“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” So wrote Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) in New York Journal in 1897 in response to an article published by the New York Herald about the writer’s so-called imminent demise (in addition to his “shattered” intellect and embarrassing destitution).
That famous quip comes to mind more and more these days as the God-hating narcissists of every creed and stripe pour forth their animosity on every comment page and message board they can find, that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, are on their way out to the dustbin and garbage dump of history. To which I am prone to reply, “That’s what they’ve been saying for more than 2,000 years now.”
Added to that is the sinister drive by misguided religious leaders to insist that doctrine, hermeneutics, and preaching align with culture. They know the faithful in their folds balk at such nonsense but slyly say that God (via the Holy Spirit) is doing something new. Of course, if you look closely at the “new direction” it’s really nothing more than a supposed relaxation of the standard of holiness by none other than God Himself. In other words, God, they say, is toning down His expectation on sexuality, in particular, and more generally, to obedience to His Word. What they are really declaring by both word and deed is that Satan is winning and we might as well align ourselves with the side that’s successfully winning over the world.
Faithful followers of Jesus Christ are being slammed in just about every arena that exists. We’re haters, bigots, narrow-minded, foolish, dangerous, and not even worthy of being included in the Bill of Rights. We’re homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racists. They say we’re a scourge to decency and a virus to humanity. We are supposed to cower in our churches and keep silent in the public sphere. The Bible is mocked, ridiculed, and despised.
It’s easy for the faithful to become disenchanted, discouraged, and even afraid.
I keep thinking of the mighty prophet of God, Elijah, who, fresh off a resounding victory at Mt. Carmel, was driven to despair and submission by the mere word that Jezebel had sworn to use all of her influence and authority to kill the man of God (1 Kings 19). His depression and fear were so great he actually asked God to violate one of His own commandments. He begged God to murder him.
I also think of the Christians to whom the book of Hebrews was written. They, too, were targeted and persecuted. Societal and cultural pressure was on them in a big way. That’s why faith is such a big part of the book of Hebrews. The author seemed to think they were about to cave to the pressures. But then he thundered,
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12: 3-4).
Wake up, believer! Remember the Word of God! Call to remembrance Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven… (Matt. 5:11-12).
We need to stop looking for a great payoff in this world. We need to stop longing for congratulations and words of appreciation or even acceptance. And we must certainly stop thinking that being hated and despised for our faith and belief in God’s Word means we’re wrong or that God has abandoned us. Jezebel was thrown out of a window, stomped on by horses, and eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:30-37). The Hebrews were reminded that they should “be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28). Peter warned not to be surprised “at the fiery trial…but rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet. 4:12-13).
God always has and always will keep a faithful remnant in the midst of culture and the world no matter how despised it is. Regardless of the vitriol, hatred, and persecution doled out by the God-haters and apostate, the faithful will always demonstrate the very thing they are accused of not having: staying power. No matter how seemingly stacked in their favor the odds seem to be for the deniers of God and enemies of the cross, the faithful will never fade away or pass into obscurity. As James reminded the early Christians, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power…” (James 5:16).
Through prayer, faith, and a firm belief in God’s righteous sovereignty, faithful believers will not only survive this post-truth era, we will thrive. Not the denominations with their hierarchies and headquarters. Not the compromising accommodators who brazenly mix Christianity with Baal worship (tolerance, diversity, and pluralism). Faithful Bible-believing Christians who refuse to compromise and/or capitulate on issues of holiness will “contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). And we will win. We will not be eradicated. We will not silenced. We will not be shamed. We will not be broken. We won’t even die: “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26).
Look out on that city street you live on. Do you see that ridiculously stubborn dandelion growing in the middle of the road despite the miserable conditions? That’s us. We’re the church; the bride of Christ. We won’t go away. No matter how hard you try to make us go away…there we are. God’s faithful church. And the Head of the church has this word for her detractors, haters, and persecutors:
I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18)
What Mark Twain said.