Yesterday I discovered that I continue to be criticized and mocked for encouraging our church family to be open to God’s manifest presence and power. As I’ve thought about it, I believe the real offense is that God actually has shown up and revealed his love, truth and power in ways that are unfamiliar and even uncomfortable to some. The vast majority of those that I have the privilege to serve have relished this recent powerful move of God in our midst. And why not? People are being baptized with the Holy Spirit’s love, joy and power! Many are being healed physically and emotionally! Many have been set free from enemy strongholds! People love God and his Word like never before!
Anyway, back to being the object of malice and slander…whenever this type of thing happens to me I have to decide how to respond. This is important because how I respond determines my character and ability to be further used by God. Most everyone’s natural response (including my own) is either to defend and attack back or withdraw in whatever way is necessary to get out of the heat. Jesus makes it clear that retaliation is never to be a disciple’s mode of operation. So that’s out. Equally illegal is to stop obeying God in order to appease the attacker.
So both revenge and backing off are not the ways a disciple is to respond to attack. Jesus takes things even further when he says that we are not to hate our enemies, but rather we are to love and pray for them (Matthew 5:43,44). That seems crazy and impossible! Only God could command such a thing because he also is the only one who can empower us to do it.
It is striking to me that Jesus’ own example and his instruction to his disciples are to “move on, let it go and keep going for it” when attacked for the sake of the Kingdom. I love the story of Jesus’ ministry in his hometown of Nazareth that illustrates this;
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions: “…Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them (Mark 6:1-13).
Notice that Jesus’ friends and family from Nazareth were offended because they only knew Jesus in the natural and were unfamiliar with the manifestation of his supernatural wisdom and power. Incredibly Jesus did not remain with them in order to defend himself. What he did do is very instructive and encouraging to me:
1. He took his message and ministry that was offensive to them to many other villages.
2. He commissioned his disciples to spread the word and works of the Kingdom further as well.
3. He prepared his disciples for what they should do when (not if) their message and ministry was not received. Leave them. Let it go. Keep going for it.
Jesus would not allow the doubters and the offended to re-define his or his disciple’s ministry. We must do the same. Jesus would not be distracted. Neither can we afford to be. In every revival Jesus “shows up” in ways that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable to everyone in one way or another. God is so “out of the box,” especially the boxes we try to keep him in! The temptation still exists to become offended by that which confronts our comfort zones. When this is not recognized and dealt with from the heart, the fear and discomfort a person feels often turns to rejecting the move of God and attacking those proclaiming and being transformed by it. I’m sure this saddens the heart of God. In Nazareth Jesus was amazed at his critics’ lack of faith.
I too feel sad and amazed at how brothers and sisters in the Lord can rationalize their unharnessed fear and anger that often manifests as malicious gossip and slander. By God’s grace I will never give in to this divisive temptation that so grieves the Spirit of God. By God’s grace I will love and pray for my enemies. By God’s grace I will never stop proclaiming his Kingdom and asking him to “show up” as he has promised in his Word. I will not let fear or the pain of persecution determine my destiny, for I trust the One who loves me. I am not ashamed of the good news that “God has placed his Kingdom within our reach.” I am proud of Jesus and all that he has done and is doing.
And with many others I cry out to God, “More Lord!”
Hey Bill, you are in very good company, huh?? “For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (I think I just heard a sermon on this ;-)!! Still, I know it is never easy. Thank you for being an example to me of a Kingdom warrior!! How you give strength & courage to me & all those who follow!!! (Heb. 12, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart…. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord…. For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.”
Rom. 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes….”
Thank Myra. Those are good encouraging texts in every season, but at times they are more relevant than others. This is one of those times.
Bill, everything you wrote was so right on, but the second half of the last paragraph especially got to me…(tear, tear)
As your friend and sister in the Lord, my heart is burdened too when I learn what you have to go through to proclaim the truth. This is a very good reminder for me also to pray for God’s grace! … To pray these things do not distract us from moving forward…PRAY IN MORE: love, unity in Christ, encouragement and blessing. All the good things of the LORD. I don’t want to waste any time waddling in discouragement when I could be “praying for and loving my enemies” and moving forward in receiving the Lord’s blessing.
One thing that I have always appreciated most about you, is the strength of your character. I’ve witnessed you press in to the Lord when the storms came and you did not waver. Your submission to the Lord is a testimony of His faithfulness. I know first hand that you live the life you teach us. [Thank you for that!!]
What you wrote today is another example of God’s gracious love pouring out of you onto others!
I’m so encouraged that you are so encouraged! Yes, More Lord!
Thanks so much Jen. You are a good encourager! I’m grateful for the privilege of serving in the Kingdom with you. In so many ways what I am able to say and do in ministry is essentially informed by your amazing support and follow through. See you soon!
What an encouragement you are. I have seen God move in such mighty ways recently, not only in my life but in the lives of those around me, as we learn to listen and be obedient embracing His love, grace AND power in our lives!
Thank you for sharing this wonderful reminder that we must determine our response rather than react to those who would mock and ridicule! As long as I am focused on our wonderful Creator and Savior He determines my response!
Your words encourage me, but they don’t surprise me at all. You have led the way through conflict with integrity and thoughtful response from the very beginning, and continue to model those things now. If in Jesus’ very presence people were offended by his wisdom and the miracles he performed, how can we think we–who will never get it as perfectly as he did–won’t experience the same? And so we “leave them, let it go, and move on,” like you said. A verse from Jeremiah has come to me with regard to you before, but I share it again: “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jer. 3:15) We as a body have been blessed with a shepherd after the Lord’s own heart, and we are led with the knowledge and understanding you’ve gleaned from many hours of searching that heart. Know we are proud of you and continue to be behind you. Rest. And continue to enjoy your sabbatical!
Thanks Deb. As you know it is often much easier to write about such things than it is to actually live it well in the midst of the conflicts. I’m very encouraged at the moment and feeling the favor of God to think and write. One more day and then I’m back to CA. See you Sunday!
Great to read your blog.
Unfortunately it seems a small minority fear what the majority of the Body are hungering and thirsting for. Jesus was followed throughout the countryside by throngs who wanted to experience the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way. And then there where those mocked and criticized.
What is so impressive is that our Lord was never distracted by this, yet He spoke the truth in love, continued to minister as His Father had called Him to and moved forward. In the end Jesus said you will know them by their fruits. Is the fruit a transformed and healed life by the power of the Holy Spirit? Then good! Praise God.
We must all check our hearts when faced with the unfamiliar in church and really ask God to show us his truth in what is happening. I find if I am overly fixated on style and appearance I lose the message.
May it be our prayer “God, we submit ourselves to You to demonstrate your presence here today as You see fit. We desire the supernatural. We recognize that only You can transform hearts, raise the dead and heal the sick. We believe that you still do these things today and by faith we ask that you manifest your power here today among your people We know you are the God of the impossible who spoke this world into existence. We set aside traditions of men and fear and embrace what you have for us today. In Jesus name…amen.”