You Should Be Committed! Part 2

Americans are plagued by stress and anxiety. Just how bad is it? In the most advanced society on the planet; in a country with unmatched prosperity and freedom, anxiety disorders are the most pervasive of all psychiatric disorders listed in the DSMV. According to the latest statistics, the annual cost to treat those suffering with anxiety disorders in America is well over 42 million dollars. Despite being the richest nation on earth, America is also the most anxious nation on earth, with nearly a third of Americans likely to suffer from an anxiety problem in their lifetime. Why is that? American philosopher and author Eric Hoffer hit the nail on the head, I think, when he wrote this:

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.

The problem, of course, is that happiness in America is seen as a right; that everybody has a right to be happy, usually at any cost. And when an American isn’t happy, they get anxious and make bad decisions, making themselves even more anxious as that happiness they are looking for becomes more and more elusive. I’m sure Thomas Jefferson never dreamed that his bit about “the pursuit of happiness” would be twisted and tortured into something way beyond what he meant at the time he wrote it.

Yet according to Paul, no Christian should be anxious about anything.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 | TNIV)

“Anything” and “every” are two words that stand out in that verse because we can all find things that we think are worth being anxious about and the thought about praying with thanksgiving in every situation seems, well, unreasonable. Take the aforementioned happiness quest. Children are indoctrinated by, of all people, their parents, to believe the most important thing in the whole world is for them to be happy. Be happy no matter what. Be happy at school, even preschool when junior would rather be playing outside, discovering things on his own. Then it’s “be happy at work, even though it’s a dead-end job you hate,” because “you’re lucky to have it.” We are constantly being told to “be happy,” but we’re left up to our own devices to figure out how we make that happen! Thanks, Mom and Dad. Wouldn’t it better if Mom and Dad knew what the Bible says about the happiness issue? The reason they don’t is likely because their church doesn’t. Because the church of Jesus Christ has largely succumbed to the secular notion that “God wants you to be happy,” too. No wonder even Christians are anxiously pursuing a phantom notion.

What does the Bible say about the happiness issue? Honestly, it says nothing. Search as you might, you won’t find any red letter saying about the believer’s right to be happy. And yet it does, in a backwards, sideway way. Jesus said this about life for the believer:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 | TNIV)

That’s right and Jesus was totally honest. In this world, you won’t find happiness, but you will find heaps of trouble. The most the believer can hope for is peace in the midst of trouble, and that peace is not found in a Valium or in vodka or in a vacation, but in a Person – the Person of Jesus Christ.

That’s not to say that Jesus wants His people to be miserable, because He most certainly doesn’t. Frequently in the Gospels, Jesus began certain sayings with the phrase, “blessed is.” The Greek in behind our English word “blessed” carries with it the notion of being happy. So a Christian will find a measure of happiness by following the Beatitudes of Christ. Things like this:

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, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11, 12 | TNIV)

That might not be what some of you were expecting, but it is the Word of God. And this why some people find it so hard to fully commit to Jesus Christ, and hence are unhappy Christians. There is a segment of Christianity that continues to cling to notion that you can find lasting happiness in the world. It’s so baked into their psyche that they can’t stop their ultimately worthless pursuit. And you can’t have two minds if you want to follow Christ. If you’re not fully committed to Him, you will be continually disappointed – disappointed in both your faith and in the world, because you’ll be expecting something from both that they can’t give you. If you aren’t completely sold-out to Christ, answers to prayer and promised blessings will elude you. If you aren’t completely sold-out to Christ, He can’t take your world and make things work for you. Let’s face it. It’s rough being you if you aren’t fully committed to Christ.

Last time, we discussed the idea that a Christian needs to be fully committed to Christ even if it seems like his world collapsing around him. This was Paul’s situation. He had suffered greatly to share the Gospel with the lost. By the time he wrote his second letter to his pal Timothy, he was sitting in prison because he was preaching the Gospel. Yet he wrote this:

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12 | TNIV)

Paul had entrusted his very life – his whole life – to God, no matter what dangers he encountered or indignities he suffered. One time in his life, the great apostle prayed for some relief, and along came God’s surprising answer:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 | TNIV)

Paul had committed his life to Christ. Peter, another great apostle, wrote about committed something else to Christ, and that’s what we’ll look at today.

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in welldoing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19 | KJ21)

More modern translations look like this:

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19 | TNIV)

The KJV used the word “soul,” and that’s actually a good way to translate the Greek phrase. Peter is referring to the “inner man.” It means being committed to Christ from the inside out; your mind, your heart, you body – in every way committed to Christ. It’s a single-minded devotedness that doesn’t ignore bad times, but at the same time doesn’t let those bad times disrupt the precious relationship that exists between Christ and His follower.

Suffering for Christ is a privilege?

Peter’s advice to his readers was desperately needed. His letter was written to a bunch of Christian expats, who didn’t have it very good. Many of them didn’t possess two shekels to rub together.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1, 2 | TNIV)

These people had lost everything in some cases to follow Christ. They had become exiles on account of their faith, but at the same time Peter calls them “God’s elect.” They were God’s elect, yet that didn’t disqualify them from suffering in the same way as their Lord did, and as other followers of Jesus do. But it wasn’t just any kind of suffering Peter is referring to. Later on, we’re told what the exiles were suffering for.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12, 13 | TNIV)

We don’t know what those fiery trials were, but had they not been following the teachings of Jesus Christ, they would have been just fine. Suffering on account of who Jesus is should be considered a blessing. Not all suffering, just suffering for Him.

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Peter 4:15, 16 | TNIV)

Not all suffering is good. And if you suffer because of some stupid thing you did, you should be ashamed. But there’s no need for shame if your suffering is on account of your faith.

The reason for suffering

You may wonder why God allows His people to suffer like this. It’s not just a New Testament thing. For centuries Christians have, in the case of the martyrs, given their very lives for their testimony of faith. Peter gives us the reason, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17 | TNIV)

That’s a chilling verse. Peter seemed to sense that the trials Christians are suffering today are really nothing less than a very long period of divine judgment or discipline. Though we are living in an age of grace, where God is not judging people and nations as we see Him doing in the Old Testament, that doesn’t mean He’s sitting idly by. God is just and He has appointed a righteous Judge.

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31 | TNIV)

Jesus Christ, our appointed Judge, knows the heart of every man; He sees what we do and how we live, but Jesus alone knows our intentions and motivations. If you read through the Old Testament, you’ll see that God always follows a pattern when it comes to discipline and judgment. It always begins with His people. The trials or problems you encounter may seem bad or unfair and difficult to endure, but God uses them to purify your faith and purge the impurities from your life. Peter wants us to know that anything negative we may experience because of our faith is nothing compared to the utter hopelessness and doom awaiting those who don’t have faith.

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19 | TNIV)

There is nothing more important than the strength of your faith. Nothing. Not even creature comforts or friends or even family. Your faith is of eternal value, and that’s why, from time-to-time, you may suffer on account of it. When that happens, you must be all the more committed to the Lord. Only He can see you through it. There can be no part-time Christians; no partially committed followers of Jesus. You’re either all in or you won’t make it. You need to be (say it with me) COMMITTED!

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