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2 Corinthians 1:8-11 ESV

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

Jesus told us that if we follow him with our lives, in truth, and in action, and not in lip service only, that we will be hated and persecuted as he was hated and persecuted. For if we follow the Lord with our lives, the people of the world should not embrace us as their own, but they should be against us and what we stand for. And we should be experiencing that opposition from the ungodly and from those who are still being led by the flesh and not by the Spirit, which may include some pastors and elders of “churches.”

I have felt what Paul described here. I know what it is like to be physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually abused and mistreated. I know what it is like to be in despair and to feel utterly hopeless as though there is no way out of what I was going through. The Lord allowed me to go through many such experiences in my life so that I could feel what others feel who are being persecuted for their walks of faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, it is true that I have not had all such experiences as others, but I have had many.

The physical abuse was at the hands of my father when I was growing up as a child, and that is the extent of my physical abuse. But that was horrific enough. But there are other ways in which we can be mistreated and abused and persecuted which are not of a physical nature, but which can be extremely painful, nonetheless. We can have people falsely accuse us of things we did not do and turn others against us, who will also reject us and cast us aside because of the seriousness of our walks of faith in the Lord.

We can have people yell and scream at us because we are following the Lord and not the flesh, and because we are not with the majority, but because we are with the minority, and because we are actually testing what we read and hear against the Scriptures in context, and because we don’t just believe everything we hear coming from the mouths of those who claim to be of God and who claim to be telling people the truth. For if we are truly living lives separate from the world and unto God, we are going to be persecuted.

And we can be greatly misunderstood by other Christians (or by those giving lip service only to the Lord) who are living more worldly lives, and because of the seriousness of our walks of faith, and because we take the Scriptures to heart, and so we obey them in practice, though not in absolute perfection. And they may cast judgments on us based on themselves and on their own prejudices and culture and traditions and worldly thinking. And they may be people who actually side with our persecutors and against us.

And we can have others who profess faith in Jesus Christ betray us and do evil against us and set traps for us like Jesus’ persecutors did to him. And they may be mean and hateful and spiteful towards us because we are walking in obedience to the Lord when they are not, and so we are an offense to them. And this is especially true at this time when so many “Christians” are following a diluted and altered gospel. And many of them are being trained to oppose us strongly and/or even deceitfully.

And when this piles up, and when we have no other humans to rescue us from this evil, but we often have to stand alone, but not alone because God is with us, it can be very disheartening, for sure. And when this increases, the closer we walk with the Lord, and the more that we truly are separate (unlike, different) from the world, it can be extremely emotionally painful when it appears as though all have deserted us. And Paul felt this, and so did some of the prophets of old. Jeremiah definitely comes to mind here.

But what did Paul say here? He said that this was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. Amen! Persecution can be very humbling. And in our sorrow and despair it can lead us right into the arms of Jesus and into much deeper walks of faith which we may not have otherwise had. Especially when we have nowhere to turn but to God for our comfort, and for our encouragement, it can actually work to increase our faith and our walks of obedience to our Lord. So that can be good for us.

And then what did Paul do? He didn’t keep his persecutions and his difficult experiences to himself, and neither did Jesus. They talked about them. Why? For our comfort and encouragement, if not for now, for a future time when we will go through similar experiences, and so we will know that grace of God which can carry us through such difficulties. And so we will trust the Lord even in these difficult times, and so we will not lose heart, and so we will not give up the fight, but so we will persevere in running the race.

So, the Lord has had me share some of my experiences so that you know that you are not alone in your suffering, if you are suffering as I have suffered, and so you hopefully will find encouragement and hope and healing in knowing, by the grace of God, that we can endure, and we can come out of these times of suffering whole and healed and on fire for the Lord, and not discouraged and not be in despair and not ready to give up all hope. And that is why Jesus and Paul and others shared their experiences, too.

And so the Lord has had me write two books, not professionally published, but just posted on the internet, where I share some of those experiences, and even my own failures, but how God has used those experiences in my life to make me who I am so that I would answer his call on my life, and so that I will do what he has called me to do in sharing what he teaches me each day through his word and to put it on the internet.

The first one was written in 2018, and it has 17 chapters. The second one was written maybe a week ago, and it has 7 chapters. So, out of obedience to my Lord I am going to share with you the links to these two books so that you can read them, as the Lord leads you, if you have at all identified with anything I have shared with you today. And, again, this is for your encouragement, to give you hope in your difficult circumstances so that you know that there is a “rainbow at the end of the storm”.

I Pray for Them

An Original Work / June 4, 2013
Based off John 17

“Glorify Your Son, that Your Son
May glorify our God in heav’n.
Father, You granted Him all power
And all authority over men,
That He might give eternal life
To all those whom now
You have given Him.”

“This now then is eternal life:
That they may know You,
Father, and Your Son;
That they may know the only true God,
And Jesus Christ whom the Father sent.
I have brought You the glory by
Finishing the work that You’ve given Me.”

“I have shown You to those whom
You gave to Me out of the world;
They were Yours. You gave them to Me
And they have obeyed Your words
And they accepted them. They knew
That I came from You, and they believed
With certainty, I was sent.”

“Holy Father, I pray for them by the
Power of Your name: Protect them,
So that they may be one as we are,
For they are still living in this world.
I have given them Your word;
Because of Your word, the world
Has hated them.”

“I pray they may have the full measure of
My joy now living within them.
Father, I pray You sanctify them
By Your word; truly Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I send them to tell the world to repent.”

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