by Mike Ratliff
So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (Acts 5:38-41 ESV)
A good friend informed me of an incident in his life in which he had suffered some extreme personal costliness by standing firm and not giving in to the lies about God and our faith. I could tell he was in a great deal of anxiety and pain. He was also perplexed about many things. I asked God what I should do. Should I try to comfort him? Should I try to encourage him.? How was I to do either? All through this there was a nagging voice attempting to blame me and what I teach here as being the cause of my friends pain. This voice also attempted to warn me not to try to encourage him with the passage from Acts 5 (above) that was being laid on my heart as I prayed because then that would open me up to criticism.
The blaming continued as I sought God’s will. It became very clear that that voice was certainly not coming from the Holy Spirit. It sure could be my conscience I suppose, but I determined that it was the voice of the accuser. Therefore, I quoted Acts 5:41, telling my friend that he should rejoice because he had been counted worthy to suffer shame (dishonor) for the name. He had stood firm and it had cost him, but God does not settle accounts in the temporal. This will happen in eternity. I am still praying for my friend that God would comfort him and take away the pain and uncertainty while giving him joy and peace.
Charles Spurgeon wrote the following devotional during that part of his ministry in which he was dealing with the Great Downgrade Controversy. In this controversy he was maligned and ostracized by most of the Baptist ministries in England because he stood firm and refused to compromise the Gospel in order to do what the majority demanded, which was to change the way the gospel was preached in order to be more inclusive with those forms of Christianity that may not believe the same way. In other words, pluralism was a problem in the 19th Century England as it is in our time.
The Christian is involved in a continual war, with Jesus Christ as the Captain of their salvation. He has said, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”1 Listen to the battle cries! Now let the people of God stand firm in their ranks, and let no man’s heart fail him. We may feel in these days that we are losing the battle and unless the Lord Jesus shall lift His sword, we do not know what may become of the church of God in our time; but let us be courageous and bold. Seldom has there been a time like this as biblical Christianity trembles on the brink of capitulation to pluralism and empty religious routine. We are in great need of a bold voice and a strong hand to preach and publish the Gospel for which martyrs bled and confessors died. The Savior is, by His Spirit, still on earth; let this encourage us. He is always ever in the middle of the fight, and therefore the outcome of the battle is not in doubt. And as the conflict rages, what a deep satisfaction it is to know that the Lord Jesus, in His office as our great Intercessor, is prevalently pleading for His people! Turn your anxious gaze from the battle below, where, enshrouded in smoke, the faithful fight in garments rolled in blood. And lift your eyes above where the Savior lives and pleads, for while He intercedes, the cause of God is safe. Let us fight as if it all depended upon us, but let us look up and know that it all depends upon Him.
On the basis of our Savior’s atoning sacrifice and in the strength of the Holy Spirit’s power, we charge you who love Jesus to fight bravely in this holy war, for truth and righteousness, for the kingdom and the crown. Onward! The battle is not yours but God’s, and you will yet hear Him say, “Well done, brave warrior, well done!”
I know that I have at times become very discouraged in the battle, but Spurgeon is right. The battle is not ours. The battle is the Lord’s. My Brethren, when we stand before our Lord after He takes us home to be with Him, will He look at our works and our devotion and say, “Well Done!”? If we are spending our devotion on ourselves by giving in to our flesh then we are not fighting the good fight.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:9-16 ESV)
My brethren, let us confess our sins and repent of not fighting this good fight. Let us put away what is distracting us from doing so. Enter into the battle in all humility, meekness, and brokenness before the Lord. Seek not personal gain in this, but God’s glory. We may indeed suffer loss here in the temporal. We may suffer shame or dishonor, but if we do so as we are fighting the good fight then we have been found worthy of participating in the shame of the Cross with our Lord. God will settle accounts in eternity my brethren. Our Treasure is not here. It is awaiting us in Heaven, in eternity. Let us live now with that assurance in the joy of the Lord as we abide in Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!