You Asked for It Part 4
When Your Faith is Rejected
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 22, 2004

 

Main Passage: Psalm 1:1-6 (NLT)

 

Well, let me say I missed you last weekend. It was only the second Sunday I’ve missed since we started here, and only the first I’ve missed for vacation. So it was strange not being here. In fact, I woke up early last Sunday, looked at the time, and started thinking about what was happening here. At about 8:10, I thought, “Well, Robin should be there by now to set up.” Around 9:15, “Gail’s arriving to prepare the hospitality area.” Around 10:00, I thought, “Jim and Lynn are arriving to help finish setting up the sound system.” At about 10:25, I thought, “Robin’s looking at his watch right now wondering where everyone is…” Hey, that’s the process I’ve gone through every Sunday for the past two years. I missed being here.

But it was an interesting vacation. We went to our family’s cottage in New Brunswick for the weekend and got to go into Saint John to see the Tall Ships. On Sunday we attended Bev’s home church in Grand Bay. The pastors from there were in our service two weeks ago, so we thought we’d set up an exchange program. And oh, yeah. On our way out of town we bought a house. Well, maybe. Before we left here last week we stopped to look at a Private Sale, and really liked the house. So we set the gears in motion for us to get it. That really overshadowed the weekend. So I’ve spent the past week trying to set up our finances, get an inspection done, find a lawyer, draw up an offer to purchase… Nothing’s signed yet. Our mortgage has a preliminary approval but doesn’t have final acceptance yet. The offer to purchase is still in the hands of our lawyer, I don’t get the final report for the inspection until tomorrow… But if everything works out we take possession this Friday. That’s right, Friday. I don’t believe in wasting time. So when we meet here next week, Shera and I will either own a house, or we won’t. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to, “The Fastest Purchase in History.”

Anyway, that was last week. This week we’re back here at Sunrise, and this morning we’re continuing our series called, “You Asked for It.” As most of you know, several weeks ago we gave you the opportunity to request specific passages of Scripture or specific topics to be discussed here on a Sunday morning. And one of the requests dealt with how to cope with people who don’t take your faith seriously. People who dismiss your beliefs and treat them as if they’re just silly.

So we’re going to talk about that in a few minutes. We’ll talk about what to do with people who don’t take your faith seriously. Before we get to that, though, I thought it might be important for us to make sure we take our faith seriously ourselves first. As a believer, your faith means… or should mean… certain things to you. Let me share four of them with you.

 

What Your Faith Means:

 

A. It Means You Can Know God

The whole point of Christianity is to know God and have Him know you. It’s not about belonging to a religion, it’s not about a list of dos and don’ts. It’s not about being a good person, it’s not about meeting all the requirements of a church. It’s about knowing God. It’s about knowing Jesus. There’s a song we sometimes sing here that says,

“Knowing You, Jesus, Knowing You. There is no greater thing.”
~ Graham Kendrick

And that’s the truth. Read these verses aloud with me from Philippians. The apostle Paul wrote…

Philippians 3:9-10 (NLT)
For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

Two weeks ago we looked at Psalm 23 which begins, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”, and then we compared it to what Jesus said in John 10…

John 10:14 (NLT)
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me...”

Let me make this clear. Being a Christian as well as being a Church is not about going through rituals on Sunday morning, it’s about developing a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s about getting to know Him better and better all the time. It’s about experiencing His love and loving Him back.

Jesus loves you beyond all measure. He loves you enough that He gave His life for you. He wants to know you and have you to know Him.

Colossians 1:9-10 (NLT)
We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honour and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.

 

B. It Means Your Life Has Purpose

What are the options? Well, one is that you are an accident of evolution… existing because by random chance amino acids in a soup of goo came together in just the right combination at just the right time and somehow came to life. In that case, we really are the scum of the earth. By the way, the probability of that happening is so astronomical that it’s a statistical impossibility, even if you allow for an extremely long period of time.

