STAY WITH IT
"'You'll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, friends. Some of you will be killed. There's no telling who will hate you because of me. Even so, every detail of your body and soul -- even the hairs of your head! -- is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it -- that's what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry, you'll be saved.'" Luke 21:16-19 (The Message).
How terrible is that, that a parent will betray a child and siblings each other for the sake of an ideology that has no foundation in truth! Such is the power of deception that it even overrides family loyalties.
There are countless stories of these kinds of betrayals from the Communist era, for example, that ripped family and friends apart. There are devotees of other religions today that are equally ruthless in the name of their god and teach that anyone who is not one of them must be destroyed.
But, unlike the gods who 'require' this kind of behaviour to protect them, Jesus assured His followers that He was in charge and would protect them, even down to the hairs on their head! Herein lays the difference between lies and truth. If a god cannot take care of him and demands that his followers go on the rampage and riot and murder to guard his name, does he sound like the sort of god that attracts both trust and security?
What if you did something to annoy him? If he requires you to kill even your own family for him, what guarantee do you have that he won't take you out for some infringement? How much security is there is a god who is capricious and unpredictable?
Once again, Jesus was utterly truthful. He faithfully warned His followers that there was trouble ahead for them if they remained loyal to Him. He gave no guarantee of physical safety if they followed Him but He did assure them that no part of them would be eternally lost. How many times have we already seen that He always viewed life from the perspective of eternity? Life did not end at the grave. It was only a part of the whole, a preparation for what lay ahead beyond death.
Persecution would not destroy them, however tough it was, but it would weed out those who were only in it for what they could get out of it. It would be part of a refining process by which faith in Him would be stripped of props and false expectations and would be anchored in His trustworthiness alone.
Jesus wanted His followers to trust Him so completely, in His character and His promises, that they would stake their very lives on what He had said. And they did! History reveals the story of many thousands during the first three centuries of the church who gave their lives rather than denies Jesus, and they did it joyfully because they believed His promises.
People foolishly follow the words of someone who claimed to speak for their god with no proof of their authenticity. Jesus Himself spoke these words, "'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" John 11:25-26 (NIV).
Once again we are left with a choice -- to believe and follow the teachings of a god who never speaks for himself and who offers no infallible proof or his existence and has to rely on fallible humans to speak for him, or to believe in the one who said He would die and rise again and did it, not for Himself but for us, so that we can entrust ourselves to His proven trustworthiness.
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