by Bill Rudge
Throughout Scripture, we discover that living for God requires believers to occasionally stand alone.
Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers. He was all alone, rejected and sold as a slave into Egypt. In Egypt, because he honored God and spurned the affection of Potiphar’s wife, he was thrown into prison. Nevertheless, Joseph continued to honor the Lord and eventually God exalted him to the second highest position in Egypt and used him to save his family from starvation.
David went out alone to meet the giant Goliath. He desired to honor the God of the Bible and shut the mouth of Goliath who was mocking the Lord and intimidating the whole army of Israel. David’s attitude was one of confidence and faith in the Lord.
Elijah, a prophet of God, had an encounter on Mount Carmel against hundreds of prophets of Baal.
Daniel was taken captive to Babylon as a youth. He was ripped from his homeland and separated from his family and friends. In that difficult situation Daniel determined that he would honor the God of the Bible. Daniel was delivered from the power of the lions and prospered during the reigns of Darius and of Cyrus the Persian.
Queen Esther displayed tremendous courage in revealing to the king of Persia, her husband, that she was Jewish. Her bravery, as recounted in the book of Esther, was instrumental in saving the Jewish people of the Persian Empire from being killed. To this day the Jews celebrate Purim, a joyous Jewish festival which commemorates the day Esther saved the Jewish people from a threat of national genocide.
Hebrews 11, the famous chapter on heroes of the faith, frequently uses the words “by faith” which could also easily include “with courage.” Let’s consider a few of them: By faith [and with courage] Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By faith [and with courage] Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith [and with courage] Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward (Hebrews 11:24-26).
Consider the courage of Stephen as he boldly spoke in the power of God’s Spirit to the Jewish Sanhedrin even though it would cost him his life. The Apostle Paul was forsaken by everyone (except the Lord) and had to endure persecution alone. Nevertheless, he bravely stood for Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
All the New Testament writers, except for John, were martyred for their faith. John, the head of the church in Ephesus at the time, was exiled to the Isle of Patmos.
During early church history many Christians were tortured, burned at the stake, thrown to wild animals or beheaded. Some were made to serve as objects of amusement. Others were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs. Some were crucified. Others were set on fire to illuminate the night: it is said that Emperor Nero had Christians set afire as human torches to light his gardens.
Being persecuted for faith in Jesus Christ and God’s Word has continued throughout church history. Multitudes of believers have been stoned, drowned, had their brains beat out with clubs, tongues cut out, were stretched on racks or wheels until their joints were dislocated or bones broken, had boiling tar poured over them, were roasted alive like a pig on a spit, dragged through streets by horses, had their stomachs cut open and grain put inside and then pigs let loose to feed on the grain and their intestines, noses or hands cut off and many other horrific tortures.
Christians throughout the world today suffer a wide variety of increasing hostilities and oppression such as loss of freedoms, jobs and income; confiscated property and imprisonment; intensifying persecutions such as being forced into servitude; forced to watch as spouses or children are executed, raped or taken as sex slaves; their houses and churches burned to the ground—sometimes with entire congregations inside; having toes, fingers, hands, noses or heads cut off; and other atrocities—only because they believe the Bible and are committed to Jesus Christ.
During our tenth Holy Land Adventure, we had a meeting with a pastor in Bethlehem who shared his amazing testimony with our group: He had been shot multiple times; his church had been set on fire and the windows broken on several occasions; his brother was martyred in Bethlehem by three men with machetes. Yet still he courageously proclaims the Gospel in this extremely dangerous environment.
I can tell about Josef whom I met while speaking at an Arab Center in California. He had been Saddam Hussein’s English interpreter during the first Iraqi war (Desert Storm). Being a Christian and falsely accused as a traitor, he was tortured for several months. Instead of denying Jesus Christ he chose to believe Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”
There are many others in the U.S. and across the world I have either met or have heard about from eye witnesses who have suffered much for the cause of Christ. By God’s grace alone can we endure such atrocities. These courageous Christians are part of God’s elite “heroes of the faith” whom God will one day richly reward! He has prepared a city for them; the splendor of the New Jerusalem is only partially unveiled in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.
Ultimate Peer Pressure
In Revelation 13:8 we are told, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him [antichrist], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” This will be the ultimate in peer pressure, conformity and compromise. Deny or die! For all who refuse to worship the image of the beast will be killed.
