suffering and persecution

Are Suffering and Persecution Spiritual Disciplines?

I recently wrote a devotional about “How we respond to Persecution” for the Online Bible study Gracefully Truthful. And it got me thinking about whether suffering is a spiritual discipline.

Typically, we think of the disciplines as something we choose. Suffering and persecution are not something we choose but something that is forced upon us. But then again, maybe it can indeed be a chosen way of life. Let’s dig further.

In my devotion, mentioned above, I spoke about Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, missionaries to Ecuador. They ministered to a head-hunting tribe deep in the Amazon region. They actually knew what might occur if they tried to contact the people. It seems to me that they chose to suffer for Christ. Jim Elliot said,

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

Jim Elliot
gracefully Truthful

Choosing to Suffer?

suffering and persecution

There are people groups who certainly have not chosen to be persecuted. They just happen to live in a country or under a regime that persecutes them for their beliefs. Certainly, they are not choosing this.

However, what about the missionaries that go to these places with the Gospel? They are aware that they are going against the laws in these places. They are, in fact, choosing to suffer for the furtherance of the Gospel.

When Christians decide that they will take a stand, defy rules to share the gospel, or even just make a statement on social media, we are choosing to possibly face persecution. The apostles in the early church were doing just that. They knew that to take a stand for Jesus meant cruel punishment and even death. But they chose to do it regardless of the possibilities. They prayed that God would give them boldness to speak out and preach the Gospel.

And now, O Lord, hear their threats and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Acts 4:29-30
suffering

Rejoicing in our Suffering

Several times in scriptures we are encouraged to consider it all joy when we suffer. Persecution in itself proves that we are doing the work of God. Satan does not like it when the Word of God is spread about. He will do everything to stop it, including persecution and instilling fear.

Even more, we can celebrate in our suffering because it causes spiritual growth. James said it clearly in his letter…

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

James 1:2-4

What Will You Choose?

So now, it is our choice. Do we choose to remain silent and forgo the suffering or do we speak out for Christ so that others may know? Remember the words of Jesus,

 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

Matthew 10:32-34

Praying for boldness for our time is short.

Mandy Farmer
Sources

Our Response to Persecution, Gracefully Truthful

Is Suffering a Spiritual Discipline, Peter Dehaan

How to Train Yourself to be Godly

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

I Timothy 4:7-8

Train – (verb) to direct the growth of (a plant) usually by bending, pruning, and tying

Training is a word that gets tossed around a lot, especially this time of year when people are making new resolutions. People, anxious for a change in their lifestyle, know that something needs to happen differently. That given no direction, things will continue to go “off-track” (did you catch the “train” (noun) reference?)

Training a Bonsai Plant

bonsai training

One of Webster’s definitions of “train” is to “direct the growth (of a plant) usually by bending, pruning, and tying”. In order to train a plant, especially to achieve a look or purpose that is different than its nature, specific steps must be taken. Creating bonsai plants involves several types of cutting and shaping. Contrary to popular belief, bonsai trees are not miniature plants, but in reality, are regular plants which have been shaped/created to have a particular look or effect. Wires are used to bend and reposition branches, and later the wires are removed. Leaves are removed and deadwood created to bring about other effects.

Bonsai tree training
Arnold, MD.–8/28/16– A wire is used to shape a tree for its training as a bonsai. “The Baltimore Bonsai Club; founded in 1972; is an active and growing group of bonsai enthusiasts in Central Maryland. Club activities include exhibitions, workshops, collection trips and visiting artists,” according to its website. Baltimore Sun: Kenneth K. Lam KKL_0830 md-darkroom-bonsai lam

Training yourself to be godly, as directed in First Timothy, is similar. Our natural bend or form is sinful. We need to make changes in order to achieve our purpose.

What are some spiritual pruning methods available?

1) Reading the instructions. The Bible gives us direction on how to become more godly. The New Testament is chock-full of directives for us. Love one another, turn the other cheek, don’t show partiality, forgive each other, take care of widows and orphans, etc. And James tells us, if you lack wisdom, just ask God!

2) Do it! Do what, you say? See #1. Do what it says. Be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. Faith without works is dead. You won’t get your body in shape by reading a book about good exercise. You have to actually “do” the exercise. Funny how that works.

3) Continue doing it. In my recent health journey, I learned this – As I have continued my lifestyle of eating habits, I will continue on my healthy path. But if after I have reached my “goal” I go back to my former habits, guess what? I will find myself back at the place where I started! The changes must be ongoing.

Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.

John 8:31

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.

2 Timothy 3:14

Continue steadfastly in prayer.

Colossians 4:2

Let brotherly love continue.

Hebrews 13:11

Is it hard sometimes?

