FOLLOWING CHRIST IN A PRECHRISTIAN WORLD PART VI “SUFFERING FOR DOING GOOD” … A Sermon By Dick Emery


You can hear Pastor Emery’s sermons here http://www.mohnshill.org

AS A YOUNG CHILD GROWING UP IN THE CHURCH I WAS ALWAYS INTRIGUIGED BY CERTAIN BIBLE STORIES. (EXAMPLES) ONE OF THE STORIES THAT INTRIGUED ME THE MOST WAS THE STORY OF DANIEL AND THE LIONS DEN. THE STORY IS RECORDED IN DANIEL 6. HERE IS THE JIST OF THE STORY BY WAY OF VIDEO.

VIDEO CLIP: DANIEL IN THE LIONS DEN-PERSECUTION

WHEN WE CHOOSE TO DO THE RIGHT THING THE RESULTS FOR US ARE NOT ALWAYS POSITIVE, AT LEAST IN THE NEAR TERM. THIS CAN BE A DIFFICULT THING FOR ANY OF US TO ACCEPT. SO HOW DO WE DO THAT? HOW DO WE ACCEPT BEING TREATED BADLY FOR DOING GOOD? WHAT DO WE NEED TO KNOW IN ORDER TO KEEP OUR EQUILIBRIUM AT SUCH TIMES?

I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT TO YOU:

  • FIVE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED, IN THIS REGARD, FROM DANIELS EXPERIENCE.

1.IN A SINFUL WORLD INTEGRITY IS NOT ALWAYS REWARDED.

DANIEL WAS CONTINUOUSLY BEING GIVEN GREATER AND GREATER RESPONSIBILITIES BY THOSE WHO WERE OVER HIM. HE WAS, EVENTUALLY, APPOINTED AS ONE OF THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT OFFICIALS IN THE KINGDOM OF BABYLON. IN THAT POSITION HE SO IMPRESSED THE KING WITH HIS CHARACTER AND WISDOM THAT THE KING PLANNED TO PROMOTE HIM TO NUMBER TWO GUY IN ALL OF THE KINGDOM OF BABYLON. HIS PEERS IN THE KINGS COURT WERE JEALOUS AND WERE THREATENED BY THAT, SO THEY DECIDED TO TRY TO MAKE TROUBLE FOR HIM.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE NEED TO REMEMBER, AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST IN A PRECHRISTIAN WORLD, IS THAT WHEN WE DECIDE TO LIVE WITH INTEGRITY WE WILL BECOME A THREAT TO THOSE WHO LIVE LIFE ON DIFFERENT TERMS. THAT CAN BE TRUE IN THE PLACE WHERE WE WORK, WHERE WE GO TO SCHOOL AND ANY PLACE WHERE WE DAILY LIVE OUR LIVES. BECAUSE OF THIS OUR INTEGRITY WILL COST US AT TIMES.

JESUS, HIMSELF, CALLED THAT “BEING PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE.” LISTEN TO WHAT HE SAID ABOUT THAT:

MATTHEW 5:10 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.”

JESUS IS SAYING THAT THOUGH WE MAY NOT BE REWARDED FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING IN THE HERE AND NOW, IN FACT WE MAY SUFFER FOR IT, EVENTUALLY HE WILL REWARD US PERSONALLY.

2. WHEN THE DUST CLEARS A PERSON OF INTEGRITY WILL ALWAYS BE GOING THE SAME DIRECTION.

ANALOGY ROAD RUNNER AND WILEY COYOTE

WILEY COYOTE CONSPIRED TO TRAP DANIEL THROUGH AN INSIDIOUS SCHEME. THE OTHER COUNSELORS OF THE KING PERSUADED HIM TO MAKE AN EDICT THAT FOR A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME NO ONE COULD PRAY TO ANYONE BUT THE KING, HIMSELF. THE PENALTY FOR NOT DOING SO WAS TO BE THROWN TO THE LIONS. SO WHERE WAS DANIEL FOUND WHEN THE DUST OF THIS UNEXPECTED TURN OF EVENTS CLEARED? HE WAS FOUND DOING WHAT HE ALWAYS DID, PRAYING TO HIS GOD THREE TIMES A DAY. HIS TRUST IN GOD WAS GREATER THAN HIS FEAR OF DEATH. A GOOD QUESTION FOR EACH OF US TO ASK OURSELVES IS THIS; IS MY TRUST IN GOD, WHEN IT COMES TO DOING THE RIGHT THING, GREATER THAN MY FEAR OF DEATH.

AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST, OUR INTEGRITY WILL BE TESTED FROM TIME TO TIME. WHEN WE FIND OURSELVES FACING THE DUSTY PRESSURE OF DOING THE RIGHT THING EVEN WHEN IT MAY BE COSTLY, WHAT WILL KEEP US GOING THE RIGHT DIRECTION LIKE DANIEL?

PROVERBS 3:5-6 “TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING; IN ALL YOUR WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM, AND HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT.”

3. WHEN IT COMES TO INTEGRITY, FALSE ACCUSATIONS COME WITH THE TERRITORY. EXPECT THEM.

THE CONSPIRATORS JUMPED AT THE CHANCE TO ACCUSE DANIEL BEFORE THE KING. THEY USED DANIELS CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY AGAINST HIM. THIS WAS THEIR CHANCE TO GET DANIEL OUT OF THE PICTURE ENTIRELY.

HERE’S AN INTERESTING QUESTION FOR EACH OF US TO ASK OURSELVES. IS MY CHARACTER STRONG ENOUGH AND MY INTEGRITY CLEAR ENOUGH THAT MY ENEMIES COULD USE THEM AGAINST ME? IF THAT’S NOT TRUE OF ME, I’VE GOT A PROBLEM AS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST IN A PRECHRISTIAN WORLD. IF MY CHARACTER IS IN TACT AND MY INTEGRITY HEALTHY I SHOULD EXPECT IT TO BE TESTED IN THE FIRE OF THIS WORLDS SCHEMES FROM TIME TO TIME.

I PETER 4:12 “DEAR FRIENDS, DO NOT BE SURPRISED AT THE PAINFUL TRIAL YOU ARE SUFFERING, AS THOUGH SOMETHING STRANGE WERE HAPPENING TO YOU. “

THE GREAT RUMANIAN CHRISTIAN AND PASTOR, DANIEL TSON, WAS CRUELY AND CONTINUALLY PERSECUTED BY THE CHESESQUE REGIME. HE, EVENTUALLY, CAME TO THIS CONCLUSION; “BEING PERSECUTED OR EVEN KILLED BECAUSE OF HIS FAITH WAS NOT A TRADGEDY BUT RATHER A PART OF THE JOB.”

THAT THOUGHT LEADS US TO THE FOURTH LESSON WHICH IS:

4. SUFFERING FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING IS OFTEN A PART OF THE LIFE OF FAITH.

I THINK, AS AMERICAN CHRISTIANS, WE HAVE A HARD TIME UNDERSTANDING THAT AND AN EVEN HARDER TIME ACCEPTING IT. WE EASILY FORGET WHAT JESUS SAID:

JOHN 16:33 “ I HAVE TOLD YOU THESE THINGS, SO THAT YOU MAY HAVE PEACE. IN THE WORLD YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE. BUT TAKE HEART! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.”

DANIEL WAS ENTRAPPED BY HIS COMMITMENT TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND THE KING, WHO REALLY LIKED DANIEL, WAS ENTRAPPED BY HIS OWN EDICT. SO DANIEL ENDED UP SPENDING THE NIGHT WITH THE LIONS.

IT IS THE REST OF THE STORY THAT IS SO POWERFUL AND CONTAINS THE FIFTH LESSON TO BE LEARNED FROM DANIEL’S EXPERIENCE. YOU SEE, THE NEXT MORNING WHEN DARIUS THE KING CAME TO CHECK ON DANIEL HE FOUND HIM SNUGGLED UP ASLEEP IN THE MIDDLE OF A PRIDE OF LIONS. THAT MUST HAVE BEEN AN INCREDIBLE SIGHT.

DARIUS WAS SO IMPRESSED THAT HE PROMOTED DANIEL, AS HE HAD ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO DO, AND THEN THREW DANIELS ENEMIES INTO THE LIONS DEN WHERE THE LIONS WERE ESPECIALLY HUNGRY AND NOT IN A VERY GOOD MOOD, AFTER SALIVATING OVER THEIR DINNER ALL NIGHT.

DANIEL’S COURAGEOUS FAITH STOPPED THE MOUTHS OF THE LIONS AND OPENED THE HEART AND MOUTH OF DARIUS THE KING TO PRAISE DANIEL’S GOD.

