We live in a power hungry society. So make it quick, ok?
Internet high tech speed. We hit it and it’s there. If we have to wait five minutes too long at the drive-thru, we’re aggravated. Frustration is the name of the game. Even the Christian life is supposed to be streamlined, packaged and formula-driven. Check into most ministries on the Net, and they have instant answers. “Pray this prayer…” Yep, God answers prayers (often before they’re asked), but power may take repetitive laps around Mount Zion.
But many promote, Name and Claim:. “Your destiny is in your mouth.”
That’s true to a certain extent, but not the whole story in the Bible I read. Concerning their destiny, many people of faith suffered and were tested for years preparing for their destiny. Think of it: Moses took 80 years, Noah lived 600 years (building the ark for 100 of those years) before the deluge occurred, and Paul spent 14 years in Arabia before being personally taught the gospel of grace by the Lord Jesus before entering the ministry. Jesus, the glorious Son of God, had to wait 33 years before the Father’s commissioned Him to begin. His destiny was fulfilled in three years.
Power in Two Ways
Paul wrote most of the letters (books) in the New Testament. I think he would tell us through today’s Internet (call it the “Paul of Taurus’ Hour of Power”) that there are two ways to experience power: 1) the instantaneous baptism in the Holy Spirit 2) Becoming weak through trials and tribulations. Number 1 is preferred. Preachers preach it, it’s popular and happily received by the laying on off hands by someone or sit watching TV (as I did) to be empowered. Yep, I was filled with the Holy Spirit while watching a Christian TV show. Number 2 is either rejected or gets a low turnout when polled among the majority of Christians today. Yet Paul said he became strong through weakness. It’s a divine oxymoron.
Yes, this seems crazy to most. It’s important to remember God’s ways aren’t ours. In the kingdom of God, things are often upside down. Servants are chiefs, low is high, poor is rich, humility is honorable, dying to self is living. These are all part of Jesus’ message to us.
Paul, whose incredibly productive life, was filled with miracles, made this astonishing statement:
“…for My (God’s) strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your – Paul’s] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).” 2 Cor. 12:
This passage is most likely treated with obscurity in “bless me” churches. After all, crowds aren’t attracted to “the other side of Paul’s life” wherein he constantly suffered persecution, hunger, deprivation, stonings, prison time (without TV and recreation), rejection and insults. The benefit was power from Christ that was not only the miraculous but provided the dissemination of the gospel we Christians are blessed with!
That Controversial “Thorn in the Flesh”
The above passage begins with the WHY for Paul’s constant suffering. At one point, He was “caught up” into the third heaven (where the Father lives with His angels and saved believers) where he heard such amazing revelation that he couldn’t reveal it. He implies that in his pridefulness he would have boasted about this event, so he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. Numerous theories abound on what this thorn was — everything from a physical malady — to a constant parade of demons that were sent to harass, bring persecution, distress and provoke bodily harm to Paul.
I go with the demon interpretation. Here’s why. In the following passage the word “messenger” is anggelos in the Greek language. In other words an angel of Satan was sent to buffet (KJV) Paul. This word buffet is kolaphiz?, which means to “peck, or strike with the fist.” Like Peter’s temptation of denial, Satan was allowed to “sift Paul like wheat.” The purpose in both situations was to humble these great men. Scripture says, “Knowledge puffs up.” That’s any kind of knowledge — Bible knowledge and spiritual revelation included. Pride knows no bounds.
This particular blog, as you might have guessed, is aimed at us believers, especially those whose aim is to avoid trouble at all cost. Why does the church at large today presume that one can escape tribulation when Jesus himself said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Life is filled with it. The question is what can we gain from it? Two things: 1) Understanding 2) Change
Your Best Life Not Now
For some people, particularly those Christians living in countries that kill believers for believing, I imagine they pass over many Christian books that preach prosperity since prosperity to them is living another day or getting out of prison after a “meager” 20 years. And I imagine there are God-fearing people reading this who’ve experienced so much hell on earth that they regard this life as something akin to tribulation. I, for one, am thankful for eternal life — Your Best Life Later. All this reminds that many in God’s Hall of Faith (see Hebrews 11) didn’t receive the promises but died being persecuted for God.
Which brings me to the question: Are U.S. Christians headed for persecution? I’d say an unequivocal yes. The changing culture is establishing an anti-Christ atmosphere, at least against those who believe and stand for what the Bible teaches. Recently, a Democrat senator, who’s running for president, proclaimed: “Pro-life people are racists!” So, let me get this straight. Those of us who believe the life God created in the womb is sacred are racists? You see, people like her are pushing such crazy ideas so far to the left that abnormal is the new normal!
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20 Amplified)
In spiritual warfare, one of the tactics of the Enemy is to begin to plant a collective ideology over a city, a state or a nation. Through demonic communication, this ideology is perpetuated through various purveyors, very often using today’s electronic communication for widespread distribution. Said repeatedly a lie becomes a “truth” in the minds of people who have little to no spiritual discernment. They are deceived!
4 But the [Holy] Spirit explicitly and unmistakably declares that in later times some will turn away from the faith, paying attention instead to deceitful and seductive spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 [misled] by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared as with a branding iron [leaving them incapable of ethical functioning], (1 Tim. 4:1 Amplified).
Early Church Persecution
The experience of the early church was persecution for the same truth that killed Jesus — Jesus Christ the only way to God the Father. The apostles and other followers of Jesus preached the same gospel, healed and delivered the masses by the same great power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus relied on. When other so-called gods are preached in a “tolerant” and “politically correct” society, the only tolerance becomes what the intolerant choose to hear. Dissenters are first punished by cutting off their freedom of speech and of the press. Ultimately, the hatred flows toward true believers, who refuse to compromise the truth of what they believe. Let’s be honest. This is a remnant of Christians.
If the church in America fails to rise up against this prevailing antichrist philosophy, the downward spiral will continue, and America, “the land of the free and home of the brave” will be no more. Our hope is in our dependence on God’s power and our own lack of dependence on human strength. This comes as God allows us to be transformed into becoming “weak.”