Do we fall short at times? Sure! Do you think Olympic athletes have never fallen? Do they quit if something is hard? No! When we start an exercise program, we don’t start with 100 pushups! We start with one. Then two. Then three.

Start today.

Start doing one more thing today that will train yourself to be more godly. Then do another tomorrow. And guess what? In a year, a month, or even a week, that one thing will get easier and easier. And then you will do it without thinking because it will have become a habit, a lifestyle.

And just like the bonsai tree, the wire that is used to bend and reposition the branches will become unnecessary. The habit is made and the training is easier. And then we get to move on to more training in godliness. And godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Happy training in 2020!!

Kandy Chimento

Read Kandy’s Transformation Story here: Gettin’ Back to My Roots

Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. #ancientpaths #spiritualdisciplines Click To Tweet

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Sharing the Gospel

Sharing the Gospel: You CAN Do It

This week we have been focusing on the Great Commission. Glenae spoke of how our very lives should be a witness for Christ. And that is a very good place to start. But I wonder,

“When was the last time you led someone to Christ or even shared the gospel with a non-believer?”

When Was the Last Time You Led Someone to Christ? Click To Tweet
95%of all Christians have NEVER led someone to Christ.

This weekend, we watched some preaching from Greg Laurie. Wow! This guy is fast becoming one of my favorites. He’s such a wonderful Bible Teacher. And always leads people straight to the cross.

Not So Good News

Pastor Greg gave some very disturbing statistics about who is sharing the Gospel. He reported that only 95% of Christians have NEVER led someone to Christ and only 2% have ever shared the Gospel with a non-believer. This is very sad news since we have that only Good News that will fill the emptiness in a non-believers life.

We can give a lot of excuses for not sharing the Gospel. But will God accept your excuse when you stand before Him one day? Allow me to offer three ways to get around your excuses.

The sad truth. 95% of all Christians have never led someone to Christ. Click To Tweet

It’s Too Scary. I Don’t Talk so Good.

I understand. It’s a scary thought to share the gospel. But again, let me quote Pastor Greg. He said we recommend things all the time.

  • The best stores
  • My favorite restaurant
  • You’ve GOT to see this movie
  • Read this book!
  • The best vacation spot
Evangelism is a scary word but it is not that hard. Click To Tweet

So why can’t we recommend the best option for abundant life?

We have the answer folks. We need to be sharing it. 2 Kings 7:3-10 tells of four lepers that were starving and decided to go out to the enemy camp and see if they could find some food. To their amazement, the camp was deserted and food and clothing all left behind. They began to feast on the abundant foods but then realized they needed to share the wealth. They ran back to the city gates and told the people that the enemy camp was empty and the spoils were there for the taking.

Why are we keeping it all to ourselves when we have the best thing since sliced bread. Even better. 🙂

Share the Good News? I Don’t Know Enough

Me Disciple? I Don't Know Enough. Click To Tweet

Simple solution. Learn more. There are many tracts and sources available to teach us how to evangelize. There’s the Roman Road and the A, B, C’s which I have right here on this blog. I have used the Wordless Book in my children’s ministry for a long time. This one uses colors to share the gospel. There is now a colorful soccer ball you can use to share the plan of salvation. One summer I taught our church children to tell the Gospel using the colors. They were all given their own soccer ball at the end of the summer. For all these avenues there are cards with all the pertinent information so that it can easily be shared, such as this one

If you would like more ideas, I recommend heading on over to The Navigators website. They have several ways to lead people to Christ, even one where you only need ONE BIBLE VERSE. You can learn one verse, can’t you? You probably already know it. (Romans 6:23)

Bridges International is another helpful resource for learning how to share the Gospel using the Four Spiritual Laws. This is the process that beings with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

I Don’t Know What to Say

Again I say, learn. Start taking your quiet time seriously. Don’t just stop for 5 minutes and read a bible verse. Dig deep into God’s word and see what you learn. He will show you great and mighty things.

Sharing the Gospel? I don't know what to say. Click To Tweet

None of us know everything. If you get stuck when you are sharing the gospel, take them to someone smarter than you. Our son is like a complete Bible commentary. When I have a question, I got to him and he hasn’t failed me yet to give a good answer. Do you have someone in your life that has Bible knowledge? (your pastor, for one) Tap into them, give them a call or take your friend to meet him.

You Can DO it
Photo credit: free image at Canva.com Modified by Mandy

God promises in His word that He will give you the words to say. Just trust Him to do it. If you don’t have the words, He will bring someone along to help you out. He did it for Moses, he’ll do it for you.

I’ll tell you this. Leading someone to Christ is the most amazing thing that will ever happen to you. You will be blessed beyond blessed.

I would love to hear about a time you led someone to Christ. Share your story in the comments to encourage others.

Mandy Farmer
Gaither Vocal Band – Can’t Stop talking About it