The passage that struck me is 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 - And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for your received the Word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Here is a group of people to whom the message of salvation came in the midst of hardship and persecution, yet the Thessalonians embraced the truth without second thoughts or doubt. I have received the truth of the Gospel in the midst of the ease and comfort of the American dream, and as soon as things do not go the way I expect or perceive they ought to, I begin to doubt and worry, to my great shame.
Everyone has doubts at one time or another, and I am sure that one of the most heard prayers is "God, are you there?" 2015 has been a difficult year for me, spiritually. I have been clinging to the Shield of Faith, and holding tight to the promises of God, even in the midst of doubt and worry. One good thing I can say happened this year is the addition of my new Son in Law, who is more of a son in my heart than an In Law. In the midst of this year I have had some true prayers of angst with God over certain passages of scripture that seem to promise certain things, of which I have not seen the manifestation, according to my expectations. What I have to keep reminding myself is that I do not see the Big Picture and God is not my personal Genie in a bottle, my wish is not His command! One of the biggest enemies of man is unrealistically made, unmet expectations.
For all my knowledge that Christ called me to pick up my cross and follow Him, for all the passages that promise me hardship and opposition in this carnal world, for all my studies on the spirit world, in which I am reminded again and again that this is Satan's realm and my home is in heaven, some part of me still expects everything to go my way. I am selfish and petulant.
Then I read a passage like the one above and God cuts my heart with the Sword of the Spirit and I realize just how good I really have it. In the Middle East, right now, Christians are watching their children being brutalized and murdered by ISIS. I shudder to think how my faith would hold up to any real persecution or crisis. Thankfully, we are told in scripture that we are not given more than we can bear, and we will be given the right words to say when brought before opposing authorities!
The real question I have to ask, at this point, is, am I worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Obviously, I do not deserve salvation as, by definition, salvation is unmerited grace bestowed upon me by God through the sacrifice of Christ, I understand that. Now, having attained this unmerited grace, I am called to live a life worthy of the sacrifice of Christ. We are called, in numerous passages to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel:
Ephesians_4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
Philippians_1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
Colossians 1:10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
1Thessalonians_2:12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
2Thessalonians_1:5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—
2Thessalonians_1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,
A major tool we have in this battle is the Shield of Faith: Ephesians_6:16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
Once we become believers, we are lost to Satan. Satan then wants to neutralize us and not only keep us from serving Christ and making disciples, but to cause us to harm the cause of Christ by tempting us to exhibit unworthy behavior. Being worthy of the Gospel is a multi-layered thing, like peeling an onion, except this onion is infinite with infinite layers, meaning, there is no point of arrival or attainment. There will always be areas of my life that need work and sins, once conquered, may resurface unexpectedly. Sanctification is a lifetime pursuit, outside the deluded Holiness movement, which teaches believers they can attain and sustain a sin free life through the Spirit. This opens the door to all kinds of disappointment and self righteousness.
By maintaining the Shield of Faith, I am able to withstand the attacks form the enemy that are designed to cause doubt, fear and worry. I maintain my Shield of Faith by staying in the Word, fellowshipping with other believers and keeping a healthy prayer life. When doubt arises, I am able to look at the things in scripture that I know for sure. I am positive that the Genesis account is literal and true, for example. I also recall answered prayer in my own life, miracles of healing that I have witnessed in my wife, for instance. By holding firmly to the Shield of Faith, I am able to protect myself from the fiery darts of the enemy.
God is good, and He never fails. God promises to never leave, nor forsake me. I stand firmly on that promise and know that my Lord will sustain me and protect me and provide for me...always.
Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.