“And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark 4:16, 17).
The last 11 months have revealed the true substance of our faith. Difficult times create a winnowing experience, where that which is light and fluffy is blown away and that which has substance remains. As the threshing process separates the chaff from the grain, so does pain separate some people from the faith they thought they had. COVID, social unrest, political animosity, repression of civil liberties, economic uncertainty, and crushing isolation have sown a whirlwind of winnowing. Some people have fallen away; others are afraid they might. How can we remain strong in faith in trying times?
Although not intuitively obvious to us, we do learn from Scripture that God has purposes in our suffering – purposes of refinement. God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. He brings pain into our lives to produce the fruit of righteousness in us (Hebrews 12). To Peter Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31, 32).
Hard times and persecution separate fluff from substance. This is bad for attendance but good for the church. The Church which Jesus is building is not in jeopardy if the world falls into chaos and there is a winnowing. He will build his church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. That is His promise to the end of the age. The only danger to the church is compromise, acquiescence, or silence.
In the face of a massive cultural move to define what truths can be published, and what truths must be cancelled, the Church will increasingly be scrutinized and pressured to compliance with cultural (not biblical) norms. The antidote is to be grounded more deeply in the truths of Scripture. The word of God is not bound, neither can it be silenced. Those called to proclaim it can be threatened and cancelled. But the gospel remains the power of God to save all who will believe. So we must know it and follow the One it proclaims.
Jesus is the great I AM. He is the Bread of Life who satisfies every longing soul. The Light of the World who rescues sinners from darkness. The Door to opens the way of salvation. The Good Shepherd who speaks to His listening sheep and leads them to safety. The Resurrection who grants eternal life. The Truth who is real reality. And he is the True Vine who yields a flourishing life. He is the One and only uncreated, uncaused, all sufficient, omnicompetent, eternal God who entered our world and invites us to enter His. There is none like Him; He is in a class by Himself and so we follow Him. We listen to Him. We worship Him. And we proclaim His saving grace to world that is lost without Him. Keep courage in the I AM. All else is sinking sand. “But though the earth gives way and the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, we will not fear” (Psalm 46:2).
With you in the journey,