One thing that challenges me constantly as a Christian is living in a world that measures success materially. Regardless of how sophisticated, spiritual or ’emotionally intelligent’ we are, we are all impressed by material success. I don’t just mean money, although that of course is the obvious, I mean a tangible way in which we can measure the success of a person’s endeavor.
It varies of course between cultures, but by and large, the more you can ascribe to yourself, wives and children, if you are from some parts of Africa; how many times you go on holiday and where you go, if you are European and how big are your house and car, if you are American.
As a Christian, I know, these are not the most important things, why only last week I quoted Jesus, ‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,’ and the Gospels are full of admonitions such as this one, telling us to, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ This is what I try to do, be on my guard, but it’s such a challenge!
It’s even more of a challenge when the straight and narrow becomes even narrower, because the road becomes crowded with people; secularists and atheists jeering as you try to walk the road.
A friend of mine tweeted a report by the BBC on a letter by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, wrote to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, saying some worshipers, were being treated as ‘bigots’ and warns against a ‘secular conformity of belief and conduct’.
You know the drill, they say it’s politically incorrect to say that homosexuality is wrong, or that Jesus is Lord, or even say you are a Christian, if you work in public office, for fear of offending someone. The cruel irony is that it is the tolerance and freedom engendered by the Christian foundations of this nation, that encouraged such freedoms.
A lot to be challenged by in Christian life, but as always, the answers are there through prayer and the study of the word. ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,’ as Paul says in Ephesians, ‘but against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places.’
Paul goes on to describe it in graphic detail, in Revelation 13, when he talks about the two beasts, which rise up in the last days, to pit themselves against Christians and set themselves up as gods making trouble for the saints. ‘[The beast] opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling,[a] that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.
By Revelation 19 and 20, Satan (the beasts) are bound and all that is good is brought back, purified into a new creation.
So I’m encouraged that my response should be one of patient endurance and wisdom, knowing that this too shall pass and that while the jeering voices do not silence me, stop me from speaking the truth and spreading the Gospel, I should not be unaware of the wiles of the enemy.
I think success for a Christian is being led by the good shepherd, walking in his way, doing his will for his name sake, regardless of the perils along the way.