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A Test Of Faith - Part 1

A Test Of Faith - Part 1

by Richard F. Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
May, 2003


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Last updated:
October 14, 2003.

Along the Christian life there are trials that test one's faith. Paul admonished, "Yea; and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3: 12). When a person becomes a disciple they have become a follower of the teaching, example and life of Jesus Christ, hence the name "Christian."

When you examine the life and teaching of Jesus you see love, kindness, goodness, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, understanding, and self- sacrifice. It is said that, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him" (Acts 10:38). Christ refused to retaliate against those who persecuted him.

1 Peter 2:21-24 reads, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."

Man by his fleshly nature strikes back when verbally or physically assaulted, however, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ one must not take, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" but must "bend over backwards" to do good to those who would do him wrong. Christianity is the religion that insists that the child of God must not "resist evil," but must "turn the other cheek" and "go the second mile." Even harder for the carnal mind to accept is the principle to "love... do good... and even pray for" those who have no regard for you, who would curse you, and even use and persecute you. (Read Matthew 5:38-45). But Jesus insists that only in this way can we be a child of God.

You can be certain that there are many who profess to "know Christ" and to "be a Christian" who will not accept these New Testament principles. Theirs is not true Christianity.

Along with the necessity to live "in the world, but not be of the world," and to obey those who are established rulers and figures of authority in the society which surrounds us (Romans 13), the sincere Christian often finds himself at odds with the laws set up by the carnal men.

We have been taught that we are to "obey the laws of the land" but when those laws contradict the teaching of Jesus and his apostles what are we to do? Clearly the example set in the New Testament by the apostle Peter and children of God is that when there must be a choice made, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

There are laws that the Christian cannot obey and remain faithful to the Lord. Furthermore, there are situations menacingly looming on the horizon which must be dealt with. Young people are faced with more and more concern about their future. Some are thinking, "When the test comes how will I be able to stand... Is there some way to brace myself for the trial?"

First of all, whoever you are and no matter what you have faced before there may come a time when your faith will be painfully tested. The best way to prepare yourself for the great trials in life is to be faithful in the small things. Jesus said, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." Read Luke 16:10-13.

After you have done all your preparation, hiding His word in your heart and being "faithful in that which is least," you still don't know if you have the strength to stand a great test that might come along. Peter taught the keys to succeeding in Christ were to humble yourself, be sober and vigilant, and to cast your care on the Lord because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-8). Why was Paul triumphant in his service to God? When there was a strong possibility he would personally be assaulted, prosecuted, and imprisoned when he went to the work in Judea, his answer was, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:22-25).

It might be beneficial to know some trials which might come our way. One of which is the testing of our faith by officials of the government. In other words - HOW DOES THE GOVERNMENT OF THIS NATION DEAL WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS THAT PROHIBIT THEM FROM OBEYING CERTAIN LAWS WHICH THEY BELIEVE ARE CONTRARY TO THE TEACHING OF THE BIBLE?

I am opposed to participation in military service in any form but I do not plan to address this subject now. The purpose of this study is to examine how the government and the courts are dealing with people who oppose certain laws which violate their faith.

In recent years there have been a growing number of religious people in this land who have opposed sending their children to public schools. Most of these hold it as an act of faith. And for this reason they have refused to send their children to public schools and some have begun teaching them at home. Others for the same reasons have formed private schools.

Because the government sets standards which must be met in order for a school to be recognized as legal, many of these private teaching situations and "church" operated schools have come under severe attack. They have been closed. Those operating them have been harassed; they have been persecuted. Some have been arrested, tried in the courts, convicted, and sent to prison.

Now, sending your children to government run schools may not violate your conscience, and you may not believe you are mandated by God to seek another form of education, but some religious people do. However, from the treatment of the people who do hold those convictions, we can learn, with some degree of certainty, just how the government treats any religious objector.

No doubt, you are aware that the Constitution of the United States of America provides governmental protection for any person with religious conviction which prohibits him or her from obeying a specific rule of law. The First Amendment to the Constitution begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

As we progress in this study we need to define certain terms which we will use from time to time so that we will have a clear understanding of the subject being discussed. The first term that needs explanation is our use here of "the court." When we use "the court," it is no particular court. It will be used with reference to the court which has jurisdiction in the matter. It may be the local court, or the state court, but by and large "the court" refers to the U. S. Supreme Court.

The expression "the church" refers to a group of persons who belong together because of common beliefs. It will generally refer to the group of persons in a particular case. We understand in our case it is "the church of Christ," "the Lord's church," "the New Testament church." The people in positions of governmental authority do not understand what we do, and therefore do not make a distinction between religious groups.

When we speak of "the government" it is the government which is the authority in the matter. If we say that someone is "in trouble with the government" we are referring to offices of government. In Ohio, where they have had a lot of trouble with religious opposition to public schools, for a long time they had a governor who was sympathetic to the cause of religious objectors. We are not talking about a person or a small group of persons when we speak of "the government.".

There are people in government all over the nation who are extremely sympathetic to those who hold Christian beliefs, while others believe that Christianity is the absolute worst scourge to an intelligent man's mind. They think that it ought to be destroyed at all costs. But neither of these groups is referred to when we use the term "the government." It is a much broader picture of government that we speak of and have seen involved in these matters.

CHRISTIAN FAITH SUFFERS OPPOSITION

Jesus taught his disciples, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you... the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:18,19). The Lord referred to his followers as "the children of light" in John 12:36. He also stated that "this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because there deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (John 3:19,20).

We know that light always reproves or destroys darkness. The darkness vanishes when the light shines. Lost men love darkness. Jesus lets the Christian know that he is "light," and that evil men who love darkness will therefore hate the disciple of Christ. For this very reason Christians have met with opposition in the world. Wherever true disciples have gone in the world they have been hated and despised.

If you want to see something astonishing go into one of these modern religious book stores and just take note of the shelf after shelf of books on how to go about being a Christian life in love, peace and harmony with all men. We might call it "the love theology." We hear denominational preachers spouting this doctrine on radio and TV, how that, if a Christian will love everybody, everybody will love the Christian and all problems will disappear.

Even more alarming is to hear some of this denominational rubbish spouted from our own pulpits. But the kind of love which Christ and God have shown seeks to reveal sins, give the blood of Christ as the only atonement, and offer forgiveness and fellowship.

Usually those who try to teach this "love theology" quote from the writings of Paul and Peter. But just think about how good these men were at doing that. They got along so well with everybody that they were stoned, beaten, thrown out of towns, cast in prison and ultimately killed. Yet some of us, somehow, would like to appropriate their writings to mean that we can be a Christian, live a sufferless life, and go to Heaven. It seems that suddenly, the Scriptures that talk about persecution don't apply to us in the United States; they belong to people who might live in Red China, or North Korea, or Iraq.

Look for the next installment of this study, in the next issue of The Christian Informer. At that time we want to begin examining isolated instances of the treatment of today's religious people in order to understand the big picture: what has happened to those with faith today and what might lie in store for us. We want to learn just how the government and the court will determine your case.
-Richard Nichols

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