by David Brenneman
May indeed sound strange. Many have probably heard it said in a bravado sense "bring it on!" in the face of difficulties and conflicts in person or television or movies.
But actually this is a more Biblical response than we might think.
"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and this too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." Philippians 1:27-30 NASB
Not to mention other places.
"Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4 NASB.
What brings this up this day has much to do with my own emotions at suffering at the hands of both Believers and those whom have not yet believed.
It's really hard to deal with. But we are told that "Indeed, all who want to live in a godly way in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 2 Timothy 3:12 NASB.
Add to these thoughts that quite often I become the lesson plan. God using my circumstances for His good in someone else.
My emotions as an introvert are greatly internalized. Showing them outwardly takes a great deal of effort.
I have strived to be a writer of fiction. When you are facing the idea of putting emotions to words...it's hard!
These incidents with me and the world have been incredibly difficult and painful. Relationships have been strained in my opinion. But God hasn't changed. Jesus is still Jesus.
Yes the bumps and bruises hurt for a time. That's normal. But look at the response of the Apostles.
"So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news of Jesus as the Christ." Acts 5:41-42 NASB. It didn't stop them.
In another passage it says "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7 NASB.
Oh it's an easy thing to be anxious about the things we go through that are unpleasant.
Losing connections with friends. Not being able to create new connections with others. It's hard. But we have that promise of never being alone in Christ. He's always there. On at least one occasion it was just Jesus standing with Paul as written in the Bible.
It makes HALT even more of a gauging tool. It's very easy to just react to situations. It's a different matter to react as the Spirit wants us to.
We can and will react incorrectly if left to our own devices.
Last night my reaction was to reach out to someone to talk. He listened then asked me to list the things that went right this week. The things to be thankful for.
Satan's great aim in difficulties and conflicts is to separate people. To break up relationships. He knows that passage in Ecclesiastes better than we do. "And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." Ecclesiastes 4:12 NASB
I have lost contact, it seems at least for now, with a great many people in my life. Many that I once looked up to, that time hasn't been kind to. They've changed and not in any good Biblical sense. Some are because of our moving. Some are because of the now excessive busyness of their lives. Starting over for an introvert is incredibly difficult in relationships. It took years to get many relationships. It's looking like it will take many more to start anew.
The real point of all this today is to expect it. Expect the emotional when life happens when standing firm in Christ. Relationships will be the first to be hit. Work relationships, relationships outside the home. Possibly within the home.
Yesterday was about doing what we are supposed to after getting dressed. Today's more of the same. You wear those things in Ephesians 6 because you're going to take hits. You're going to feel it when it happens.
This is why praying without ceasing is necessary. This is why bearing one another’s burdens is necessary. This is why it may not be possible to live at peace with all people...the need to still be who we are in Christ.
One incident recently was of being concerned for a Brother in Christ. They are so immersed in all 4 aspects of HALT that they essentially snapped at me. My reaction was to only tell them that I am a friend who was concerned. I left them to go their way and was praying as I went back to my work.
Another earlier this year isn't even aware that they snapped at me for no good reason. This too is a Brother in Christ. I even apologized and asked for forgiveness for what I hadn't done to mend fences.
Another recently one was attempting to be courteous, respectful and kind. It wasn't at all taken that way by this person.
Life's going to happen. Our temptation is to retreat. To back off. Which is the wrong response. We need to continue to live Godly in Christ Jesus. We need to press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus for us.
I continue to pray for many people whether they know it or not. I know, solidly, that the Spirit of God can go wherever I cannot. He can change the hearts and minds of people. He can create understanding where once there wasn't any.
Quite simply, for me, is its a guarantee to be prayed for when I take hits from you.
The rejoicing part I am still learning. It's not an easy part for me. It is easy to take note of what's wrong or not working. It's much easier to only look at those things. To look for reasons to be thankful takes your mind off of much of the bumps and bruises.
Pray for those who persecute you. That's not a Biblical recommendation. That's a Biblical command. Bless and do not curse. Same deal.
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48 NASB
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