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PETER SPEAKS TO THE CONTENDERS


Contender Ministries

Posted:  April 7, 2002                                                                               Printer Friendly Version


 

Within the span of three days, I was ridiculed for wearing a cross pendant, my sister-in-law was scorned for standing up for her faith, and her husband made a stand for his faith at work.  It is getting less and less popular to be a Christian today.  Many in this world view Christians as old fashioned, intolerant, and divisive.  I thank the Lord that I live in a country where all I have to face is ridicule.  In many countries, Christians are still being put to death for their beliefs.  Nevertheless, it can still be difficult to face the scorn of “friends” and colleagues.  God never said it would be easy to follow him.  I think most Christians can share similar stories to those above.  One could coast through life as a Sunday morning pew-warmer, and may not be subjected to verbal attacks.  If you choose to be a contender, if you make that decision that you will contend for your faith in the face of the enemy, then you can be assured that you will be slandered. 

The day after I was teased for wearing a cross, I was reading through 1 Peter.  The words I read were a tremendous source of encouragement, and I was able to share them with my sister-in-law and her husband.  1 Peter 3:13-18 says,

 “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  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.” 

Wow!  What a powerful message!  Peter knew all too well the struggles that Christians face.  To contend for your faith is to accept that risk.  You can pay a high price for your obedience to Christ.  My sister-in-law lost a friend because of the stand she took.  The only way to avoid that risk is to become a pew-warmer.  But Christ did not call us to merely sit in Church every Sunday.  He did not call us to attend retreats, weekly Bible studies, or volunteer for the coffee ministry.  He called us to take up our crosses and follow Him.  He called us to put it all on the line for Him.  He called us to love others, and to love them enough to show them the truth.  If we are not willing to contend for our faith, what kind of faith do we have?  Think of your best friend.  If he or she were tubing down a river, and you knew if they stayed in the water, they’d eventually plummet down a 200 foot waterfall, would you just wave at them as they floated by?  No!  You’d be shouting at them, warning them, doing your best to prevent their death!  God has called us to warn humanity of the waterfall towards which they’re heading!  This message will not always be warmly received.  But the alternative is to drag our pews out to the waterfall and watch our neighbors perish.  Could you feel smug about your faith then?  Would you feel Christ-like?  Peter continues in chapter 4, verses 12 through 19:

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  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.  For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 

Let me emphasize verse 16: “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”  I think a great many Christians are ashamed or embarrassed to stand up and be counted as a follower of Christ.  I know I used to feel embarrassed when questioned about my faith.  How wrong I was, and in the back of my mind, I heard a cock crow. 

I exhort all of you, to contend proudly for your faith.  I don’t encourage anyone to give up the fellowship of believers, but at the same time, do not be content to simply warm a pew.  My oldest brother was talking to me about the institutional church, and used the term “churchianity”.  I laughed when I heard him use the term, but found it all to appropriate in some instances.  So it can also be said that we are Christians, not “churchians”, and we must be proud to “bear that name”.  Always be ready to give an answer for your faith.  It won’t be easy.  The cost in this world can be high.  But Peter also illustrates the rewards for being a loving and earnest contender.  I leave you with 1 Peter 1:3-9:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

 May God bless you as you contend for the faith!

 

 

 


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