SO HERE’S THE FIFTH LESSON TO BE LEARNED FROM DANIEL’S EXPERIENCE:

5. WHEN WE DON’T HAVE TO SURVIVE, WE HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT THROUGH OUR SUFFERING.

THERE’S A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THIS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT BOOK OF ACTS. ONE OF THE KEY FIGURES OF THE INFANT CHURCH, FOLLOWING THE DEATH, RESURRECTION AND ASCENCION OF JESUS WAS A YOUNG BELIEVER BY THE NAME OF STEPHEN. STEPHEN’S FAITH AND INTEGRITY IN PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS RESURRECTION LED HIM INTO THE FACE OF HOSTILTY. WHEN HIS INTEGRITY WAS ON THE LINE BEFORE A HOSTILE CROWD, HE REFUSED TO COMPROMISE. THE CROWD, INSTIGATED BY A PHARASEE BY THE NAME OF SAUL OF TARSUS, ROSE UP IN ANGER AND PROCEEDED TO STONE STEPHEN TO DEATH. THE STORY IS CONTAINED IN ACTS CHAPTER 7. THE LAST FEW VERSE OF CHAPTER 7 AND THE FIRST VERSE OF CHAPTER 8 READ THIS WAY:

ACTS 7:57-8:1 “AT THIS THEY COVERED THEIR EARS AND YELLING AT THE TOP OF THEIR VOICES, THEY ALL RUSHED AT HIM, DRAGGED HIM OUT OF THE CITY AND BEGAN TO STONE HIM. MEANWHILE, THE WITNESSES LAID THEIR CLOTHES AT THE FEET OF A YOUNG MAN NAMED SAUL.

WHILE THEY WERE STONING HIM, STEPHEN PRAYED, ‘LORD JESUS, RECEIVE MY SPIRIT.’ THEN HE FELL ON HIS KNEES AND CRIED OUT, ‘LORD, DO NOT HOLD THIS SIN AGAINST THEM.’ WHEN HE HAD SAID THIS, HE FELL ASLEEP.

AND SAUL WAS THERE, GIVING HIS APPROVAL TO HIS DEATH. ON THAT DAY A GREAT PERSECUTION BROKE OUT AGAINST THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM AND ALL EXCEPT THE APOSTLES WERE SCATTERED THROUGHOUT JUDEA AND SAMARIA.”

(DESCRIBE THE IMPACT OF JESUS DEATH ON SAUL AND UPON THE CHURCH AND THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL.)

NOT ONLY ARE THERE, AT LEAST, FIVE IMPORTANT LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THIS ANCIENT ACCOUNT OF THE PERSONAL CHALLENGE TO DANIELS FAITH AND OBEDIENCE, BUT THERE ARE, ALSO, SOME CLEAR PARALLELS BETWEEN DANIEL AND CHRIST.

* FOUR PARALLELS BETWEEN DANIEL AND CHRIST

1. BOTH SUFFERED FOR DOING GOOD DANIEL SUFFERED IN THE COURT OF A PAGAN KING. CHRIST SUFFERED IN THE COURT OF THOSE WHOO SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER, THE RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS DAY. LISTEN TO WHAT THE APOSTLE PETER SAID ABGOUT THIS ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST:

ACTS 2:22-23 “MEN OF ISTAEL LISTEN TO THIS: JESUS OF NAZARETH WAS A MAN ACREDITED BY GOD TO YOU BY MIRACLES, WONDERS AND SIGNS, WHICH GOD DID AMONG YOU THROUGH HIM, AS YOU YOURSELVES KNOW. THIS MAN WAS HANDED OVER TO YOU BY GOD’S SET PURPOSE AND FOREKNOWLEDGE; AND YOU, WITH THE HELP OF WICKED MEN, PUT HIM TO DEATH BY NAILING HIM TO THE CROSS.”

2. BOTH SUFFERED BECAUSE OF THEIR COMMITMENT TO DO

GOD’S WILL. AS FAR AS DANIEL WAS CONCERNED, PRAYING TO HIS GOD WAS A NONNEGOTIABLE ISSUE. JESUS SAW HIS JOURNEY TO THE CROSS THE SAME WAY. THE APOSTLE PAUL WRITES IN PHILIPPIANS 2:8

“AND BEING FOUND IN APPEARANCE AS A MAN, HE (JESUS) HUMBLED HIMSELF AND BECAME OBEDIENT TO DEATH—EVEN DEATH ON A CROSS.

THE CROSS OF CHRIST WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT OF HISTORY AS SOME WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE. JESUS INTENTIONALLY WENT TO THE CROSS IN OBEDIENCE TO THE FATHER’S WILL.