We don’t have time to get into all that this morning, but I plan to someday. For now, let me just recommend a book for you… The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. If you remember, we gave away copies of his book The Case for Easter a few months ago. If you want to pick it up, you can get it at the Maritime Christian Bookstore or you can order it through Amazon.ca. (You can access them through our website at www.SunriseOnline.ca.)

So that’s one possibility… you’re an accident of nature and there’s no real meaning to your life. Alternatively, if indeed you were created by God, your life has meaning. You’re not an accident. He created you for a purpose. And He wants you to know and achieve that purpose.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Colossians 3:4 (CEV)
Christ gives meaning to your life, and when he appears, you will also appear with him in glory.

 

C. It Means You Can Have Hope

Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

What is hope? It’s not just wishful thinking. It’s a wonderful expectation of what’s to come.

1 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)
Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

We who know Jesus personally can have hope. That means we can live with a confident, wonderful expectation that we are never alone and that once this life is over we can spend forever in eternity with Him, and forever is a long, long time. That’s what God has promised, and we can have assurance that God is going to come through on His promise. In fact, He’s given us His guarantee: the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV)
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

If you’re here and the Holy Spirit is not part of your life because you haven’t received the forgiveness of Jesus, I’m here to tell you that you can receive Him today. Simply using your own words through prayer, express your desire to receive His forgiveness, to live for Him from this moment on, and to enjoy the presence of His Spirit in your life. It’s as simple as that. You can do it right now where you’re at in the quietness of your heart. Receive Him, and receive the hope that He is offering to you. You can have hope.

 

D. It Means Your Life is Not Your Own

This is where a lot of people fall down. Because they don’t want to give up control. They find it hard to believe that the God who created everything that exists could possibly know what’s best for them better than they do. But Paul wrote…

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)
You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.

As I was driving back from my family’s cottage last weekend, I was thinking about the message this morning. I already knew some of what I wanted to say today, but I didn’t know how to say it or how to communicate it with you.

One of the things I wanted to share with you is the centrality of Jesus in the life of a believer. I wanted to express to you that if you want to enjoy life to the fullest… if you want to discover meaning and purpose in life… if you want to experience the blessings of God found in a relationship with your Creator… Then Jesus Christ needs to be your life. That’s the way it should be. That’s the way God designed us. He designed us to live in community with Him. We sang it earlier… My Life Is In You, Lord.

So for you and me to enjoy life the way it was meant to be enjoyed, we need to base our identity in our relationship with Jesus… with God. That means He impacts each and every area of our lives. As I was driving along thinking about how to explain this to you, three different images came to mind. Let me share them with you…

 

Three Pictures of the Role of God in our Lives:


The first is kind of a pie chart. You have God as one part of your life, and then you have the other parts. I put a few of them in the chart… Family, Career, Recreation… and you can add whatever else is part of your life… Retirement, Goals, Marriage, Thoughts, Travel, Friends. Whatever. The pieces of the pie would probably be different for you than for me. Because we all value different things. But regardless, this is not a Biblical picture of what our lives are meant to be. In this concept, our lives are compartmentalized… fragmented.

 

Put an X through that diagram. And let’s look at another. This one’s a hierarchy… an order of priorities. I’ve heard this a variety of times in my lifetime. I’ve been told that in order to put God in His rightful position in my life, He needs to be tops. He needs to come first. He is the most important part of my life… Everything else pales in comparison. So this is the picture…

According to this hierarchy, you put God first. And everything else falls into place below Him. Normally, I’ve been told that Family should come second. Then the Church, Career, and whatever else. Sometimes those are mixed up a bit, but God is always at the top.

But what I’ve found is that this just doesn’t cut it. This may sound good, and it looks good on paper. But I’ve found that there are times that I have to put my wife before the Church, and times when the Church needs to come before her. For example, Shera and I try to book some time for each other every week. But if I get a phone call that night from someone whose child is critically ill, that may need to take precedence. But if someone calls and wants to get together to talk about a new colour scheme for our website, it can wait… I’m going out with my wife.

So putting God at the top of this chart makes sense, but you quickly find that in practice all these other things are shuffled around from time to time. So put an X through that chart. It just doesn’t work that way.

