Proclaiming Christ, defending the faith and sharing the deeper mysteries of the Gospel give me absolute life. I sincerely enjoy it. But, admittedly, I recently experienced a bout of near exhaustion, and I noticed that I was becoming easily frustrated by those who rejected the truth. It's disappointing to see many willingly remain in sin and confusion even after you’ve taken them through the Scriptures - line by line, precept by precept - to show them that Jesus truly is THE way! And it's all the more infuriating when you're demonized by those who, themselves, do the work of satan by suppressing the truth! It's enough to tempt one to grow weary in well doing!
Yet, as discouraged, indignant or even vindictive as my flesh is tempted to become - and it’s really tried to rise up in the past couple of weeks - I recognize my need to check myself against the Scriptures. Rather than sit idly by and let weariness, resentment or anger gain ground and cause my love to grow cold, I’ve had to take refuge in the Lord and meditate on His word to remain encouraged in His promises. Following Christ requires endurance and if I am to finish my race strong, here’s a few things I - and any other Believers on the brink of burnout - need to keep in mind along the way:
We are commanded to preach the Gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15).
As a follower of Christ, sharing the Gospel is a non-negotiable. It's tempting to not speak up and proclaim Christ once we've grown discouraged and convinced no one wants to hear our message. Yet, the good news is there are some who will. It is not God’s desire that any should perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Even as the Lord already knows not all will accept the truth, He’s still graciously making it available to all and is extending patience for the sake of those who will receive it. We should be willing to do the same. He loved us and sent His Son to die for us while we were yet sinners - His enemies (Romans 5:8; John 3:16) - surely we can open our mouths to boldly proclaim His truth, even in the presence of those who would reject the message.
“Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:17-19
Whomever Belongs to God will Hear God’s Words (John 8:47).
As mentioned above, God literally knows not everyone will repent and believe on Christ. In fact, Jesus told us most won’t and, as a result, are on the broad path to destruction (Matthew 7:13). While we should be hopeful that our message is received, we should also be prepared for rejection. We must also be mindful that predestination IS at work. (Yes. I just said that.) And as controversial as this topic is among professed Christians, it’s truth is Biblical and plain, (Matthew 24:14; Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:29-30). No matter if it seems unfair or an overrule of man's free will, we must keep in mind that 1) salvation isn't owed, it's grace (Ephesians 2:8) and 2) God's will automatically and already trumps the will of men (Proverbs 19:31). This is an extremely humbling truth to swallow for sinful humanity who err in our belief that we deserve anything or that our self-righteousness makes us worthy. On our best day our own righteousness is like filthy rags before the Lord (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23-27)! Yet the Lord says, "'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:15-16).
Moreover, Jesus says His Father HAS - as in ALREADY - given Him those who are His and no one can take us out of His hand (John 10:29). God is sovereign, omnipotent and omniscient. While we may not know who those individuals are in the world, the Lord does. And because we don’t know who is whom, we need to be careful to share the Gospel at every opportunity. Yet, when we reconcile this with knowing that it is already predetermined who will and won't believe, we’re not only prepared for rejection WHEN it comes, it ensures we keep our Gospel message pure and free of compromise. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Those who will believe still need to hear the Gospel, as it is loaded with all they need to hear to be thoroughly convinced of the truth. There’s no need to tweak the message to placate the hearer when we know that those who have an ear WILL hear, WILL follow after Christ and WILL do what He says (John 10:27-28; Luke 6:46). For whomever does not hear God’s words does not belong to Him (John 8:47).
“Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:25-28
If they hate you, know that they hated Christ first (John 15:18).
While most of us already understand this truth, it can still be extremely tempting to take the rejection, mocking, scoffing and other forms of persecution personally in the heat of the moment. Yet the Lord has already told us it’s ultimately Him who the world hates, and it is our Lord who is being rejected (Luke 10:16). So count it all joy if you are met with seething hostility and persecution for simply proclaiming the truth. And consider it blessed evidence that you are bearing the image of Jesus Christ, “as the disciple is not above his Master, but the disciple who is fully trained will become like his Master” (John 15:20). If we were of the world, the world would love us as their own. Yet, we’ve been chosen out of the world, and thus the world hates us (John 15:19). Praise the Lord!
