People who really know me know that I struggle with insecurity. On the surface, I am a confident person, sure and decisive. And I’d like to think I’m that way in every situation, but my heart knows better. I’m not double-minded. I know what’s right, and I decide fairly quickly what the right course of action is. But knowing what’s right is easy; you read the Bible. But for me, feeling secure about a decision that doesn’t have a clear answer is difficult, and maybe that comes from being a people pleaser. Maybe it comes from being a perfectionist. Either way, I am easily intimidated.
I’m better than I used to be, and through many circumstances where I had to learn to stand up for myself, I’ve grown more comfortable speaking out or even just speaking up. But when I’m around belligerent people, when I encounter people whose only goal is to browbeat me, usually I quail. I’ve always been that way. I guess it’s the Feeler part of my personality that would rather compromise and bargain through conflict instead of drawing a line and making people cross it.
But every time I back down from a confrontation that I know I shouldn’t have, I feel wretched. After all, God doesn’t operate through fear, and if we are afraid to act when God calls us to do so, we’re just letting Satan control our actions. And honestly, this happens a lot. How many Christians do you know who have run upon difficult situations where they’ve been beaten to the ground emotionally by people around them? I see it in our schools and our colleges. I see it in the workplace. I see it in entertainment.
For me, I could stand up in my college classroom and announce that I followed Christ, and nobody would give me a hard time. But that ten years ago (yikes!). Colleges don’t work that way now. You can say you follow Christ, but you’ll be ridiculed and treated like an idiot. The world has never been more angry and more hateful for those who follow Christ. And when that happens, how on earth are we supposed to react? Do we get angry and hateful back?
Today’s verses are Philippians 1:28-30.
Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Do you believe this guy? Paul had some nerve, didn’t he? But he happens to know what he’s talking about.
If anyone else had said this, it wouldn’t have the same effect, but Paul knew what it was like to be attacked and beaten and made the focal point for cruel jokes and unfair imprisonment. So when he says not to be intimidated and that suffering is a privilege, he’s not blowing sunshine at us (as my awesome Pastor says). He lived it.
Our world thrives on intimidation because the whole world is insecure. The only way for an insecure person to live with themselves (outside of Christ) is to tear people around them down so they feel better about their failures. The world hates us because it hates itself; it just won’t admit it. So of course the world is going to try to tear us apart. Of course the world is going to try to beat us down. The world hates itself but not enough to change its mind about sin; so the only recourse left is to rip believers apart.
And when we come to that crossroads, we have a choice. We can either quail under the intimidation of people who are only trying to tear us down so they can feel better about themselves. Or we can keep standing with our heads held high and love them like Christ did.
But be warned, if you keep your head up and if you don’t back down, what was merely intimidation will move to full on persecution. If people can’t intimidate you, they’ll try to hurt you. And while you can’t control the people who want to hurt you, you can control how you respond to the hurt.
As Christ-followers, we’re never supposed to repay hurt with hurt, anger with anger, hate with hate. Never. That’s not how Christ lived; that’s now how we should live. We need to love every person who hates us. We need to do good to people who do wrong to us. We need to care for the wounds of the people who would turn around and injure us. That’s what Christ did. And let it be known that you are doing it because Christ told you to.
When you begin to suffer for your faith, count it as a privilege. Don’t see it as a chore or a problem or a bad situation. When (there are no ifs here) you begin to suffer for your faith, get happy. Decide to be joyful about it. Know why?
Well, one, the more you suffer, the more you grow. The more pain you endure, the stronger you get. And God will use that.
Two, the more you suffer, the more people will wonder what you’re about, and you’ll have opportunities like never before to share your faith with others and make a real difference (study the Roman persecution of the Church if you doubt that).
Three, you’ll be happy. If you make up your mind now to rejoice when suffering comes, you won’t just endure the suffering; you’ll enjoy it. I’m not being facetious. And no, suffering isn’t something to look forward to, but what you can look forward to is the good that will come out of it when God brings you through it.
So if you’re facing a bully today, no matter who it is, decide to be strong. Choose to keep moving forward. Don’t back down. Love them in spite of themselves. And when simple intimidation turns to something worse, rejoice. Because the moment you give in to their bullying, they win. And you will have lost your chance to show them how strong God really is.