Do not abandon your confidence
But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
For yet "in a very little while,
the one who is coming will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one will live by faith.
My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back."
But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
History teaches us that the early Christians were often persecuted for their faith. They were whipped, humiliated, imprisoned, and sometimes even killed.
Paul often wrote his epistles from a jail where he was languishing because of his bold declaration of his faith in Jesus Christ!
If anyone had a right to "shrink back" and silence his proclamation it was Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11 he states, "Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches..."
Most of us will never know the level of persecution that Paul and the early Christians experienced because of their faith and commitment to share the good news with others.
I live in America where I can boldly speak about Jesus, carry my Bible, and share with my friends. Some of you may live in countries where it is more dangerous to be so bold. Daily I am grateful for the religious freedoms I have here in my country.
I was recently talking to a new friend from Sudan and he explained to me that he had to flee his country as a refugee because his life was threatened for being a Christian!
I was amazed by his joy and faith, despite his many obstacles, hardships, persecutions, and loss of family, friends, and hardship.
In the face of great danger, trial, tribulation, trauma, and grief, he chose not to shrink back! He chose to allow Jesus' Joy to reside in his heart. He chose the path of love, joy, peace, and forgiveness--when it was not easy at all!
This man is my hero and when I "grow up" I want to be just like him!
May God grant that we do not shrink back in the face of opposition to the Gospel. May we be bold in sharing with those who have not heard and/or do not believe. May we be willing to endure a little bit of discomfort, or even persecution, for the sake of the gospel. And may we be compelled to step out of our comfort zones to proclaim with boldness, "JESUS SAVES AND HE SAVES TO THE UTMOST!!"
Let us pray: God, please help me to be a bold witness to the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to forgive our sin and gift us with eternal life. Please keep me from shrinking back under pressure, opposition, humiliation, or even danger to life or limb. You were willing to risk all to redeem us; please cause me to be willing to risk all to love you and my neighbors as myself. I pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaLta