Thursday, September 24, 2009


Imagine a stay at a beautiful tropical beach. Lying in the sun, swimming in the ocean, having a lovely, peaceful time. Then you hear one word that changes your whole perception of the place. "Shark!" Sometimes we Christians can see the experience of church as being like this. We want to see it as a calm, peaceful place where we can be comfortable and have a refuge from all the cares of the world. But there are sharks in the waters.

Scripture tells us we live in the midst of a battle and must prepare ourselves for it (Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:4,5), for we face a dangerous enemy (1 Peter 5:8,9; 2 Timothy 2:26). Nowhere are we told we can be comfortable in the world, but we are aliens and sojourners here (1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:13). This being so, one of the most dangerous things we can cultivate is a spirit of complacency. If we feel we are at home in the world, it may be the world has become at home in us (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4).

But shouldn't church at least be a safe place where we can drop our guard. The answer is, unfortunately, no. Satan is often found to be still at work among God's people (2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:1-15; 1 Timothy 3:6,7; 5:15). Now we are told that Christ has given us victory over Satan and his minions (Colossians 2:15; 1 John 4:4), and we can stand against them through Christ's power (James 4:7; Romans 16:20). But if we put this together with the earlier Scriptures, we are led to expect a long fight, not a quick conclusion. The only really safe place will be when we stand before God. Let us not expect a life of ease before then.

The problem is, we can start to see church as a perfect place where all my needs are met, rather than a place where we can encourage others and be encouraged as we fight the fight of faith (Hebrews 10:24,25). If we face life, even church life, with the idea that things should be geared to make me comfortable and happy, we will not only be disappointed, but we will miss the point of what God is trying to accomplish in our lives (see Philippians 2 :1-11). We do have to be concerned about our being instructed and growing in Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 2:19), and if we can honestly say the congregation where we are attending is not assisting us in this, we may need to change churches. But part of this growth is preparing us to do what God wants us to do for Him (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Peter 4:10,11) and to be prepared to take part in the battle (2 Timothy 2:3,4; Romans 13:11-14). So if we look for things in church or in life to be arranged to please us, we may end up being surprised when we find sharks at our beach.

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