Friday, July 13, 2012

Who are the Real Heroes?

For every preacher who headlines the North American Christian Convention, how many will never receive any worldly recognition? For every successful 30 year ministry, how many are driven out of town every few years? For every man who regularly publishes articles and books, how many are scorned by the world? For every one who preaches to thousands on any given Sunday, how many have been forced out of the churches and into private homes? How does heaven measure success?

What about those who were "tortured," or "experienced mockings and scourgings," or "chains and imprisonment"? What about those who were "stoned," or "sawn in two," or "put to death with the sword"? What about those who were "destitute, afflicted," and "ill-treated"? What about those who wandered "in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground"? The word of God declares that "the world was not worthy" of them (Hebrews 11:35-38).

Jesus said to His disciples, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:19-20). 

So how do we explain the popularity of some preachers? Why do crowds flock to them? Why are their speaking calendars and church pews full? If they are saying what Jesus said ... and doing what Jesus did ... how are they receiving better treatment than their Master?

How many of the apostles and prophets were popular among this world? How many of them were hailed as heroes within their communities? Paul said, "To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now" (1 Corinthians 4:11-13). Was the apostle exaggerating? Or perhaps we don't see this kind of mistreatment because the church has acclimated so well to the world.

If our churches - especially our mega-churches - are doing such a great work for the Lord, why are they so well-tolerated by society? Is it possible that a church with thousands - with tens of thousands - can become so popular with the world that they fall away from the Lord? How many churches today are like Sardis? "I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Revelations 3:1).

Numbers, book sales and speaking engagements are not godly standards of success. God's best leaders have never been popular. "But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me" (Galatians 2:6).

Who are our heroes? It's hard to say, since the Bible never uses such a term in relation to godliness. "Hero status" does not mesh well with the whole concept of self-denial. A discussion did arise among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest. Jesus simply said, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all" (Mark 9:35). That tells me the servant may be unrecognized by the world around him ... he may even be scorned by his fellow servants ... but the Master is watching!

Peter abandoned his position of Jewish superiority to declare, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (Acts 10:34-35).

Paul realized that the popularity he had experienced as a Pharisee did not accomplish the will of God, admitting, "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27). "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). 

I thank God for the real heroes of the faith ... those whom Satan is constantly sifting like wheat (Luke 22:31), yet keep "straining toward what is ahead" (Philippians 3:13), their eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2),  "contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The crowds may not be applauding, but heaven is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.