Scripture Reading Philippians 4
The mindset I’m speaking about today has existed in our movement going back into the 1800s. It centers around a desire, yes, a desire to be persecuted. A desire to be a victim. Now, early Christians suffered a lot of persecution, the reformers suffered a lot of persecution, and this continent was settled by Christians looking to get away from real persecution. These early settlers were willing to risk slow starvation and death at sea to just get here and then it didn’t really get better once they arrived. But they kept coming, knowing how hard it was, because they were fleeing real persecution. The irony is they then commenced to do a little persecuting of their own. One tie that binds us all together is the Sabbath. We who follow the 4th commandment know that it can actually make living in “the world” difficult. You can get turned down for jobs due to your obedience, this is true. But I don’t think it is as widespread as it may be in the future. In fact, being any sort of Christian can cause difficulty in today’s society but with the way that the Sunday keepers don’t observe their false Sabbath anymore and with businesses open 7 days a week, it has actually gotten much easier for those who keep the Sabbath to find long term employment. And for those of us who have given up the pagan holidays in lieu of Yahweh’s appointed times, we can even work a compromise to get our time off while working when everybody else wants off. And many employers even have Sabbath observance protections in their policies. So while our persecution is going to come, it really doesn’t look like it’s right around the corner. But who knows?
Slide 2 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. ‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to YHVH on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ “For thus says YHVH of hosts, the Elohim of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. ‘For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares YHVH. (Jer 29:5-9)
Please understand that the prophet is writing to people who are really being persecuted. Their country was just decimated, their king’s eyes plucked out, and they’ve been taken as actual captives to a foreign city. They not only have no rights, they are literally the spoils of a brutal war and the latest trophy of a brutal dictatorship. This isn’t like some mild inconvenience of having to eat GMO food and die a slow and agonizing death at the age of 85. No, the context of Jeremiah’s letter is that the Jews are under complete oppression and barely a step up from being full blown slaves. But they were told to make the best of it. Live not for the day, live for tomorrow. Live like there will be another generation of your people, because there will be. Live life to the fullest, in the society in which they have been carried, and even pray for the welfare of your captives. They were literally victims and were told to not be victims.
And Jeremiah goes on to deliver a really bad word from YHVH about those who are prophesying on their own. Those who are trying to rebuild Jerusalem on their own. Those who are denying the true WORD delivered through the true prophet.
Bob Newhart “Just Stop It” – young lady with a host of
non-problems. 5 dollars for first five minutes. She has a fear of being buried
alive in a box.
has anybody ever tried to bury you in a box?” No. She’s claustrophobic. He says he’s going to give her two words to carry with her. And then he tells her to “stop it”. “I can’t it’s been with me since childhood” No, stop it. She lists out a bunch of problems and he says “stop it”. Every time she tries to blame it on somebody else or childhood or something, he says “Stop it!” Then she says she washes her hands all the time and he says that’s normal. It’s satire and we’ll watch the video here after services so everybody can get the punch line, but you get the gist.
The list of things in my facebook feed that those of our common faith are unnecessarily wringing their hands about is daunting. It’s constant. It’s like an addiction to fear. It’s like an addiction to being afraid of something. Today’s message isn’t necessarily just for folks that believe like us, but this is really getting out of hand. Since about the 1990s our country has gone down a path of becoming hyphenated and just piling up excuses. Everybody has to be a multiple-adjective-American. Then these crutches are used to explain away anything negative in our lives. I’m painting with a broad brush today, but I’m sure you have all noticed what I’m talking about.
My generation, Gen X, tended to just shrug our shoulders at everything. Our stereotype was to be apathetic and not get too worked up about stuff. So we generally shrugged off the hyphenation. But it really took hold on the subsequent generation. It seems like there is an excuse at the ready for any negative thing in our lives today followed by a retreat vice knuckling down and overcoming. And it’s not healthy. It is breeding a weaker and weaker society laden with fear. Craving it actually.
