Testimony under Fire…when we Suffer for doing Good

Testimony under fire

Sunday 07/18/21

Series: Maintaining this hope

Message – Testimony under Fire…when we Suffer for doing Good

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Testimony under Fire…when we Suffer for doing Good

For several weeks we have been looking at Submission, Authority & Conscience towards God in relation to relationships – especially, though not exclusively, that of marriage.

Specifically we looked at how the husband is to honor the wife. Use his strength FOR her benefit and highly esteem her with favor as both the physically weaker vessel, but equally an heir of God’s grace as well as a daughter and special creation of God for the husband.

Now, believe it or not… all of our learning of submission, authority and conscience towards God in relationships – leads directly to the place where the Spirit through Peter calls and in fact encourages us ALL…regardless of gender towards honoring one another and God even in the midst of persecution. 

So let’s pick up the narrative in our next verse – that of 1Peter 3:8. It says…

“(8)  Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble.  (9)  Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing.”

“(10)  For 

Peter, like all the New Testament writers, appeals to the Old Testament for the bedrock support of this New Testament theology – he quotes now from Psalm 34:12-16.

“(10) For the one who wants to love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from uttering deceit.  (11)  And he must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.  (12)  For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the Lord’s face is against those who do evil.”

Now remember that Peter has been talking about Submission, Authority & Conscience towards God in relation to relationships. Last week I mentioned that in doing what God calls us to in our given environments of being either male or female….husband or wife…we will find our greatest fulfillment and contentment. I later wondered if I really had solid proof of that, though I knew it to be true. Here Peter confirms it. He says… “If you want to love life and see good days” don’t lie against the truth and do what is good. That would include the “truth” and the “good works” of honoring God in relation to our given gender!

“(13)  For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good?  (14)  But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken.”  

Again, there is an admonition to NOT allow the world to intimidate you or terrify you.

This happens a lot in today’s world in regard to women and working. A lot of the struggle comes from feminist pressure to represent the female gender in a male dominated work world. Women who stayed at home have literally reported being looked down upon and even openly criticized for their choice. There are also many reports of women who pursued careers, due to feelings of dissatisfaction as a ‘stay at home’ mom, but that admittedly most of that dissatisfaction either initially came about due to suggestions that she was settling for less or pressure that she was succumbing to outdated gender roles. In addition to this, there are many who have left the home to pursue careers initially due to this dissatisfaction at home, but later desired to return home but chose to remain due to the same ridicule and pressure!

An article I read (which I will link on the message on the website) was entitled, 

It’s Natural For Women To Choose Family Over High-Powered Jobs, So Why Won’t The Left Just Let Them?

This passage tells us – even if you do suffer for doing right, you are blessed and I believe the data supports this truth.

A somewhat lengthy, yet I believe very useful quote from that article in light of what we are studying here spotlights this truth.

It wasn’t always provocative to say women should have their priorities in order. It used to be normal to put family first, or to put faith before work, or to move to a city and choose a place to live based on the community. Life didn’t change. Women didn’t change. The “rules” did.

Many women have bought into the false feminist claims that there is a “wage gap” (which has been debunked time and time again), that the patriarchy denies women opportunities, and that women who stay at home are somehow bullied into doing so.

Yet when these same women find themselves realizing that they view success more holistically than simply charting their career trajectory, they may suddenly feel guilty for looking beyond work for true happiness and fulfillment. It’s time to liberate women from oppressive standards and shaming, and from the idea that women can only find fulfillment in life through work.

As a woman who once thought that I wanted to pursue my career over everything else, I was surprised when I found true meaning in moving my life in a different direction. Getting married revealed to me that I wanted to build my choices about work around my husband and future children instead of the other way. Still, coming to terms with that decision was incredibly painful.

I started my blog, Classically Abby, in early 2019, and, in 2020, started actively sharing with other women the joy I found through my shift to focusing on family foremost. From the beginning, I’ve received support and wonderful comments appreciating what I’ve shared about changing priorities to find real happiness. But the pushback has been just as telling.

People have consistently accused me of commanding women to stay at home — a sentiment I don’t propose and never have…For the many women who have found that career simply isn’t enough, however, it can feel like you have let down your sex. It can feel you’ve taken for granted those women who fought for equality in the workplace years ago. As much as feminists insist women are shamed into staying at home, the situation today is often exactly the opposite.

