Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 25 November 2019

And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. Philippians 1:14. (EHV).

Here’s that why behind the what again.   In the previous verses, Paul said that his bad thing – being imprisoned, in chains, for the gospel – turned out to be a good thing because the Gospel spread.  The reason why that’s a good thing is that people see what true believers are willing to endure for faith in Jesus and then they, themselves, become more confident in their own faith and bold to share it without fear.

Have you considered that the biggest Christian nation on earth – the nation with the most believers in Jesus by population – is the United States?   And that the one place where it should NOT grow (because the government there is atheist, Communist, and hostile to God in all ways) is the People’s Republic of China?   According to Pew Research, in the USA there are 248 million Christians; that’s approximately 75% of the population.   In the USA, for the moment, people are mostly free to exercise any religion they want, especially Christianity.   There are dozens of denominations; there are services and practices for any comfort level in the faith.   Think of that:  248 million people saying they believe in Christ crucified.   And yet that number is actually declining.

Then consider the People’s Republic where, according to billionbibles.org, there may be as many as 234 million Christians.   Out of a current estimated population of 1.435 billion Chinese, this means that 16% of the Chinese population professes to believe in Jesus Christ.   If their faith is discovered, Christians in China are likely to be persecuted in one way or another, either by forced silence or actual imprisonment.   Untold thousands have been sent to Chinese gulags and no accurate number is really known how many have been executed for being Christian.   Yet the faith is growing.

In North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen it is a death penalty offense to say you believe in Jesus Christ.   And people do it anyway.   Just in those countries, thousands of people do it anyway.

Because watching someone be persecuted, lightly or harshly, may just spur you to think more about your own faith.   It may spur you to profess truths you hadn’t seriously considered.   It might just make you think in different ways.  The same “why” that explains why first century believers were strengthened by Paul’s persecution explains the things happening in our world today.   The Gospel can’t be contained by puny human methods, and where it is actively denied in the dark a tiny light can shine all that much brighter.

For further reading:  Acts 4:29, Acts 21:33, Philippians 1:15

Lord Jesus, where I’m stumbling in dark failure to share You where I am, teach me to shine so that others may benefit.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 October 2014

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” – Mark 1, verses 14-15.

Jesus doesn’t waste time.   He didn’t waste time in getting to His mission; He doesn’t waste our time today. He asks for us now, where we are in this moment, just as we are and complete with all our faults.   Jesus doesn’t wait until the time is opportune or He sees and opening.   He is beside us, encouraging us, pleading for and with us in every moment.

You know the mission: tell people to repent and believe the good news.   Does that mean wearing a breadboard sign on the street, crying out about the end times?   Maybe; if that works for you, let me know. Does it mean being a witness for Jesus in all things at all times?   Yes.   Does it mean giving up things that are negative and bad in favor of Christ’s positive and good?   Yes it does.

Is Jesus putting you on a mission to waste your time doing something you can’t do?   No, He isn’t.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything we can’t do.   He often asks us to do things we don’t want to do, and often the things He asks us to do are emotionally and spiritually difficult. Jesus very often asks us to do things that make us uncomfortable, and sometimes they even hurt.   Sometime, He may ask us to do something that causes us to choose between life and death.

Yet Jesus NEVER asks us to do things we can’t do, or that He can’t do, or that we can’t do with His help.   In everything, Christ asks us to rely fully on Him, to turn all our cares and concerns and crises over to Him, then to follow His lead.   That’s especially true when He calls us to stand up for Him when we’re asked “do you believe all that Christian stuff?” Or when we are asked just what we do believe.

The more we do that, the more we find that He doesn’t waste our time, that He either puts us in or allows us to get into situations where our faith in Him can be shared and grow.   When we don’t know what to say, as we rely on Him, His Spirit gives us just the right words at just the right time (including those times when we wished we’d said something better). As long as we are honest and true, our time with Christ is always used just right.

Just this morning, I was reading about two women in Nigeria who were recently confronted by Boko Haram terrorists who demanded they renounce Christ and proclaim their faith in Islam. In a no-win situation, both did so, both were then beaten, raped and left for dead. They talked at length about the desperate sadness they felt.   Not about renouncing Christianity but about renouncing Christ. Yet even Peter was forgiven after doing the same thing three times during Jesus’ last day, and he was Jesus’ best friend.   Just the right words at just the right time convinced the women of Christ’s forgiveness for ALL of our sins.   That is never a waste of time.

Lord, lead today.   Teach me what to say and when to say it, and help me to make the best use of the time You have given me.

Read Mark 1 again.