 

One more diagram. This is the best I could come up with to describe to you the role that God wants to have in your life… the role He needs to have.

In this model, God is the center of your life and everything else revolves around Him. Just like the orbit of a planet is influenced by the Sun, all the different parts of your life need to be under the influence of the Son.

And sometimes orbits can cross. From January 1979 until February 1999, Pluto was actually closer to the sun than Neptune! But then the orbits crossed again and Pluto will be the outer planet for the next 200 years. At times one area of your life may be more important than another, and then at times they may be reversed. But always under the influence of Jesus.

Your faith is important. In fact, I would say your faith is THE most important part of your life… whether you treat it that way or not. Your faith, or lack thereof, determines your eternity. It determines your priorities. It determines your reason for living.

 

So how do you respond when someone else dismisses your faith? How do you react when someone laughs at your beliefs or simply doesn’t take them seriously? Well, that’s a good question. And the truth is that every person and every situation is different. So there is no easy answer. So with that in mind, let me give you four general guidelines to help you when people dismiss your faith. And it’s up to you to put them into practice in your specific situation. Okay?

 

When Others Dismiss Your Faith:

 

1. Recognize It’s Christ They’re Rejecting

It’s an old cliché… “They’re not really rejecting you, they’re rejecting Jesus.” But it’s also true. Jesus Himself said…

Luke 6:22-23 (NLT)
“God blesses you who are hated and excluded and mocked and cursed because you are identified with me, the Son of Man. When that happens, rejoice! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were also treated that way by your ancestors.”

So you’re in good company. The Bible’s a virtual Who’s Who of people who have been dismissed and mocked and rejected because of their faith. Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, even Jesus Himself. And through the centuries… John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Wesley… all these great people were rejected because of their faith. So relax. It’s not just you. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good Christian. It’s just the way some people are.

Now let me clarify something. I’m not endorsing an “us vs. them” mentality. It’s not us believers against the rest of the world. We are all sinners in desperate need of the forgiveness and restoration of God. We’re all in this boat together. And not everyone who doesn’t share our beliefs is hostile toward us. But some are. Those are the people we’re talking about this morning.

 

2. Live Out Your Faith Daily

In my experience, the people who reject you and your faith will often come around if you live it out daily in a practical, consistent manner. I’ve discovered many times people have a preconceived and uninformed impression of what a Christian is, usually based on the embarrassing antics of some TV Preacher or self-righteous, judgmental, hypocritical neighbour. If that is their only exposure to what a Christian is, then you are going to be lumped in with them. And it can take time to overcome that kind of prejudice. But do not lose heart. I can think of times when people have come to me close to a year after I met them and expressed that their first impressions of me and my faith were way off base. In fact, I’ve heard of times when it has taken 10 or even 20 years to change a person’s preconception.

So we need to live out our faith daily. What does it mean to live out your faith? Let me share with you what I think it means. It means you remember that you are an ambassador of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (NLT)
This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you.

You represent Jesus, so you need to act like it. That means you watch what you say, you be kind and generous to others, you build people up instead of tearing them down, you absolutely refuse to gossip, you be there when your neighbour’s kid is in the hospital, you do what you can to help when they’re out of work, you help carry furniture when someone you know is moving (had to slip that one in).

You need to remember that people are looking to you as their example of who Jesus is. That’s why your faith needs to be seen in your actions, not just in your words. Over the past few years, the letters WWJD have been found just about everywhere… on T-shirts, bracelets, bumper stickers… Who can tell me what those four letters mean?

PARTICIPATION

“What Would Jesus Do?” Even Al Gore says he asks himself that question. If you don’t already know, those words are the main theme in the book In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. It’s a great novel, and if you’ve never read it I highly recommend it. It’s one of the top three life-changing books I’ve ever read.

That book is based on a verse from 1st Peter…

1 Peter 2:21-22 (NLT)
Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps. He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone.

So you and I need to ask ourselves, “What Would Jesus Do?” With our whole heart, we need to follow in His steps.

