Holland Methodist Church

Month: February 2023

Persecuted for Righteousness’ sake

Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Tim. 3:12.

Whoever seeks to live a Christlike life must expect some form of hostility from an ungodly world. The spectrum of persecution ranges from mild to intense, starting with ridicule, restriction, harassment, and discrimination,  and  progressing to torture, imprisonment, ostracism, and death.

Writing from prison, Paul told young Timothy, pastor of the Church in Ephesus, that “all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Tim. 3:12. He wrote from his lived realities, having had a lifetime of suffering for the sake of Christ. Timothy knew all about his “persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured”. It was in Lystra, Timothy’s hometown, that Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city, and left for dead (see Acts 14:20).

Summarizing his experiences, Paul said: “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning” (see 2 Cor. 11:24-25).  So, Paul was not speaking theoretically and philosophically, but realistically, practically, and experientially. He lived it.

Not only did Jesus alert his disciples to the inevitability of persecution by saying: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:18); He also said persecution for righteousness’ sake should be regarded as an honour. He stated: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake” Matt. 5: 11. William Hendricksen wrote that “Scars are the price which every believer pays for his loyalty to Christ. 

In this increasingly secular and materialistic age, it is becoming progressively more unpopular to be followers of Jesus and to publicly declare our faith in God. Followers of Jesus are prone to be insulted, ridiculed, misunderstood, criticized, and even hated. Don’t be surprised if family and friends turn against us, revile and scorn us because of our zeal for the Lord. Let us regard it as an honour and a small price to pay for our loyal service to Christ. The scars of gossip, hatred, name-calling, envy, malice, and vindictiveness should be worn as a badge of honour by the soldiers of Christ. Jesus and Paul had their scars. Do you have any scars as a result for your faithfulness to God?

Living a Christlike life in this broken world that idealizes relativism can be costly. Standing and speaking up for the marginalized, victimized, and abused; defending the rights of children and vulnerable adults; and speaking out against injustices in high and low places are acts that are unlikely to be warmly embraced, but which are more likely to be followed by a knife in the back. 

Nevertheless, followers of Christ are assured that no amount of “trials, tribulation, distress, persecution…peril, or the sword, is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Therefore, I join Henry K. White and F.S. Fuller-Maitland in saying:

Onward then in battle move;
More than conquerors you shall prove;
Though opposed by many a foe,Christian soldiers, onward go.” 
(VIP # 336)

Thought:    Always do what is right, even if it is costly.

Prayer Focus:
Pray for all those who are being persecuted for doing what is right.

Transitioning to Lent

Sisters and Brothers,

Welcome February! Time is indeed, moving on.

This month we transition through the ordinary time ‘after Epiphany’ right into Lent which starts on 22nd instant. As happens every so often, MCCA Men’s Day, the Week of Prayer and World Day of Prayer will fall in Lent.

What’s it about Lent that I wish to mention even before we get there? Remember, my invitation over the past two years for us to consider tithing for Lent. “Give one tenth during Lent.”  Well, I’m at it again. Maybe if we practice this during Lent, it might grow on us as we seek to be more effective stewards of the grace we have received from God.

While we are not mandated to tithe, I do remind us that the MCCA has taken a position on tithing. The church’s (MCCA) position on tithing is captured in a position paper posted on the website. Give tithing a try, and note the effect it has, not just on your wallet, but on your life; and then you can decide from there. We may just find that in a season of inflation and increasing economic hardship, we begin to see God’s wonderful transformation of our financial situation. Let us resolve to trust God for this.

So, while tithing is not mandated -no one is compelling us to give one-tenth- we know that God loves a cheerful giver; and so we focus on the New Testament principles for Christian giving which we have already noted in Discipleship Studies. And while these relate to giving in general- stewardship of time, talent and treasure, I emphasise them here in relation to the gift of money earned.

  1. We are called to give as we have received (i.e., giving is not meant to be based on what we hope to get). We are not trying to twist God’s hand as if God owes us any favour. We are simply blessed because God chooses to be generous.
  2. Giving is like sowing seed, i.e., our gifts are multiplied times over in God’s scheme of things. We may never be aware of how grace is channeled through our giving, how many persons benefit from what we give, even some near and dear to us. How true it has often proven that when we cast our bread upon the waters, it returns bearing unexpected fruit.
  3. We reap what we sow. In other words, harvesting is proportionate to our giving. Let us sow generously, not only our time and talent, but also our treasure to the glory of God.
  4. The true measure of Christian giving is not the quantum of the gift but the attitude of the heart. Small wonder Paul taught the Christians at Corinth:
    Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work”.
  5. Christian giving should be regular ad systematic.  This is why Paul uses the word give in the continuous present tense, as if encouraging the people to make it a habit to give.

So, what more can I say? Try it and don’t be surprised if it turns out that you like it, even if it costs you money, because the blessedness of God’s favour grows upon us as we let go of boundaries, even deliberately and systematically giving what we could choose to own!

May the Lord’s richest blessings be ever yours.

In Christ
Joan Delsol Meade