We need to realize that we really are in a war. Nearly all wars are for real estate and power. For us, the real estate is our souls and the power is the influence upon that soul to make choices contrary to the character and commands of God. To manipulate, entice and pressure the human soul (whether Christian or not) into dishonoring the Creator through worship of self. 

Now the importance of this last set of verses in chapter 3 just can’t be overstated. It is in fact THE REASON WHY all that went before is so important, in that it offers both reason, method and motive to what Peter has told us to do.

“(15)  But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. (16)  Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.  (17)  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.  (18)  Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit.”

Sanctify Jesus the Messiah (Christ) AS LORD in your hearts. In other words, don‘t just make room on the throne of your heart for Him, the seat entirely and dedicate it to Him and Him ALONE. 

A little over a year and some ago we were working through Ps. 23 and confessing that the Lord is our Shepherd…and we spent some time talking about what that meant…what it implies about our existence as His people…as the sheep in His pasture.

I meant we knew we were amply provided for. He, as our good shepherd, watched out for us so we can graze, in peace. He leds us and guides us to wide open fields of tender grass – far away from all that could harm us. He leds us beside still and quiet waters, knowing we are fragile and easily frightened. He anoints us with oil, so the tenacious flies which would harass us and expose us to deadly pathogens, infections and parasites could not gain a foothold.

In the presence of our Shepherd there is no room for worry, which is why we are told to be anxious for nothing, which is the heart geography of all sheep under the care of good shepherds.

So it is due to His lordship over us that we exist in a tranquil, peaceful, serene and healthy inner reality which becomes our testimony before the world. 

Faith is believing based upon some evidence. This verse does not impose an obligation to bring forward a learned proof and logical defense of revelation. But as believers deny themselves, crucify whatever remains of the world in them and brave persecution, they must be upheld up by some strong “hope” and this hope is provided for them by their Shepherd before whom we are able to eat peacefully even in the presence of our enemies – “For YOU are with me – I shall not fear!”. Men of this world, having no such hope themselves, are moved by curiosity to ask the secret of this hope; the believer must be ready to give an experiential account “how this hope arose in him, what it contains, and on what it rests”. This is NOT a patterned or practiced answer. In fact, on any one day though the answer will always be “because of my Shepherd” the particulars of our daily story we may offer in reply to the question regarding our hope may change radically. [amended from Steiger].

We are to offer this in a courteous and respectful way – not only to the hearer but before our Lord in Whom is our hope. This becomes a testimony to the world and a testimony OF our Savior. It glorifies Him…and there is nothing that is the least bit practiced, pretentious or self-righteous in it. It conveys the sense of being rescued and deeply aware of our security in Him. 

Again Jesus is set forth as our example – He suffered – the Just for the unjust and so we are called to do the same. 

Allow the world to slander you, bear up under their ridicule & their unwarranted accusations against you because they so treated your Savior and Lord Who did not defend Himself but committed His soul to God in doing good as to a faithful Creator. 

Like it says in Hebrews 13, “(12) Therefore, to sanctify the people by his own blood, Jesus also suffered outside the camp.  (13)  We must go out to him, then, outside the camp, bearing the abuse he experienced.  (14)  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.  (15)  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name.  (16)  And do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” 

This passage tells us that

“it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.”

We are to live lives where these slandering and accusations from the world against us are in fact FALSE. One day, either now in this life or at the final judgment – these accusations will be unveiled to be the lies they were and on that day they will know shame, but Christ will be Glorified in us.

But when does God “will” such hateful treatment against His children…His bride? Well the answer is both never and always.

God does not want us to suffer, any more than He desired Jesus to suffer, but if doing good draws undesirable attention and attack, then it would be better to continue doing good even if it is attacked, than to start doing evil to avoid it.

Also, there are times God calls upon His servants to lay down their kingdom rights and their lives for those who are our would be enemies. Like Peter was called to surrender his life as a martyr in accordance to what Jesus had told him would happen and by which he would glorify God. 

In either case it is more about the glory God receives from children who respond to His love for them with such devotion that they’d rather suffer ridicule, persecution and death than even hint that there is any wavering in their heart regarding their devotion and commitment to Him.

If you follow Jesus in these sufferings of dying to self, you will rise with Him the same way He rose. 

He was put to death in the realm of the earthly world but was made alive in and by the Spirit. This is not to say that His Spirit ever died and was therefore in need of being made alive again, but whereas He had lived after the manner of mortal men in the flesh, He then began to live not only a physical but also a spiritual “resurrection”.  

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!

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