Once there was a small boy named Tommy who was always tagging around with the older boys on the farm trying to do what they did. He was usually a step behind. Most of the farm chores and antics were things he was not really big enough to participate in, but he was plucky and always tried.
One day the older boys had an idea. They would take an old hay wagon, drag it to the top of the hill, and ride it all the way down into the pasture in the valley. At the top of the hill all the boys got on the wagon and they pushed off. The thing began to thunder down the hill gaining speed at a frightening rate, careening out of control. It was impossible to steer. The boys just assumed the wagon would go strait down the hill and rest harmlessly in the pasture below. That is not at all what happened. The wagon veered off and headed for a rocky stream. Some of the older boys were able to jump free. Only a few clung to the wagon careening wildly down the hill, including little Tommy.
The wagon thundered through the rocky steam knocking a couple of the remaining boys off into the water. Tommy held on. The wagon headed for a patch of briars further down the hill beyond the stream. The rest of the older, bigger boys saw the briar patch coming and dove off the wagon. Now Tommy was alone and everyone watched the wagons slam into the briar patch. Tommy tried to cover up but the briars and thorns tore at his clothes and face and hands and arms and head.
Finally the wagon came to a stop on the far side of the briar patch. The rest of the boys were silent. Tommy and the wagon were out of sight. All was quiet. No one spoke. Finally Tommy came out from behind the briar patch wiping blood off his face and said, “Well, when the wagon goes through the briar patch I guess you find out who is really serious about riding it, don’t you?”
Folks, I have a feeling the wagon of Christianity in America is about to go through the briar patch and we are going to find out who was really serious about riding it.
Things are changing fast in America. Christianity as we know it in America is changing fast. The world and the way the world understands Christians is changing. Various factors have converged to change the way the common man sees Christians. Most thoughtful people believe the misunderstanding will turn to mistreatment, even open persecution. In some cases, it already has. It is going to get worse. Church-goers are going to have to decide if they really are Bible-believing Jesus-followers. Will they change how they understand what the Bible says or will they continue to obey even when they are misunderstood or mistreated? What will we do when loved ones and even family members pressure us to compromise our biblical convictions? What will happen when our convictions begin to cost us friends? What will happen when our convictions begin to cost us significant amounts of money? Who will still follow when “taking up our cross daily” is now longer a distant possibility but an immediate reality?
The New Testament was written to Christians who never experienced the popularity evangelicals in America have enjoyed or the freedom of worship we have known all our lives. Our brothers and sisters around the world have already been called to suffer outright persecution. Around the world many Christians have died or suffered for their faith while we have enjoyed unbroken ease.
This is why I have chosen to preach through the Epistle of 1 Peter at Bethel Church this fall. Peter wrote to the Christians he called elect exiles—people who were rejected by people but chosen by God—to prepare them for the fiery trials they were about to face. I trust if we study it with open hearts it will help us and those we love to finish faithful even when we are called to suffer.
Under the Mercy;