Proverbs 18:24 A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
In the Pastoral Epistle of 2 Timothy 1 verses 16 to 18, there is an honourable mention of the help Paul received from Onesiphorus. Who was this man who was not ashamed of the gospel Paul was chained up for? Nor was he ashamed to be affiliated with Paul’s chains. He was a helping companion in the work God had set out to be done by those who were called according to the Lord’s purpose. Onesiphorus was Paul’s friend who helped set the course of history that the work of the cross would bring to mankind. Prov. 18:24b But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. There are numerous honourable mentions of men and women throughout the epistles Paul wrote to the churches he had established through the leading of the Holy Spirit. The sixteenth chapter of Romans is full of honourable mentions of everyday people ministering to the needs of the ecclesia and those affiliated with it.
I think we have lost the perspective of who these people were. They were store owners, slaves, and employees of the Roman citizenry and system of their day. They had worse fears to deal with than we do. We fear a one-world government that one day may come in and have a say as to whether we live or die, because of our faith in Jesus Christ. This is a legitimate fear that could happen. But, these first church saints were living under that tyranny day by day. Yet, they shared the fundamental message that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and He is the Lord and Saviour. They lived their faith while praying for strength to be bold and courageous even in the persecution they were experiencing. Acts 4:29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.
We tend to think that hard conditions in the church today are problems like the music is too loud, the air conditioning is too cold, the seats not comfortable enough, the words on the screen are too small, and the preacher is not hip enough. These are not real sufferings. Will our complaints be noticed in the light of those who gave their lives for their faith so that we could assemble in peace? Our priorities are out of sorts. Thank God, we have the freedom to assemble, but let us be grateful for all that we have. Let us pray for the real persecuted brothers and sisters who do not have the right to assemble. Heb. 13:3 Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
I saw a news report on Christians in Ukraine gathered together and praying in a bombed-out part of a building. These brothers and sisters in the Lord were praying for their brothers and sisters in Christ who are in Russia. I am giving them an honourable mention because my heart feels for them having to forgive the unforgivable they are living in each day as the rest of the world weighs the economic values of the whole conflict. These Christian war citizens are living a life-and-death reality with their lives being determined by the whims of government leaders prognosticating whether there is money to be made by the suffering that is going on in that war zone.
How do we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are going through this conflict and every other conflict in the world? Let us not respond to their plight with insouciance. Can we even relate to the persecuted church without sounding trite? When the Lord puts these situations in my heart, I have to ask God how to pray for them because there are so many needs that I cannot relate to. As I lift them up and petition the Lord on their behalf, I do make mention of the honour they should be given by God and the rest of us. We need to realize God is asking them to pray for those who are persecuting them with real death threats. Matt. 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Oh, how we need the prayer of faith in Jesus’ name.
There may come a time in our lives and within this decade that we start to truly experience the hardships that many Christians throughout the world are going through. I can only hope that we have the faith and resolve to stand up and be counted as honourable saints and people of character who represent Christ and the love He offers all people. Hopefully like Paul, we will be able to say with conviction that we have run the race well. Phil. 3:14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. When we stand before our Heavenly Father may we hear an honourable mention of, “Well done,” because we lived our all in the salvation that the Lord Jesus gave us through His eternal sacrifice. Amen.
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