What are you afraid of?

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? – Psalm 118:6

That’s a good question. What can man do to you? Or, another way to think about it is, ‘What’s the worst man can do to you?’

Throughout history, human beings have done atrocities against other human beings that is beyond imagination. Just to think about some of the evil inventions contrived and used over the span of human history is gut-wrenching. I often thank God for allowing me to live now, rather than to live in times like the dark ages, when torture and death seemed to be a frequent theme. Yet even now, throughout our modern world, tortures and killings are still practiced to an extent that could be just as bad, or worse (maybe…).

As christians we have been called to a certain amount of suffering through persecution. We don’t have to suffer through so many things like sickness, poverty, depression, etc. But the bible does clearly teach that ‘all those who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’ Its gonna happen. Even in great countries like the U.S. of A. Thank God it probably won’t be physical torture in the United States, but there will be persecution.

If you have never faced any type of persecution then it could be that you aren’t doing your job. God hasn’t called us to sit plum with our nice christian group and never go out where all ‘them heathens are.’ We are called to go out among the world to preach the gospel to those who have not heard. Among those will be people that don’t want to hear what we have to say, and not only that, but many will consider us their enemy because we condemn their sinful practices.

The world cannot hate you (worldly people), but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. – Jesus (John 7:7 – NIV)

When we lovingly hold fast to the truth, some people are not going to like it. In our time now, homosexuality is one of those such issues. There are a great many people who have harsh disagreement with the bible’s view on homosexuality. Contrary to some wildly skewed interpretations of the bible by those trying to manipulate text, homosexuality is clearly biblically condemned. I know people who take up issue with God on this one matter; unable to accept a God that would condemn such a thing, and unable to bear those people who do, as well. Condoners of homosexuality are presently hard at work to integrate laws into our legal system to persecute those who condemn this practice. It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to see believers facing tough times over this. There will be a real temptation to keep our mouths shut over this issue rather than to ‘speak the truth in love.’

In other places across the world, persecution is much more serious. Many muslim countries across the world forbid either the practice of christianity, or, more specifically, the spreading of christianity (which is really the practice of christianity). And right now, all over the world, believers in Christ are being tortured and killed for doing just that. It’s a scary thing to think about. Imagine if it were you. If you were faced with the real possibility of being tortured or killed for practicing your christian beliefs. What would you do? Or what about this: If you were faced with the possibility of putting your family at risk of death or torture because of your beliefs, what would you do? This second one is especially hard for me. We may be fortunate enough never to have to face such a test, but many in the world face these tests every day.

Now, the reason I say all of this is because I am trying to answer the question we asked at the beginning: “What can man do to me?” Or, “What’s the worst man can do to me?”  For me, the answer would definitely be the torture and/or death of my family. That would be the very worst thing I could ever imagine being done to me.

I hope I haven’t caused you too much pain by making you think about these things, but I think it’s necessary. We need to ask ourselves if holding on to faith in God is worth it in such conditions. Would it be better for us to abandon our faith and save our family? Or, would it be better to stand fast in our faith and watch our family perish a vile death? Well?

The answer lies in Luke 12:

Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear. – Jesus (Luke 12:4-5 NLT)

No human can thrust any weapon into your soul to destroy it, nor the soul of your family. So to forfeit you and your family’s soul for temporary relief from earthly pain (compared to the eternal tortures of hellfire), is not wise. Indeed, any degree of physical torture, however long endured, cannot compare with the tortures of a condemned soul.

You can see why Paul told the Corinthians that it was better not to get married because of the ‘present distress’ of their place and time (1 Cor 7). If you didn’t have a family then you didn’t have to worry about them, just yourself. But, once again, thank God for the time and place we live in now. I believe Paul would recommend for us now that we get married and have kids, just like he recommended to Timothy’s congregation (1 Tim 5:14). However, if you feel like you are called to go into the hostile places of the world to do ministry, you might want to consider staying single.

So lets bring this all back to our original scripture. The psalmist in Psalm 118 makes the conclusion that he need not fear, since The Lord is with him. When he asks the question, ‘What can man do to me?’ he is actually making a statement. The statement is this: “There is nothing that man can do to me that merits being afraid, for God is with me!”

I’ve left something out when I have been talking about all this torture stuff that you will be glad to hear. It’s a scripture that I think ties this all together very well. It’s found in 1 Corinthians 10:

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. – 1 Cor 10:13

This verse says a number of different things, but the part I want to point out is where it says, ‘God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.’ What does this mean? It means that ‘The Lord is on your side’ when you face extreme times of testing. You never have to worry about thinking about being put in a situation where you just won’t be able to bear it. God will be with you and won’t allow it to happen. I’ve heard story after story of those who have been tortured for The Lord Jesus’ sake who have been provided with supernatural comfort from God. One man I recently heard from was burned repeatedly for his faith in Christ. He related how that he saw Jesus coming down to hug him during the whole process! God was with him in the fire!

In his book, “Tortured for Christ,” Pastor Richard Wurmbrand describes tortures beyond comprehension which occurred in the communist prisons he was held in. But look what he says here in his book:

One great lesson arose from all the beatings, tortures, and butchery of the Communists: that the spirit is master of the body. We felt the torture, but it often seemed as something distant and far removed from the spirit which was lost in the glory of Christ and His presence with us. (From chapter 2)

You see how God is so good to be so present with these saints. Even in all their tortures, they were able to endure, even until death, because God was with them. And, no doubt, if we remain faithful to Him, He will be especially faithful to us. Therefore, we have absolutely no reason to fear, what can man really do to us?

I would like to relate one more story from the book that I thought was extremely moving. Pastor Wurmbrand relays how preaching to fellow prisons was strictly forbidden:

The following scene happened more times than I can remember. A brother was preaching to the other prisoners when the guards suddenly burst in, surprising him halfway through a phrase. They hauled him down the corridor to their “beating room.” After what seemed an endless beating, they brought him back and threw him-bloody and bruised-on the prison floor. Slowly, he picked up his battered body, painfully straightened his clothing and said, “Now, brethren, where did I leave off when I was interrupted?” He continued his gospel message!

Only by the grace of an Almighty God could any man ever do such a thing!

It is a good possibility, my friends, that this kind of torture will never happen to any of us in America. So why do I bring it up? I bring it up because if God can be with these dear saints to deliver them in such dire circumstances, why should we fear anything that could ever happen to us on this side of the world? Why would we fear what anyone thinks of us, or says of us? There is truly nothing any man can do to us that should cause any manner of fear in us. If we can learn to trust in God, we can remain at perfect peace no matter what the circumstance may be.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

What are you afraid of? There is no circumstance that is too much for our Almighty God. I’ve seen Him work in impossible situations, time and again. There is no situation too far gone that He can’t redeem it. Even if all hope looks gone, there is still hope, because there is always an eternal hope and our expectation will not be cut off.

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