My life (put) alongside God's word. The Christian discipleship section.
After distributing the June 2013 “Encouragement” article to eighty Christians in Sudan and South Sudan, one replied to me saying how precious it is that God counts some Sudanese and South Sudanese believers, worthy of suffering for the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. That set me thinking.
“Worthy” means “deserving of something”. “Worthy people have qualities that make people respect them”. The New Testament word “worthy” carries the meaning of “weighty”, meaning the importance or influence attached to someone or something.
A quick New Testament survey shows how we can all be people who make an impact for Christ by the way we live every day. The effect, both before God and in front of those
who may oppose our faith, will be evangelistic. People will notice a difference in how we live. They will ask us “why?” 1 Peter 3:15.
In Acts 5:41 the first apostles left their place of persecution by the Jewish leaders, “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name”, (italics mine in all references). Nothing would stop them witnessing well for the Lord Jesus, verse 42.
The Roman church was asked to welcome a sister from a church some way away, “in a way worthy of the saints”, Romans 16:1-2. See also the letter to Gaius, a friend of
John, the last surviving early church elder, 3 John vs5-6.
Paul urged believers everywhere to “live a life worthy of the
calling you have received”, Ephesians 4:1-3. See also Philippians 1:27, Colossians 1:10,
1 Thessalonians 2:10-12. This applied especially, but not exclusively, to church
leaders, 1 Timothy 3:8, 3:11, 5:17, Titus 2:2.
In the church at Sardis only some of the believers were found to be “worthy”. While others had neglected their obedient walk with God in this world, “some” had dared to be different, Revelation 3:1-6, especially verse 4.
In addition to this, there are three passages I have not yet mentioned, which my friend may have had in mind when he wrote back to me. They specifically link together
suffering for Christ and worthiness seen by God.
Suffering for Christ linked to worthiness seen by God
Paul describes how the believers’ faith, love and perseverance were growing in spite of – perhaps even because of – the persecutions, the trials, the sufferings and the troubles they were living through.
May be we can see life’s hardships as times of pruning for us? Established orange or lemon trees need to be cut into shape every year, taking off fruitful branches or those that
are too long. God will use our difficulties to produce crops of good and right living if we will allow Him to, see 2 Thessalonians 1, especially verses 5, 11-12.
I am aware that slavery is still a big issue in both Sudan and South Sudan. In 1 Timothy 6:1 we are introduced to the idea of giving respect, seeing the worthiness of someone else. Surprisingly perhaps, this includes Christian slaves who are to “consider their masters worthy of full respect”. The reason given is so that God’s name and Christian witness will be enhanced and not given a bad reputation. Here again the Bible presents a tough challenge for us.
As I write it is summer time in England. Many birds are breeding. There are lots of baby birds around, with their fluffy down feathers, their fast-flapping wings, and their odd colours. I can see from my study some of the bigger birds raiding other nests. They eat eggs or small chicks from other birds. Then something amazing happens. The birds who have “lost” their young do not sit around crying and feeling sorry for themselves! They start to mate and breed all over again. Why? Because that is the way God made them to be! Is that a lesson for us when we are knocked about or beaten down by our troubles? Decide to do what comes naturally to the Christian believer. Carry on!
Hebrews 11:36-38 is about Old Testament believers who faced persecutions very similar to today’s in Sudan and elsewhere, perhaps even in parts of South Sudan. The writer’s description when he evaluates their suffering is simply, “the world was not worthy of them”, verse 38, a way of saying, “they belonged in heaven and not down here on earth”. Unbelievers did not deserve to have such good influences living among them. We must also test our own lives on this, making it personal not general.
Am I a husband (or a wife) God sees as worthy? Am I a
father (or mother) worthy of my Christian calling? In my role for the church do I live Christianly in such a way as to deserve respect from others? Am I living differently from others because I try to follow God’s shown will for Christians in Scripture, rather than traditions of society, or cultures of tribe and family? Need I go on? I must live worthily of my Lord Jesus Christ.
It was a Sudanese man now living in the U.S.A. who wrote me this thought. It shows that diaspora Christians can play a worthy role in building up and strengthening the Church back in Sudan and South Sudan. We don’t have to be there, to help the believers who are. Here or there, let’s press on together.