Now catch this. This is important. When I say you need to live out your faith, I’m not talking about putting on a show. I’m talking about allowing your personal relationship with God to grow and impact your life in such a way that it is expressed outwardly. Remember that picture of all the components of your life revolving around your relationship with God? Allow Him to influence the way you live day in and day out. Because if your faith doesn’t change the way you live, it’s worthless. And if it doesn’t mean anything to you, it won’t mean anything to anyone else. I had a friend tell me one time, “If Jesus isn’t Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all.”

So if someone you know scoffs at your faith, don’t immediately give up on them. Live out your faith before them. Let me list five ways…

  • Build your relationship with them
    Love them for who they are right now. Be careful not to look at them as a conquest.
     
  • Be there for them
    Love them in practical ways. In times of happiness, rejoice with them. In times of sorrow, mourn with them.
     
  • Pray for them
    Pray for them, not against them. Pray for their welfare, for their family, and for their sensitivity to the prodding of the Holy Spirit.
     
  • Show them that your faith is real
    Let them know about the hope and joy you experience in your relationship with Christ. Let them know about the strength and comfort you find in His arms. Don’t be embarrassed by it. Celebrate it.
     
  • Be patient
    Sometimes it takes a while. Often, you won’t even get an opportunity to verbally share who Jesus is to you… you just have to live it out.

 

3. Stand Firm in your Convictions

2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10 (NLT)
First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: “Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created…”
“But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief.


Some people will make fun of you for your beliefs, and they’ll make fun of you for the way you live. And there are times when you will be tempted to give in and compromise your faith. They will encourage you to do something that you know is wrong. At least, wrong for you. When that happens, don’t give in. Stand firm in your convictions. You may even need to explain to them, “Look, I understand that you don’t agree with me, and I respect that. But you also need to respect me and accept that I must live according to my beliefs.”

In your Sunrise Update this morning you can read a bit about Eric Liddell. Let me tell you a little bit more about Liddell. Eric was the favourite to win the gold medal in the 100 meter race at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But he didn’t. Why? Because he refused to run on a Sunday. That was his conviction, and he stood by it. Even though he knew he would not win the gold. He said…

“I don’t need explanations from God. I simply believe him and accept whatever comes my way.”
~ Eric Liddell

The rest of the story is that as the week progressed, he won a bronze in the 200-meter race, and still had the 400-meter to worry about. But he really wasn’t seen as much of a threat over that distance. But surprise, surprise. He won the gold and set a new Olympic record in the process.

Liddell stood firm in his convictions. And you and I need to stand firm in our convictions, too. It may not always be easy, we may not particularly like it at times, but it’s always worth it. And your commitment to your convictions can have a drastic effect on others… more than you may ever know.

 

4. Recognize When It’s Time to Move On

Earlier this year we worked our way through the Sermon on the Mount. (After 6 ½ months it was time to move on!) In that series, we discovered that Jesus instructed us…

Matthew 5:40 (NLT)
“If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too.”

So to some extent, when someone treats you poorly because they are rejecting your faith, you need to absorb it. In fact, you need to treat them kindly in return. But later on we discovered another verse that we only looked at briefly.

Matthew 7:6 (NLT)
“Don’t give what is holy to unholy people. Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.”

I’ve read a couple of different explanations of this verse, but the dominate one I’ve come across explains that there are people who will always be hostile toward you, they will always reject you and your faith, they will verbally and perhaps even physically abuse you because of your beliefs, and you shouldn’t waste your time with those people. Jesus expressed this to His disciples in a different way…

Luke 9:5 (NLT)
“If the people of the village won’t receive your message when you enter it, shake off its dust from your feet as you leave. It is a sign that you have abandoned that village to its fate.”

And in the Old Testament in the book of Psalms…

Psalm 1:1 (NLT)
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers.

There comes a time when, if you are continuously harassed, you should just separate yourself from them. Don’t hang around with them. Move on. If that’s not possible because of work or family situations, then limit the exposure you have to them. You don’t have to keep putting yourself in a situation where you are beat down, insulted, persecuted, scoffed at, or belittled. If people continuously reject your faith, you have Jesus’ permission to move on.
 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2004 SunriseOnline.ca