Returning to people like us, I’ve been watching the boogey-man Olympics on my facebook feed for many years now. FEMA is coming for us, inflation is coming for us, our currency is phony, China owns us, the Pope did this, Islam did that. Modern medicine is out to get us. And on and on and on. We have enough straw men in our movement to make enough bricks for another pyramid. And it’s just time to knock it off.
Slide 3 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Php 4:12-13)
This isn’t one of Paul’s most humble moments, but it is very instructive. Again, this guy was REALLY persecuted. He had enemies all over the place. The government was literally out to get him. He was beaten, whipped, starved, ended up a prisoner, taken to Rome in chains, and counted it all a blessing. This is real persecution. I know persecution is coming and is one of the signs of the end, but I will be honest with you – I don’t want to go through it. I’m just fine living here pretty much trouble free in the good ole US of A. As we watch our news feed, Muslims are on a Christian killing spree in Africa right now. This is real persecution, not death by the fluoride fairy that’s going to shave five years off of your life. This is real persecution, the type that Paul and the other first century believers went through. Being crucified, burned at the stake, tortured, and without any avenue for escape. Fed to animals, name it. But Paul said he knew how to live in EVERY circumstance. That means he at some point in time had it good and enjoyed it. And frankly, equating these silly conspiracy theories with the literal persecution our brothers and sisters in the third world and China are experiencing is offensive.
Slide 4 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Messiah, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Messiah, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Messianic, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (1Pe 4:12-19)
Don’t get me wrong, tribulation is coming. Persecution is coming. And it now is in Africa, the Middle East, China, etc. But it’s not here. It’s just not. We aren’t singled out for our faith yet and there is no grand conspiracy to herd all the Sabbath keeping Christians into FEMA cars. It’s going to come, but if you live your life worrying about it and planning for it, then you will miss out on your life. And think about your kids. The victimhood and straw man mentality is now entering its second generation. What this means is that those who started to believe this and let it affect their lives have now passed it to their kids. Can you imagine growing up being suspicious of everyone and everything and convinced that you cannot break free of your circumstances because something mysterious is keeping you down, when it isn’t. It’s a self-made prison. This does happen in other countries, like Palestine. Those people are convinced the mere existence of Israel is why they are poor. And they are convinced of this by their leaders who have gotten wealthy by playing them for fools. They take the money and continue to tell their people they are starving because of “the Jews”. But they aren’t starving because of the Jews, they are starving because their leaders are stealing from them. That’s what this victim mentality does to you, it steals your life and keeps you occupied on things that don’t really exist and in which there is no profit. This is why it’s a tool of Satan, so he can keep us from spreading the gospel!
Slide 5 So Yeshua said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (Joh 10:7-10)
Our purpose is to live, not hide and wring our hands. Not get into little circles and swap conspiracy theories. Not to forward fake news in our FB feeds.
Now I am talking to the younger folks out there. If you’ve grown up in the Messianic movement, you’ve no doubt heard people talk about the end being right around the corner and all these things. Shake it off. When the tribulation comes, there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do about it in the end. But what you can do is live life now as you were meant to be. Yahweh knows where you live and what awaits you. Trust Him and His Son to look out for you. Trust the Spirit to guide you into life. Set goals. Set a long term goal which is 5 or ten years out. Then plan what it takes to get there with benchmarks. Education, physical ability, planning, where to live, etc. Now you’re not tied to these long term goals like some kind of contract and they can change as you learn, but strive for something. Don’t just exist. Then when you hit a benchmark, celebrate. Enjoy the moment. Reflect on the path to get there. Realize what you have built or achieved and assess where you are. Do you continue to work toward that long term goal or have you learned about something better along the way. Use your success as motivation to get to the next benchmark. Then when you fulfill the long term goal, really reward yourself. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. If it’s career oriented, then you have rewarded yourself financially. If it’s a personal goal, like learning a new language or being physically fit, then go use your new abilities in a fun way. Take a vacation. Live life abundantly. But, above all, live life.
Slide 6 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. (Php 2:12-18)
When trials come, which we all have, figure it out, adapt. Trust YHVH and His Son. Keep moving. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t give up. Don’t retreat. Bottom line, have faith that your existence was planned and matters. You CAN do all things through Messiah who strengthens you.