doesn’t specifically say “the church,” but surely all of the above includes it. And that’s where the typical believer runs into a buzzsaw.
Church is where we get blindsided.
We knew opposition would come from the world. Scripture makes this plain. But in the church?
A pastor told me this week his daughter no longer goes to a church of his denomination. After seeing how his congregation treated her father and then told lies to camouflage their true actions, she wants no part of this any longer. The wonder is that she goes to church at all. Many PKs grow up and write the church off. “I love Jesus,” they will tell you, “but not the church.”
I grieve at this. But I understand it.
God’s people can do the best of things, be the most caring of people on the planet, and sacrifice themselves for one another. But some can also be as mean as the devil.
Paul told the Ephesian leaders, “After my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And from among your own selves, men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be on the alert….” (Acts 20:29-31).
Expect trouble from outside and inside the church. Don’t be blindsided.
Savage wolves from outside, lying perverts on the inside.
Why we may expect trouble from inside the church…
One. The church’s doors are wide open. Whosoever will may enter. Therefore, not everyone in the congregation is a committed disciple with pure intent and a kindly heart. Some are monsters, straight out of hell, intent on doing harm.
So, get rid of the perfectionism. Forget about expecting all the churches to act like Christians. Not all are.
Two. The enemy is at work. Jesus said to Peter, “Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you…” (Luke 22:31-32).
Stay alert. Get rid of the rose-colored glasses.
Three. Sincere people make mistakes, they are weak, and “see through a glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12). So, some, acting with the best of intentions, may make grievous errors and do harm to the faithful. Friendly fire, they call it in military terms.
Stay faithful. Don’t let your faithfulness depend on what others do. “Though He slay me,” Job said of the Lord, “yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Four. We the preachers sometimes bring trouble on ourselves.
You wondered if I was going to get around to this? No pastor is perfect, and some of us are flawed in severe ways. We may be shallow in our Scriptural understanding, lazy in our personal habits, immature in our behavior and impossible in our expectations of others. We can be demanding of the church. We may neglect our family or overindulge them. We may spend too much time on the golf course and not enough time on our knees.
There is no limit to the way pastors sometimes fail God and abandon their responsibilities. So, when trouble erupts in the church, they may have brought it on themselves.
I’m not naïve. I know full well that many unemployed pastors deserved being cut loose, and some should never be allowed back into a pulpit. As for their families, who hurt and grieve over how they perceive their dad or husband was treated, that’s the collateral damage from the misbehavior of the one they trusted. He will have to take the blame.
We will leave it to the Lord to sort all this stuff out. That’s why He alone is qualified to judge. He knows the thoughts and intents of every heart. No actions, no harsh words, are unseen by Him.
A quick synopsis of Matthew 10:16-42’s teachings about the future mistreatment of the Lord’s children…
One. Jesus told us it would be this way. No bitterness is allowed. See Acts 14:22 “Through much tribulation we enter the kingdom.”
Two. They’re treating us the way they treated Jesus. See Matthew 10:25,40 and Luke 10:16.
Three. God is doing His best work through us when the persecution is the fiercest. “It is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (10:20).
Four. Our job is to be open, bold, clear, outspoken, and transparent. “Do not fear” He said three times. “Speak up!”
Five. He gave us a promise: “You shall not lose your reward” (10:42 and Luke 6:35).
God bless you, faithful servant of the Lord.
Be faithful. Hang in there. The “weighing up time” is just ahead.