By Danny Layaou
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” James 1:2
As I was studying this passage, the headline in the news was focused on several pastors in Texas who are currently under legal assault from the local Houston mayor. It seems the mayor, who is openly homosexual, took umbrage with the stance of these pastors, and their vocal opposition to some of her policies. She is now using the courts to target (subpoena) their sermons and communications. This is meant to chill and quiet these pastors from continuing their “hate speech”.
While I certainly have many thoughts on these circumstances, my thoughts go beyond them. The Bible is infinitely clear on God’s perspective on these issues. The US Constitution is clear as to the current law of the land and the freedom these pastors have to voice their concerns. Many in the so-called church have made matters of morality (and yes, homosexuality is a moral issue) issues of debate in order to muddy the waters and make allowances for sin. As for Christians, let us not be ambiguous about matters that God is clear on.
The overarching issue is that Pastors and Christians are now clear targets of our own government and our society for what we are preaching. This is happening with frequency because the laws of the land our increasingly moving into conflict with God’s laws. For those of you who are wondering, I am not lobbying for a theocracy. What we are witnessing is merely a result of elections and the consequences of those elections. We elect the lawmakers and they give us the laws we demand. In some cases they give us the laws we never asked for as well. We have gotten what we have asked for. This is reminiscent of Israel pressuring Samuel to give them a king so they could be like other nations. We too have lost what made us unique. While this is not a breaking development here in the U.S., it is becoming a more prevalent occurrence. https://www.libertyinstitute.org/pages/survey-of-religious-hostilities
The key to historical peace for Christians here in America is that largely, man’s law has not been at odds with God’s law. Now we see that changing at what seems like a blinding rate. This puts Christians squarely in the middle. Where do we go from here?
- First we must recognize that affliction has its purpose. The Epistle of James has two overarching themes: 1. what is the difference between religion and true salvation? (1:22-27) 2. What is faith without works? (2:17-19) Affliction and persecution answer these two questions. What is unique to America is that, historically, we have been largely isolated from external forces of persecution. We have enjoyed unprecedented freedom to worship without interference. Those days are history. It is interesting to see the response of many Christians as they comment on some of these developments. “This can’t possible happen to us here”. Most Christians believe that the church will be “raptured” out before great tribulation comes against it. This doctrine does not stand up or hold water when you are a Christian living in the Middle East, China, North Korea and most other places in the world where hard persecution is a daily fact of life. My belief is that the commonly adopted view of Pre-mill/Pre-Trib Dispensationalist will be abandoned with all the fanfare of rats abandoning a sinking ship as the heat is turned up on Christians here in the US. The net result of this commonly taught doctrine is that when the heat is on, we will be gone.
- Tribulation refines the people of God. As the heat is turned up, the gold is refined and the dross removed. This is the necessary process of purification that Christ is accomplishing in His bride (1 Pet 1:7). “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”
- But what of the reality of the increasing heat on the American Church? Peter tells us not to be surprised in (1 Peter 4:12). “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:”
- We are moving into a period of time where our country (as a majority) has moved its altar of worship from the local church to DC. The government, for many, has become God. We look to it for sustenance, education (both lower and higher), healthcare, parental direction, or the lack thereof, retirement and the list goes on. We have handed over our responsibility to raise our children while we rest in the hammock of the governments loving embrace. Just this week, our President made it clear that being a stay at home mother was a choice the government did not want you to make. The government’s response is to muster its best efforts rise to the task of being god. It tries this as it becomes a cancer that drains its subjects of life, vibrancy and freedom. God cannot be replaced by government, but government will destroy everything, including its subjects as it tries to prove otherwise. It is no longer content to be bound by the chains of its Constitutional moorings as it has long since cast them aside. It has become an intrusive albatross that is designed to fill our lives and replace the one, true God. Meanwhile its worshippers crow and jest with their feigned celebration of diversity and inclusiveness while looking to crush dissenting opinions as those that protest are shouted down as haters who must be silenced with whatever means necessary.
- James writes to the scattered tribes. The book of Acts describes the reason Christians were scattered (Acts 8:1-4, 12:1-6, 14:1-7) in the time of James and it was primarily a result of persecution. The Church has always been persecuted and always will be until the return of Christ.
- (Matthew 13:21) “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hears the word, and anon with joy receives it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but lasts for a while: for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended.”
- By Afflictions I mean Temptations (Greek – peirasmos) = Experiments, trials, proving. Trials are the catalyst whereby true, genuine, born-again Christians are separated from the religious and genuine faith is demonstrated in perseverance. In short, affliction separates the professors from the possessors.
- What should be our response to Affliction? James is not saying we are to take a sadistic pleasure in the painful process of affliction. Rather, we should recognize that our joy is not bound up in our circumstances in this world. We are heaven bound. Our joy is that Christ is using what the world intends for our destruction as a means for our instruction. Our joy is in the results and fruit of affliction. There is nothing unscriptural or unspiritual with looking to escape persecution. This is why the church scattered. As we sense pain, we move away from it. This is a sane response to painful stimuli. But, there are some circumstances for which the escape is delayed; this is where our patience is developed. Affliction will draw the Christian closer to Christ and increase our reliance upon Him. This is accomplished as our pride and self-sufficiency melts away with the dross as we face circumstances far greater than our wisdom can decipher. There were two unique responses made by the scattered church in Acts. They both prayed and preached. What are you praying for? I am praying for the soon return of Jesus Christ. I am praying that as much as possible, I and my family would be able to live in peace. I am praying for a Reformation of truth in this country. I am praying for an extension of freedom so my children are free to worship God as I have should Christ tarry. I am praying for Godly leaders that will obey the law. I am praying for pastors across this land (and in Houston) to remain in or return to fidelity of the truth and to preach with boldness. I am praying that other Christians will awake from their slumber. I am praying for courage to be the man that I should be even when it isn’t easy. I am praying for wisdom. I am praying for God’s glory. What are you preaching? This is where so many Christians get off the bus. Preaching is my pastor’s job…not mine. We are kidding ourselves if that is what we truly believe. We are called to be salt and light. To take the gospel everywhere we go and live it out…even when we are scattered. If I don’t have the courage to speak the truth of God’s Word when the consequences are minimal how will I be able to do it when the heat is greater? What will you and I preach when it is against man’s laws to do so?
- It is something to think about…