If we pray for the Lord to come into our otherwise self-centered lives and work some sort of financial or personal miracle, solve our dilemma so we can go back to living our lives free of unnecessary biblical interference, we pray as the pagans do. God is not a genie, and the bible is not a magic lamp. When people we don’t even know go on Facebook or Twitter and ‘proclaim’ to us that our financial problems are going to be solved in the mighty name of Jesus, we should ignore them; we certainly shouldn’t type “amen” into the comment field so this ‘magic’ will somehow rub off on us.
If we are about His business, however, our lack of confidence in His ability – and His willingness – to perform whatever miracle is necessary to accomplish His work is problematic.
How, I wonder, will it come about (if ever?) that I look a sick person in the eye and command them to be healed in the name of Jesus? My thinking says that it would be terrible of me to give someone false hope in such a way – what sort of ego-driven charlatan would dare? But is my thinking biblical? Is it false hope to presume that the Lord wants to heal today, to perform miracles, not so my Christian ego will be satisfied, but so His glory will be revealed? At which point do we read the bible and decide that we actually believe this stuff?
Since I’ve given the Holy Spirit a daily invitation to work in my life, I have seen the miraculous underpinnings of circumstances – unlikely and all-too frequent coincidences enabling me and my family to reach people who might otherwise have gone unreached – “weird things happening”, as we call it.
But I am not, at present, a worker of His miracles. Why? I suspect I’ll find the answer to that question on the day I trust His thinking more than my own.
I believe that the more we grow in faith, the harder it will be to tolerate the ignorant speech of mockers. Harder to love the lost? No, that’s not what I’m saying. Rather it will be more difficult to take it when people deliberately target our Lord with ignorant scorn and derision. We want to protect the dignity and reputations of those we love; the more we love God, the more protective we become.
Recently my oldest daughter, who is ten and was just recently baptized, became angry with a child on the school bus who was deliberately taking the Lord’s name in vain. The angrier she became, the further he pushed the boundaries, realizing that this was an excellent way to get under her skin. I told her afterwards that while it’s good she is unhappy with such talk, she doesn’t benefit anyone by getting upset. “Our Lord is a big boy”, I said, “He can take care of Himself. Your job is to love people like this and be a good witness for Jesus”.
Oh, how easy it is for me to give advice like this, how hard for me to take it when my Lord’s name is being targeted and blasphemed! What does the bible have to say in such circumstances?
The Lord mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble.
- Proverbs 3:34
"But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. "
- Matthew 23:12
We are encouraged to remember the end-game here. Our Lord does not, in fact, need our protection (though I’m certain He is honoured by our devotion). He reminds us that He has the last say, and those of us who have chosen to honour Him with our hearts and mouths will receive honour in return.
Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God?
- James 4:4
"God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”
- Matthew 5:11-12
"Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!"
- Matthew 10:34-36
We are reminded that we’re not supposed to be friends with the world. If we are Jesus’ disciples, we are to expect enmity. We are living in territory that is unlawfully and diabolically held by Satan himself. You are surrounded by his subjects. Why does Jesus command us to love our enemies? Because we have them.
God’s enemies are your enemies. And while you are under instructions to love your enemies, your enemies are under no such orders. On the contrary, they break faith with the Devil when they treat you kindly. Remember that.
"If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day."
- Matthew 10:14-15
"Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.”
- Matthew 7:6
While we are never permitted to “turn off our love”, we are permitted, instructed in fact, to cease throwing God’s pearl’s before swine and take the message to more receptive ears. Discerning this, of course, takes the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I’m reminded of Nabeel Qureshi’s amazing conversion from Islam, and how it took place thanks mainly to the persistence of his friend David, who ministered to him for years. But noticeably absent from this story is Nabeel persecuting his friend David, heaping scorn and derision on his head.
Why? Because it didn’t happen. They had fights, of course, and ignorant things were said, but there is little mention of David having to endure a consistent barrage of blasphemy for his efforts. Had that been the case, I think, he would have been well advised to walk away. The bottom line? If those we are witnessing to insist on ignorance and blasphemy, unless we feel specifically called to keep at it, there are more receptive audiences to whom we can and ought to go.
Bottom line, it’s tough to take it when people joyfully mock our Lord; but it’s a part of the deal. Fortunately, we have scripture, prayer, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, to see us through. Amen.
“For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” If I believe the remedy to this is to perfect my speech, I should think again, for “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
We are condemned or acquitted on the words that come out of our mouths not so much because of what those words say, but because they serve as evidence of what’s in our hearts. And on the judgement day, I’ll either have Jesus in my heart, or I won’t.
I can test myself on this. Is Jesus in my heart? No human being speaks exclusively good or bad things, each one of us has the tendency to lift up at one moment and tear down the next; but is the love of Jesus shining through in my life? Would those acquainted with me say there is something good that shines out of me, that comes through in my words and in my deeds? If not, what to do, again, control my speech, pull up my bootstraps? Nope, that won’t work.
No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
- James 3:8 (emphasis mine)
Taming the tongue is beyond my capabilities. So what is the remedy?
Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
- Romans 7:21-25
I am brought once again to the mercy of the cross. Self-control is a biblical virtue, and I ought to practice it as long as it’s within my capability to do so. But long-term change is impossible without Jesus in my life, working through the Holy Spirit.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
- Galatians 5:16
Once again I must throw myself on the mercy of the cross, the mercy of Christ Jesus, and cry out:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
- Psalm 51:10
All praise and thanks be to God who is merciful, who is gracious, and who certainly will answer this prayer, changing us from the inside out. All we need do is ask.
Colin McComb lives in Edson, Alberta with his wife, Gail, and their three lovely children.