By Roland W. Keith
In His sermon on the mount Jesus taught His disciples, saying, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 4:14-16). In the same teachings He told His followers not to give alms and not to pray to be seen by others and praised by them (Matthew 6:1, 5). Later, He would describe many of their leaders as men who laid heavy burdens on others while not fulfilling those requirements themselves; moreover, what works they did do He proclaimed they did to be seen and praised by others, seeking to be honored for their efforts. Matthew 23:4-7). Jesus warned His listeners not to be like such men (Matthew 23:3).
We are therefore, as Christians, to go about our lives and the work that we do freely and in the open so as to honor God by our actions without seeking glory for ourselves. We are to set an example for one another in the church as well as to the world at large. If we are honored let us accept it humbly, while giving God the glory; if our efforts seem to go unnoticed let us accept that humbly also, knowing in our hearts that God has taken notice (Matthew 6:2-4).
In his letter to Titus, Paul wrote, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you (2:7-8). He would go on to tell him to exhort servants to be obedient to their masters, not secretly stealing from them but rather to faithfully execute their duties and in so doing, as Christians, to bring honor to God through their efforts (2:9-10). In the same manner let our very conversation demonstrate true fidelity to God’s word, as should our oneness in Spirit and support of the gospel that we have been charged to bring before the world, not fearing the hardships we may face for our actions, knowing that it is the path of our salvation (Philippians 1:27-30).
Regarding hardships many point to Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29; see also Lamentations 3:30) as a requirement for us to be passive or milquetoast in the face of danger. Not so. Jesus taught that we are not to return insult with insult, or evil with evil (Matthew 5:44). We are not to extend a confrontation by retaliation. As Paul wrote, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-18). When another hits you, do not strike him back. This does not mean we cannot protect ourselves or family, home and property, or country from true, imminent danger (Matthew 24: 42-44; Luke 11:21; Ecclesiastes 3:1-3; Nehemiah 4:14); as Paul noted peace is not always within our power.
When we endure persecution for the Lord, we set an example for those who follow after us. We must be willing to lose our lives to gain Christ if necessary, yet even under such circumstances we are not without recourse. I do not know if anyone endured more than the apostle Paul in the name of the Lord. He was beaten, run out of town, stoned and left for dead all without complaint. Yet he maintained his rights to legal protection and just treatment (Acts 16:37-38; Acts 25:8-12). Christ set the benchmark for us by allowing Himself to suffer and die for us. According to that example Peter wrote, “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (I Peter 4:1-2). We must be willing to suffer, and more importantly to stand for what is right.
In Jesus Christ and men like Paul and Stephen we have been given case studies in Christian attitude and behavior in the most extreme instances of persecution and faithfulness. But for each of these accounts there are even more lessons in how we are to live on a daily basis. John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I John 2:15-17). We are to love the Lord, not the world. We are to avoid conformity to the standards of the world, transforming our minds and behavior to reflect the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). It is our duty to obey God’s commands and follow the directives and guidance He has provided us in His written word.
Paul warned the Corinthians: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:12-13). We set the example for younger Christians by showing how we safeguard our own standing with the Lord and demonstrating our confidence that God will protect us from anything beyond our ability to handle. We also lead by being there to restore the fallen among us, helping them to bear up under their burdens and teaching them that ultimately every person must grow self-sufficient in their faith, able to prove himself with the word, but also knowing that each of us will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:1-8;James 5:19-20).
We can all learn from Barnabas who was a true encourager (Acts 11:22-26), friend and reconciler (Acts 9:26-27), as well as a great giver (Acts 4:36-37), and man of principle and conviction (Acts 15:36-41). Others worthy of our emulation, after our Lord’s own example are those who followed in His footsteps in the Bible. Paul exhorted Timothy (and us) with these words: “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (I Timothy 4:13-16). He also encouraged his readers to not forsake our need to motivate one another to do God’s work, love one another and gather with the saints (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Paul also encouraged his young protégé to set an example “in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12). Everything mentioned here are things that we can all do or be involved in in some capacity and should do as servants of God. It is important to note that all these things lift us and those around us up, helping us to be stronger and more effective Christians and ultimately, whether directly or indirectly, leads to a more productive ministry in reaching the lost.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.