Of course, another important aspect of our Gospel witness is to season our delivery of the truth with gracious speech, most commonly known as “speaking the truth in love” (Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:15). This ensures we remain blameless, it keeps the exchange as peaceful as possible (as much as it depends on us), and it removes all manner of excuse from one’s rejection of the truth. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be direct or clear in our delivery, nor is it saying we should tickle ears by watering down our message to avoid offense. It’s simply saying to be respectful and compassionate in our approach. Of course, those who will believe will come to Christ no matter how harsh the perceived delivery - we see this in the Canaanite woman whom Jesus tested by initially denying her request to heal her daughter and referring to her people as “dogs” (Matthew 15:21-28). Yet there will be those who already don’t desire to believe who will use our less than gracious approach against us and as an excuse for their disbelief or even our harm. It’s a way to manipulate us into silence or falsely accuse us of evil. Yet we want to be above reproach, and God desires that we set a good example we aren't a stumbling block on the path to Him (Titus 2:3-7; 1 Timothy 2:2-4). We’re already going to be hated for the truth, which is a sharp sword that cuts rather deeply (Hebrews 4:12). There’s certainly no need to add insult to what is already going to be perceived as injury.
“And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:13-17).
Vengeance is the Lord's, He will repay (Deuteronomy 32:35).
Certainly, no matter how gracious or gentle you might be with handling the truth, there will be those who will curse you, speak ill of you, spitefully use you or even seek to do you physical harm. This is where the flesh can be tempted to curse, speak ill, be spiteful and even hit back! Yet, that would be 100% in contradiction to Christ’s teachings to turn the other cheek, bless those who curse us, pray for those who persecute us and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:38-45). Indeed, this is a tough one for many. But for those who sincerely wish to do us harm, we can rest in the glorious promise from the Lord that vengeance is His. He’s told us repeatedly that the wicked are destined for ruin, that their days are marked, their path is slippery, and that their attacks against us won’t truly prosper (Psalm 37; Psalm 73; Isaiah 54:17; Deuteronomy 32). Even unto death, we shall say, “O death where is your sting?” for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and, indeed, victory is ultimately ours in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:54-56; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Revelation 12:11).
God, being just, is perfectly equipped to repay evildoers for their wicked deeds (Job 34:11; Proverbs 24:12; Romans 2:6). So we are blessed in our ability to rest in not having need to lift a finger in retaliation. We can keep our conscience clear, our hands clean and our peace perfect while they heap coals of fire on their heads! We are sheep amidst wolves and, even as Jesus tells us to be as wise a serpents, we are to be as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). Be discerning of the schemes of satan, of unprofitable interactions, and of dangerous scenarios that you can avoid them whenever possible. Yet for those attacks that are unavoidable, our response is to pray, love anyway, and trust God’s will and justice to be done. And, judging by Revelation 16 alone, God’s justice is much more potent than anything our human efforts could ever exact. Glory be to God in the Highest!
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).
I said all of this to say…
The Lord tells us that professed Believers will fall away not only by succumbing to moral sin and the trials of life, but also in response to the inherent rejection and persecution we suffer for following Him (Matthew 13:21-23). But Lord, far be that fate from me! By the grace of God, I am intent on enduring until the end and to never let my love grow cold. Of course, we who belong to Christ cannot be plucked out of His hand and our salvation is secure, which is evidenced by our being indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who is our guarantee (John 10:28; Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:22). Yet also, because I am Christ’s, I’m inclined to do what Christ says - and He tells us to abide in Him through His teachings, to take up our cross daily and follow Him, to love Him by keeping His commandments, and to not only be hearers but doers of the Word also (John 8:31-31, Luke 9:23; John 15; James 1:22, and elsewhere). As such, it's been my delight to take to the Lord’s Word for rest, encouragement and course correction. Seeking refuge in God’s Word has definitely reinvigorated my spirit, and it has given me a renewed perspective on dealing with even the most hostile among the unbelieving. Mankind is broken by sin and before we come to the knowledge of the truth - we honestly know not what we do. Thus Believers must keep in mind that the lost are in darkness, even as we once were. Yet the Lord graciously utilized others to be a light that we might know Him through His free gift of salvation. So who are we to deny others what was freely given to us simply because we’re tired and frustrated? Seriously.
If you’re a Believer on the brink of weariness, I fully understand and you’re certainly not alone. But if you are Christ's, indeed, you won’t totally faint. Simply take a breather. Go rest in the Lord. Drink some living water. Then, after you’re refreshed, get back in the fight. We need you.