FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST…
I. Expect harassment
II. Expect heaven
Hebrews 11:24-26 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Shield, dear Christian friends,
Check out the theme on the cover of today’s service folder: Followers of Christ expect persecution. Do you agree? Most of us would. Jesus’ words in the Gospel reading for today confirm that truth: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). “Taking up one’s cross” is to expect and to accept that persecution will be part of a Christian’s life.
What if the theme on the cover read a little differently? What if it was: Followers of Christ seek out persecution? Would you agree with that? Would you do that?
It is one thing to expect persecution. It is another thing to endure persecution. It is still another thing to eagerly pursue it!
That is what we have before us today with the example of Moses. If you have ever read the Book of Exodus, attended Sunday School or watched DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt”, then you know a lot about Moses. But the God-inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us something today that we don’t always think about, but which can be very impactful in our own life.
This section of Scripture falls in the middle of Hebrews chapter 11 which is the storied “Hall of Faith” chapter of the Bible, detailing many Old Testament Biblical figures whose faith in the coming Savior led them to do some amazing things. This is what we hear about Moses: By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
Moses did not only expect persecution, he eagerly pursued it! It was his faith in the coming Christ that led him to be so bold, so brave, so “breakthrough-ish” by loving God more than the goods of this globe. With Moses’ example before us, saving faith in our hearts and God’s words guiding us, I encourage you, FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST… I. Expect harassment and II. Expect heaven.
Most of you know the Biblical account of baby Moses. With the children of Israel living as slaves in Egypt and under Pharaoh’s decree that “every boy that is born you must throw in to the Nile, but let every girl live” (Ex 1:22), when Moses’ mother gave birth to him, she hid him for three months before finally having to give him up. She put him in a basket and floated him down the river in hopes that someone might find him and keep him alive. Of all people— by God’s will, of course— Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him, hired Moses’ mother to take care of him and then made him her son.
Living as an Egyptian in the lap of luxury did not cut it for Moses, however. He saw the plight of his people as they suffered as slaves and he wanted to help them. He left the palace of Pharaoh and reunited with his Hebrew people for he chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
Sounds like Joseph in today’s first lesson, right? He could have just accepted the sinful, sexual advance of Potiphar’s wife and enjoy[ed] the pleasures of sin for a short time. But he knew it was more important to please God rather than himself.
Do you know the same and take the same approach? Do you look for ways to please God rather than yourself? What did you do the last time you received an unexpected sum of money? Did you spend it all on yourself or did some of it go to the offering plate? What did you do when someone propositioned you to break your marriage vow or theirs? Did you accept or deny the pleasures of sin for a short time?
For those of you who made the right choice, praise God for giving you the power “to say “No!” to ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:12). For those of you who made the wrong, sinful choice, run to your Savior right now for his forgiveness and run away from these temptations in the future.
Most of you know what the outcome might be if you choose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. You can expect harassment when you choose to follow God rather than Satan, the sinful world or your own sinful flesh.
Some know the story of Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three other missionaries in 1956. These men wanted to reach out with the gospel of Jesus to a violent tribe living in Ecuador. For the sake of Christ, they put themselves in the midst of these people, offering humanitarian aid with hopes of ultimately sharing Jesus. Sadly, some of the Huaorani became suspicious and killed the five missionaries.
The story doesn’t end there. Jim Elliot’s wife, Elizabeth, and Nate Saint’s sisters went to the same tribe to reach out to these same people with the sin-forgiving, life-giving gospel. Their ministry was blessed by God as some of the Huaorani were brought to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. Over the years, Nate Saint’s son, Steve, met the man who killed his father. The man was now a confessing Christian. He and the man roomed together as they traveled to share their story and spread the gospel to many.
So, why would they put themselves out there to be mistreated, persecuted, executed? Why would we? Can you find the answer in the words before us today? [Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
For the sake of Christ, Moses was expecting heaven. Pretty remarkable when Jesus hadn’t even come yet to do his work. But faith in a coming Savior for Moses is just as saving and valuable as faith in a Savior who has come for us.
For the sake of Christ, you also can expect heaven! He has won it for you! He has promised it to you and all who believe in him! He longs to have you with him for all eternity!
Meanwhile, for the sake of Christ, be those who eagerly pursue persecution and expect harassment. Invite your drug-dealing neighbor to church with you. Hand a VBS flyer to the family with young children who have received numerous visits from Child Protective Services. Begin a casual friendship with the former felon at work. They all need Jesus. They all need us to tell them about Jesus.
For the sake of Christ, support those who eagerly pursue persecution. Many of our missionaries throughout the world are in dangerous situations and they need your prayers and financial support to enable and encourage them to continue in their gospel ministry.
In order to be those who choose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time, we need to rely on Jesus for courage and strength. Pastor Lauersdorf, writing in The People’s Bible, writes, “The full triumph of the cross is ours. The full truths of God’s promises are in our hands. Now what will we do and dare for him? Will our portraits, by the grace of God, be added on the walls of the “hall of faith”?” (Hebrews, p. 151).
For the sake of Christ, may it be so, for all of us!