3. BOTH WERE FALSELY ACCUSED. BEING FALSELY ACCUSED

THEY DID NOT OPEN THEIR MOUTHS IN THEIR OWN DEFENSE. DANIEL HAD NOTHING TO DEFEND. HE WAS NOT DEFYING THE KING. HE WAS MERELY BEING OBEDIENT TO A GREATER KING.

JESUS CHRIST WAS STRANGELY SILENT AT HIS TRIAL. THE PROPHET ISAIAH HAD PREDICTED THIS HUNDREDS OF YEARS BEFORE.

ISAIAH 53:7 “ HE WAS OPPRESSED AND AFFLICTED, YET HE DID NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH; HE WAS LED LIKE A LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, AND AS A SHEEP BEFORE HIS SHEARERS IS SILENT, SO HE DID NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH.”

WHY WAS JESUS SO SILENT IN THE COURT? LATER, IN THE N.T., THE APOSTLE PAUL WOULD WRITE;

II COR.5:21 GOD MADE HIM WHO HAD NO SIN TO BE SIN FOR US, SO THAT IN HIM WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.”

JESUS CHRIST, LIKE DANIEL, HAD NOTHING TO DEFEND. HE WASN’T GOING TO THE CROSS FOR HIS OWN SINS, BUT FOR YOURS AND MINE.

4. BOTH HAD A GOAL IN LIFE THAT WAS GREATER THAN

THEIR OWN SURVIVAL. THEIR GOAL IN LIFE WAS TO GLORIFY GOD THROUGH THEIR OBEDIENCE, NO MATTER WHAT IT COST THEM. LISTEN TO SOME WORD’S OF JESUS AFFIRMING THIS:

JOHN 6:38 “FOR I HAVE COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN NOT TO DO MY WILL BUT TO DO THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME.”

MATT. 26:39 “GOING A LITTLE FARTHER, HE FELL WITH HIS FACE TO THE GROUND AND PRAYED, ‘MY FATHER, IF IT IS POSSIBLE, MAY THIS CUP BE TAKEN FROM ME. YET NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL.”

CAN YOU SAY THAT YOU HAVE A GOAL IN LIFE THAT IS GREATER THAN YOUR SURVIVA? DO YOU HAVE A GOAL THAT IS NOT ONLY GREAT ENOUGH TO LIVE FOR, BUT, ALSO, GREAT ENOUGH TO DIE FOR. UNTIL YOU DO YOU WILL NEVER SEE SUFFERING FOR DOING GOOD IN THE PROPER LIGHT. YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO FIND PEACE WHEN YOU SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD.

ROMANIAN PASTOR, JOSEF TSON TELLS OF A CRISIS MOMENT DURING HIS INTERROGATION, DURING THE CRUEL COMMUNIST REGIME IN CHECKOSLOVAKIA.

“ I STILL HAD A LOT OF TRUST IN MYSELF UNTIL TWO SPECIAL MOMENTS DURING THE INTERROGATIONS WHEN I WAS SO SCARED I WANTED TO QUIT. IT WAS MY WIFE WHO SAID, ‘DIDN’T YOU SAY YOU WANTED TO DIE FOR CHRIST? NOW DO IT!’ DON’T TEACH YOUR WIFE THAT KIND OF THEOLOGY.

I WON’T TELL YOU ALL THAT HAPPENED, BUT I WILL TELL YOU ELIZABETH’S CONCLUSION. ‘JOSEPH I WATCHED YOU THESE DAYS. GOD BRINGS YOU TO A PLACE WHERE YOU ARE REALLY CONVINCED THAT IT’S ALL OVER, AND YOU HAVE NOTHING LEFT BUT TO SAY, ‘HERE I AM. DO WHAT EVER YOU WANT. NOW I AM READY TO DIE.’ THEN HE HAS DONE THE WORK IN YOU. WHEN THE WORK IS DONE, ALL OF A SUDDEN THERE IS A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM, AND YOU GO FREE BECAUSE THE BATTLE THAT GOD HAD WAS THE BATTLE IN YOU. THEY WERE ONLY INSTRUMENTS TO BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE COMPLETELY BROKEN.’

IT WAS AFTER THE COMPLETE BREAK IN ME THAT THE FIRE FROM ON HIGH CAME, AND IN FOUR YEARS I BAPTIZED 850 NEW CONVERTS. THAT NEVER HAD HAPPENED IN ROMANIA BEFORE. IT WAS UNDER COMMUNISM—UNHEARD OF.”

