By Joe McKeever, Crosswalk.com
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
We hear of it too frequently:
“He used to be a pastor. But the people in the churches were so mean – undercutting him, criticizing, backbiting, slandering, and then kicking him out – that it ruined him forever. He vows he’ll never enter a church again.”
“If this is how God’s churches are, I want nothing to do with any of them.”
“Makes me wonder if the Lord even cares.”
The variations on that sad theme are endless.
But the result, while tragic, is needless.
No one should ever quit Jesus when God’s people mistreat him.
The Lord told us to expect this. The servant is not above his master. The pupil is not above his teacher. If they called the Master a devil, how much more should His disciples expect it. (Matthew 10:24-25)
The Lord was crucified by the religious people, convinced they were doing God’s work.
Granted, not all were interested in doing the Lord’s work. Many were just wicked, period. But many were sincere. (We remember the Apostle Paul saying that very thing about his opposition to Christians. I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor…. I acted ignorantly in unbelief. 1 Timothy 1:13.)
So, let me ask you: What would it take to knock you out of the game?
This is a question for the Christian workers in the audience. What would it take for you to walk away from the Lord’s work? What would cause you to turn your back on Him?
How badly would they have to treat you to make you give up on Jesus?
What would it take to give up on Jesus?
That is not theoretical nor is the question rhetorical. It’s a real issue, one each of us should face and answer.
I have heard of people who were mistreated by a sibling and who, as a result, wrote off the entire family. One man told me, “He won’t even call our parents. They long to hear from this son of theirs, but he acts as if they don’t exist.”
My parents had six children. While our parents were living, I would sometimes make this point: Even if one of my three brothers or two sisters did something to end our contact, there is nothing they can do that would make me quit loving my parents and going to see them.
So, how is it that someone mistreated by a church can walk away from the Lord Jesus?
Someone says, “I’m not leaving the Lord, just His church.”
Same difference, my friend.
Show me anyone in Scripture who managed to separate Jesus from His Body.
He said numerous times, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (See John 14 and 15)
To love Jesus does not mean getting all goose-bumpy about Him. It means obeying Him.
Obedience is the Lord’s love language.
In the Book of Job, God and Satan were discussing this very issue, what it would take for a champion of the Lord to desert Him: “Job is faithful to you because you take such good care of him,” said the one called ‘the accuser of the brethren” to the Almighty.
The loss of everything dear to Job would do the trick, said Satan. “Take it all away and he will curse you to your face.” When that was proven not to be the case, Satan said, “Let him think he’s losing his life.” Nothing is dearer to people than their lives, right? (see chapters 1-2 of Job. But don’t miss chapter 42 for the outcome.)
In all this, Job did not sin, we read (Job 1:22). Nor did he blame God.
Job was a keeper. “Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” he said (Job 13:15).
That’s the kind of faithfulness that honors God, blesses people, and will shine like diamonds for eternity.
What would it take for you to stop going to church, quit reading your Bible, and put a stop to your prayers?
It takes very little for us to give up.
It doesn’t take much for some of us.
It didn’t take much for some people.
A little opposition, a little harassment, some betrayals, and one would think we were going through the holocaust. “Why me, Lord?”
God’s people need to grow up and quit their bellyaching.
God’s preachers need to lose their Pollyanna expectation that serving Jesus was meant to be easy, churches are always going to do the right thing, denominations are the great security blanket, and if God loved you, He would give you what you pray for every time.
At the end of their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace their steps and return to the Christians they’d birthed and the churches they had started. “Let’s encourage them in the Lord,” they said. “And let’s tell them that it is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom.” (see Acts 14)
“Much tribulation.” Expect it.
The problem for God’s warriors, sometimes, is that we expect opposition from the world, but not from within the house of God.
The crowd that welcomed Jesus into the city on Sunday with cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” may have been largely the same bunch calling out “Crucify Him!” by the end of the week.
In Paul’s first missionary journey, the citizens of a town were so impressed by the miracle of healing he performed, they were ready to worship him and Barnabas as gods. Shortly thereafter, when troublemakers arrived to slander the apostle, the crowd turned to stone him. Same crowd, fickle beyond belief.
We would do well to keep our faith focused on the Lord Jesus but not on the Lord’s people. They are His flock and our assignment. They are His children and our field of service. We must not look to them for affirmation, validation, or proof of our authenticity. When they show appreciation and respond well to our ministry, well and good. But when they do not, we must not conclude the Lord has betrayed us.
7 Words of Advice to the Those Mistreated by God’s People
And so, to the victim of mistreatment at the hands of the Lord’s people, we offer this small counsel:
1. If you are as human as the rest of us, you were not entirely blameless in the work which ended so badly. The person who blames everyone else for his woes without taking responsibility for any portion of it himself is probably in denial. Don’t let that happen to you.
2. Keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus. He is both the Author and Finisher of your salvation. Which is to say, He started it and He will end it – in His own time and way. So, keep trusting Him.
3. If no church will consider you now after the way the last congregation dismissed you, then start a ministry. Don’t sit around waiting on some established ministry to call you. Perhaps the Lord wants you to birth a church in your living room, to minister at the jail, or serve as a chaplain somewhere. No one on earth can keep you from ministering in the name of Jesus, even if they are able to prevent you from getting a paid position with an established church.
4. Many a pastor has found freedom in being bi-vocational – that is, having a full-time job during the week that pays the bills while pastoring a church at night and on weekends. In most cases, these churches are smaller than the larger, more impressive congregations. But not always. Even so, you would do well to get over having to have a full-time, paid position. Look for ways to carry out the calling God has given you.
Paul told Timothy to “fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
5. Pray God will help you to get past the mistreatment at the hands of His people. No church wants an angry pastor. No search committee is interested in a preacher who is still licking his wounds from the last place he served. They’re looking for a healthy, loving pastor, and rightly so.
6. Ask the Lord to use this suffering in your life to bring about good things. He specializes in that very thing. In some cases, you may end up pastoring another “normal” (you understand the term) congregation, so you would have the opportunity to teach them the proper care and support of the workers of the Lord.
7. You are finally learning what it means to share the sufferings of Jesus. Do not miss this privilege, one not given to everyone. Let your sufferings be an offering of love to the One who redeemed you from sin and called you into His service. (See Philippians 3:10).
We must not quit. We have been given an incredible promise. “Be thou faithful unto death,” Jesus said, “and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
This article originally appeared on joemckeever.com. Used with permission.
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Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.