Monday, July 29, 2013

POWER IN HARD TIMES by Gary Wilkerson

I visited a church in El Salvador where the average income of of the members is four dollars a day. I was astonished to learn that the people give two of their earned dollars toward charity. When I asked them why they give so much, all of them answered, “Because Jesus told us to give to the poor.”

When I pointed out that they were in need, they responded, “Oh, no! We’re blessed and we want to bless in return.”

These are not hearts that are unholy or swollen with conceit. Can we say the same of ourselves? As Christians, will we be eager to bless others when we have little in our own accounts? Or will we shrink back when it comes to blessing as we have been blessed?

The coming hard times will reveal the condition of our hearts. For the first time in history, less than 50 percent of Americans identify themselves as believers of some kind. That figure is even lower—30 percent—for people under thirty. Many of these check “none” as their religious affiliation. It is estimated that within a decade this generation will be lost completely to secularism and godlessness. And intolerance for Christians will only increase.

What are we to do with this? The writer of Hebrews answers, “Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings” (Hebrews 10:32, ESV). God turned those early Christians’ sufferings into tools for gospel power: “Sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction . . . you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come . . . but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (10:33-39).

This is a hard passage, to be sure, but there is good news embedded here. God is telling us that in the midst of the growing darkness, He is doing something glorious, raising up a last-days church as a testimony to His power in hard times.