ONE OF THE HARDEST LESSONS TO LEARN, AS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST IN A PRECHRISTIAN WORLD, IS THAT WHEN WE FACE THE CROSS WE NEED TO EMBRACE IT, IF WE ARE TO RECEIVE ITS FULL BENEFIT AND IF GOD IS TO BE GLORIFIED IN OUR LIFE. IT IS THEN WE CAN SAY WITH THE APOSTLE PAUL; “I HAVE NEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST AND I NO LONGER LIVE BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME. THE LIFE I LIVE IN THE BODY I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.” GAL 2:20

· THERE IS ONE POINT WHERE THE EXPERIENCE OF DANIEL AND THE EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST DIVERGE.

WHILE IN DANIEL’S CASE GOD STEPPED IN AND SHUT THE LION’S MOUTHS, HE REFUSED TO SPARE HIS OWN SON FROM CRUCFIXION. ONE WRITER PAINTS A POSSIBLE PICTURE OF DANIELS INTITIAL MOMENTS WITH THE LIONS:

“ AS THE GUARDS CLOSED THE APERTURE AND WENT THEIR WAY, DANIEL SLID GRADUALLY TO THE FLOOR OF THE DEN. THE BIG LIONS THAT HAD COME BOUNDING FROM THEIR CAVERNS AT THE INFLOW OF LIGHT ALL STOPPED SUDDENLY SHORT AS A STEED REINED UP BY POWERFUL HANDS ON THE BRIDLE. THE INITIAL ROARS DIED AWAY AS THEY FORMED A SOLID PHALANX AND LOOKED TOWARD THIS MAN WHO STOOD IN THEIR CAVERNS. OTHERS OF THE GREAT BEASTS YAWNED AND LAY DOWN ON THE FLOOR, BUT NOT ONE MADE A MOVE TO ADVANCE TOWARD THEIR VISITOR. ‘THANKS BE TO JEHOVAH,’ BREATHED THE PROPHET. ‘HE HAS CLOSED THE MOUTHS OF THESE FIERCE BEASTS AND THEY WILL DO ME NO HARM.”

HUNDREDS OF YEARS BEFORE, DAVID THE PSALMIST PAINTED A FAR DIFFERENT PROPHETIC PICTURE OF JESUS WITH THE LIONS. HE WRITES:

PSALM 22:13-18 “ ROARING LIONS TEARING THEIR PREY OPEN THEIR MOUTHS WIDE AGAINST ME. I AM POURED OUT LIKE WATER, AND ALL MY BONES ARE OUT OF JOINT. MY HEART HAS TURNED TO WAX; IT HAS MELTED AWAY WITHIN ME. MY STRENGTH IS DRIED UP LIKE A POTSHERD, AND MY TONGUE STICKS TO THE ROOF OF MY MOUTH; YOU LAY ME IN THE DUST OF DEATH.

DOGS HAVE SURROUNDED ME; A BAND OF EVIL MEN HAS ENCIRCLED ME, THEY HAVE PIERCED MY HABDS AND MY FEET. I CAN COUNT ALL MY BONES; PEOPLE STARE AND GLOAT OVER ME.

THEY DIVIDE MY GARMENTS AMONG THEM AND CAST LOTS FOR MY CLOTHING.”

WHY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DANIEL’S EXPERIENCE AND THAT OF CHRIST’S?

THE ANSWER IS THAT GOD HAD DECREED; “THE SOUL THAT SINS SHALL DIE.” HE COULD NOT REVOKE HIS DECREE. IF HE WAS GOING TO SAVE US, HE MUST SACRIFICE HIS OWN SON. THE APOSTLE PETER WRITES:

I PETER 3:17-18 “IT IS BETTER IF IT IS GOD’S WILL TO SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD THAN FOR DOING EVIL. FOR CHRIST DIED FOR SINS ONCE FOR ALL, THE RIGHTEOUS FOR THE UNRIGHTEOUS TO BRING YOU TO GOD. HE WAS PUT TO DEATH IN THE BODY BUT MADE ALIVE BY THE SPIRIT.”

SOMETIMES GOD’S GREATER PURPOSE WILL BE SERVED BY DELIVERING THOSE WHO TRUST HIM FROM THE MOUTHS OF LIONS. AT OTHER TIMES HIS GREATER PURPOSE WILL BE SERVED BY LETTING THE LIONS DO THEIR WORK.

OUR CHALLENGE AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST IN A CHRISTIAN WORLD IS TO ACCEPT, BY FAITH, GOD’S GREATER PURPOSE, WHATEVER IT MAY BE, IN EVERTHING THAT HAPPENS TO US.

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