Have you ever noticed how some people disappear after being baptized? Over the years I have seen this time and time again. Someone will start attending church, “get saved”, baptized and never return. I use to think maybe they thought, “well, I’ve been baptized I guess everything’s good now.” Recently I think I’ve come to understand this disappearing act a bit better.
In Matthew 13 Jesus told His disciples a parable about sowing seed. Like many times before, His disciples were a little slow in their understanding so Jesus had to walk them through it again, but this time He spelled it out for them. The parable had four types of soils but for now I just want to focus on one. In Matthew 13:20-21 Jesus said, “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” Did you notice it was, “affliction or persecution because of the word” that caused him to fall away? Whatever God’s word is to you must be tested, whether it’s through doubt, ridicule, fear, offense, etc.
Throughout the scriptures you will discover a pattern. God speaks, someone hears and believes or doesn’t. For instance, Adam was told to not eat of a certain tree but he did anyway, right? We are told Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, so God gave him a commission to build the ark in which his whole family was saved. God called Abraham to leave his home and go where he would show him and he did. So in all of these, and many more, instances God spoke and the response of belief or unbelief brought on consequences in the lives of the hearers.
In Numbers 13 we read about the twelve spies being sent to see what was in the Promised Land and how they came back full of fear and a negative report. They said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” This of course discouraged everyone else. So much so that they decided to appoint another leader and return to Egypt. The spies had chosen to believe what their natural eyes had seen rather than the promise of God. Even though God had already Promised them the Land.
In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah found himself rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.This is what God had called him to do. Even though this is what God has him doing, in chapter 4 we find out many oppose this project. A man named Sanballat became furious and mocked the Jews. In fact he did this in front of others who joined him in the ridicule. They said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day?…if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down.”
I’m sure you can think of other examples in the scriptures but I would like to end with my own personal story. The day after I was born-again I went to work as usual. Of course I was on quite the Holy Spirit high, so I walked into work that morning knowing everyone would see the difference in me and come running to me wanting to know what had happened. Well, that didn’t happen. In fact the guy working closest to me didn’t want to hear about it at all. As I started to excitedly tell him what had happened to me the night before he quickly told me, “I didn’t come to work to hear a Bible lesson!” Right then and there I could have caved. I could have made the decision to shut up and never speak of God again but I didn’t. Instead I shot right back at him with, “Well, I didn’t come to work to get cussed at!” The funny thing is up until being born-again, I had the same, shall I say, “colorful” language as he, but suddenly on this morning it sounded wrong.
After our standoff over the Word, we made an agreement. I told him, “If you quit cussing, I’ll quit preaching the Bible to you.” He agreed and we even shook hands. It wasn’t long before he let out a string of profanity, so I responded by saying, “You know the Bible says…” As funny as this may sound now it wasn’t very funny at the time. In fact it was exactly what Jesus said in the parable. It was opposition or persecution because of the word. The good news is about three months later this same man called me over to his truck during our lunch break, took out a Bible, opened it and asked me, “what should I read first?”
I suppose what I’m long-windedly trying to say is opposition because of the word is not only normal it is to be expected. In 1 John 5:19 we are told “the whole world lies in the evil one.” You don’t think you’re going to receive what God has for you without a fight do you? Besides, a faith that isn’t tested can’t really be faith now can it?
I pray that God would grant you understanding and you would come to know the hope to which you are called.