What discourages you as a Christian? You can look at it in a few ways. One, you could say that you are discouraged because you fail to think about the truth, such as your position in and future with Jesus Christ. That remains true during whatever you face on earth. This really is a choice to be discouraged by a refusal to think about the truth. You have the truth to think about, but instead you think about a lie. It just seems bad to you. It’s not bad. It seems bad. Even if you are suffering, scripture says you don’t need to treat it as suffering if you are suffering for righteousness sake. 1 Peter 3:14 says, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.” “Ye suffer” is a rare optative mode in the New Testament. There are only 68 in the entire New Testament. It treats the suffering like it isn’t really happening. Key here is treating it like it is nothing. The way you do this, I believe, is by projecting yourself forward to eternity by faith and then considering the suffering to be a reward. You’re suffering for the right reason, so like it and consider it not to be suffering. That’s the point Peter is making. He uses the optative, which treats the action as unlikely. It isn’t possible or probably, but unlikely. It’s as if the suffering doesn’t exist. It is not viewed as suffering, but as an opportunity for blessing. A first way to stop discouragement is changing your thinking.
When you look at what’s happening in our nation right now, you should consider that the United States has been a very, very special country and this era in history in this country as very unique in a very good way. I know that’s a lot of “very.” It is “very” though. Most of the history of the world, true believers have not been free. In much of world history, people period have not been free. America is judged in a different way than other nations have been, held by a different standard. It’s too bad really, because things have been very good here, and that doesn’t seem to be acknowledged any more. As we go into this presidential election and the nation looks like it does, we should be thankful for the freedom we’ve had. One of the reasons we can judge things to be bad is because there is actually a standard of bad and good that comes because of the Bible, and its influence on the country. We have been able to meet freely to worship God. That has been expected for so long. We can say that we are against certain sin, preach against it, and that has been acceptable. We have been able to preach the gospel, so that everyone can hear it and has the opportunity to believe. Christians have less freedoms than they have for a long time, and I suspect it will get worse and maybe fast, but let’s be thankful for what we have had and what we have in this country.
I heard someone call his church once, “A small church with a big ministry.” By almost anyone’s judgment of size of church, our church isn’t very big. A lot gets done by our church if you consider especially what people do at Bethel Christian Academy. I recognize that I want more as leader of our church. What I want is what you can do, not more than that. I want the best life for you, which includes the best from you for our church. I could spend time talking about what we do well. However, I want to draw your attention to two ways especially that we could improve, that I’m writing this because I want you to think about it, and not necessarily in this order. One, individuals in our church need friendship and encouragement. I’m not telling you to “be friends.” I’m telling you that you could be a friend to someone else. That doesn’t mean you hang out together all the time. It means that you keep up with someone and show concern. You could spend a little time with someone. I’m talking about spending time talking about the Word of God and how that person could and should grow as a Christian. If people are not what you think they should be, how is it that you think you could help them? Anyone in our church could judge someone to be in need of a better Christian life or personal, spiritual growth. What are you doing to contribute toward that?
This month will end the 29th year since the first service here in the Bay Area, meaning that the following October 18 will mark 30. I can say in those 29 years that God has never been unfaithful to me and that He has not failed in those 29 years to keep His promises to me. I can say that I have not kept all my promises to Him in those 29 years. Despite that, He has been very good to my family. I can say that, whatever bad there is, it is not because of God. If there is anything that is bad, it is because of us, including me. If it is good, it is because of God, not because of me. If I’ve been good, it’s not because of me, but because of God. If you’ve heard good preaching, it is because God’s Word is wonderful, so very good. If good things have happened in your life, they are because of God. God deserves all the glory. Because God is faithful and He has never failed any of His promises, I am confident for the future of our church. I believe worse days are ahead for our world and this country. I can find no biblical teachings or promises that I could give you that would result in a different assessment. Things could get worse at a slower pace based on what occurs in this election. However, I believe the brightest days are ahead for our church. The world will get darker and we will become brighter. I have that confidence because of God’s promises and His faithfulness.
Most of the ten commandments are “Thou shalt not.” Based on a particular view them, one that isn’t true, you could keep them by doing nothing. Think of something parallel to that. Your child says, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” You could ask, “Did you do anything right?” If my dad said, “Come here,” I was doing something wrong if I stood there. Doing nothing was bad. In a way, it was doing what I wanted to do instead of what they were telling me to do. I wasn’t submitting to their authority, which they did possess. The way my parents knew I was cooperating was by answering them when they asked me a question, verbalizing that I was hearing and understanding what they were telling me, and then moving into action on whatever they were telling me to do. Some might call this “positive feedback.” As a teacher, I don’t allow students to rise from their desks whenever they want. They must ask permission. If a student disobeys, I might order him to rise and put his name on the board. I was with another man a few years ago who was pulled over for a traffic violation. He pulled over in cooperation with the police offer. He sat in his seat until the officer ordered him to do something. He kept both hands on his steering wheel for the officer to see. He spoke respectfully. Not doing any of these could have turned that situation in the opposite direction.