If you cannot resist peer pressure now, then you had better let God infuse you with His power because there is coming a day in the near future when all of society will be in total rebellion against the Lord and hostile toward His people; the cost will be high to stand for Jesus Christ both before and during the Tribulation period.
A case in point: After several conversations with a retired Marine, he admitted the evidence for Christ was overwhelming and said, “You have convinced me, but I have a problem. I don’t like to be laughed at.” I replied, “You can either stand alone for Christ now or one day stand alone before Him.”
Becoming a Christian was not an easy choice for me as a teenager because of the stigma of being considered weak. It was a perception I did not want my peers to have of me. Wanting to be considered tough, I hung around with the toughest of guys which meant rebellious and wild behavior. Looking back I realize how foolish and weak that really was. Besides, the “toughest of the tough” is Jesus Christ who will defeat all His foes with the brightness of His coming and the words of His mouth! That is whose side I want to be on—the One that wins in the end and for all eternity!
Let us get a proper perspective of courage: Goliath was rough and tough. David was smaller and weaker; he tended sheep while his older brothers went off to war. David wrote psalms and sang songs of praise to the Lord, while Goliath was a crude, boastful, mighty warrior who intimidated both the Philistines as well as the Israelites. Yet who do we remember as the brave and powerful one? Not Goliath but David. It took far more courage for David to face Goliath than for Goliath to combat David.
I have seen tough people cry like babies when sentenced to prison; been there when supposedly brave men and women were terrified in the face of impending death; heard arrogant boasts dwindle to fearful cries; witnessed extremely strong people become exceedingly weak.
Choose real courage and true strength—not the distorted perceptions of people who are influenced by foolish and boastful words or wild and unrestrained behavior. These may impress for a brief time those who are easily astonished by such verbosity and physical displays, but in the end they will look just like Goliath—a defeated fool.
That Great Multitude
Throughout the ages there has always been a remnant of God’s people who have had the God-given courage and strength to remain standing, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
You may be facing strong peer pressure today; feeling like you are in the shrinking minority because almost everyone at school, college or work rejects the Bible as God’s unique revelation of truth. However, one day you will be with the billions of people since Creation—heroes of the faith, prophets, kings, warriors, disciples, martyrs from every generation throughout history, men and women, children and teens from across the globe—who resisted the pressures of their day and became part of that great multitude who will inherit all that the Lord has prepared for those who love and honor Him; believers from throughout the ages will live with God forever. Those already in Heaven will one day be joined by a vast host.
On that Day when Jesus Christ establishes His eternal Kingdom, those whose names are written in the Book of Life will receive all He has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. We will have endless time to enjoy and explore the wonders of a restored paradise on Earth and share in the countless adventures that await us throughout the expanse of the entire universe. We will never cease to be amazed by the glory of our God and overjoyed with the blessings He will lavish on His children.
By contrast, those who reject God’s offer of salvation in this life, to enjoy the convenience of compromise, pleasure, popularity or prestige will be named among the “cowardly” mentioned in Revelation 21:8. They will forfeit God’s blessed Kingdom, quarantined from His glorious presence.
Don’t succumb to the seductive spirit of this age. Don’t compromise your faith and fashion your lifestyle to the current cultural trends and popular morality standards. Be encouraged, rather, by the throngs of people who have gone before you and whose testimonies spur you on.
Be a part of the millions of people alive on this planet today who faithfully serve and honor Jesus Christ in spite of ridicule, oppression, hostility, persecution and someday, possible martyrdom. I promise that you will never regret serving Jesus Christ. And I assure everyone who rejects or refuses to accept Him that they will eternally regret that decision.
Believers throughout the history of the Church have fought in the “arena of life” to proclaim the Gospel. Now it is our time to stand strong in the “arena” for Christ. We must not shrink back or cower in fear. That great cloud of witnesses, in fact, all of Heaven, is watching and cheering us on!
The world does not need more wasted lives, burnouts, conformers, compromisers or those who cave to all the peer pressure. What we do need are those with God-given courage to stand up and make their lives count. Instead of being influenced by the world, let’s influence our world for Jesus Christ!
It has been said that a strong person stands up for him or herself and a stronger person stands up for others. But I say that the strongest of people stand up for their testimony of Jesus Christ and God’s Word.
As a teenager, my idea of a man of God was that of a weak, foolish, boring, cowardly person—a real loser! After many years of living for Christ, I now know better: The wisest, strongest and most courageous decision of my life was in receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and living for Him. My idea today of a true man or woman of God is of a person strong, wise, adventurous, courageous—a true Champion!