Recent events and trends explain why people of faith feel frustrated and even hopeless with the direction of the country. The shifts in our culture, both minuscule and tectonic, have marginalized many faithful Christians. But the truth is, Christians should have less reason than anyone else to feel hopeless and frustrated if they remember Jesus’ words.
Scott Moore, the lead pastor at Eastridge Community Church where I work (and of which I’m a member), reminded us of this fact this past Sunday, and his message inspired me to share it here. Scott’s sermon centered on a conversation Jesus had with His disciples:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
Jesus brought His disciples to this city, known for its disgusting rituals and pagan worship, known colloquially as the “Gates of Hades,” to announce His plans for His church. He tells us that the “powers of Hell will not prevail against” this community of believers. Nothing will prevail against God’s church — not evil, not hatred, not racism, not perversion, not greed.
Scott used this passage to remind us as believers that the church (not a particular denomination, but the global family of Christians all over the world) is the most prevailing force the world has ever known. He reminded us that we are stronger than we believe we are if our faith is strong. If we abide in Jesus, in prayer and in His Word, we can’t help but overcome even our worst feelings of inadequacy and despair. He said, “The church is strong because it is built upon the foundation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of the supremely divine, living God.” How could we not prevail?
Scott then reminded us that we are more powerful than we act like we are. Jesus told the disciples that He would give them the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is our key to access to the Heavenly Father and all the resources we as believers need to face in any circumstances. He is our key to peace, to reconciliation, to wisdom. Jesus is our key to God’s power, and He is all we need.
One of my favorite quotes from the sermon reminds us that the state of the church has nothing to do with our current circumstances. Scott said, “The most important question today is not what you believe about our current situation, our current climate, our current culture. The most important question is, ‘Who do you say Jesus is? Is He the Christ? Is the the Anointed One from God? Is He the the Son of the Living God?’ You get that question right, and so many others are answered for you.”
The most interesting thing about Sunday’s message is that our pastors plan their sermon series weeks in advance. The team had begun prayerfully developing this message in May, long before the Supreme Court made its ruling about same-sex marriage, before so many Christians became overcome with despair. God put an important message on the hearts of our pastors and timed it perfectly. No worldly institution can take that away from believers!
Jesus never promised us an easy life, and if we look at the early church, it was rife with persecution. Surely we’ll see persecution of Christians in the United States as the world grows increasingly secular and godless, but the persecution we’re likely to witness doesn’t hold a candle to what Christians in places like India and Africa see every day.
The truth of the matter is that persecution makes the church stronger and more authentic. Other verses in the Bible remind us that we should expect to be tested at some point in our lives:
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
31 Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? 32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Christians, be encouraged! Be bold! Be confident in Whose you are! This isn’t a time for despair; it’s a time for hope. It’s a time to love everyone we encounter with the life-changing love of Jesus and to share that love with others. It’s a time to stand firm in what we believe in — and to be prepared to explain why we believe what we believe.
Now, more than ever, is a time to live like Jesus called us to, regardless of our emotions and circumstances. With God’s help, we can’t lose, and we won’t lose. We need to live today like we’ve won today!
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Leigh Anne Meeks