“If we died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”
“But do not worry about what you are to say or how you will answer, for it will not be you who is speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who is speaking through you.”
“For no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit, and no one speaking by the Holy Spirit can say ‘Jesus is cursed.’”
The Christian’s very confidence is that Jesus Christ is the Faithful and the True. It is because Jesus Christ is faithful that we can confess Him and not disown Him, not because of any faithfulness in ourselves.
There is no one who can confess Jesus Christ from himself. There is no one who can confess Jesus as Lord by his own strength, courage, or virtue. There is no one who can confess Jesus Christ because of his own saintliness. There is no one who can confess Jesus as Lord by his own heroism.
Whenever we confess the Lord Jesus, if it is true confession of the Son of God, it is because of His own faithfulness, through His own Spirit. (If the Lord Jesus is confessed apart from His own faithfulness, through His own Spirit, it is the confession of those who will say to Him, “Lord, Lord, did we not heal the sick, cast out demons, and do many wonders in Your Name?” and to whom He will say, “Depart from Me, you doers of wickedness. I never knew you.” This is the same as the confession of the demons, who were crying out, “You are the Son of God,” to whom Jesus commanded, “Be quiet!) Whatever circumstances may be, all true confession of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, is through the Holy Spirit. All faithfulness to Him is through His own faithfulness. Faithfulness – like existence – belongs to God alone, and can only come from God. All creation is like the morning mist that vanishes and the grass that sprouts up on the roof and shrivels before the heat of day. We can only be as God gives us life. So, we can only be faithful as Jesus gives us faithfulness. (This does not mean that faithlessness is not sin; God gives to all who ask, and all who hope in Him will not be ashamed but will receive out of His abundance; not to ask God, not to hope in God alone, is sin.)
Anyone who asks will receive. God’s gifts are there for all who will come. To speak of the faithfulness of the martyrs, as distinct from the faithfulness of the Son of God – the Faithful and the True – in all His people, is foolishness. When we faithfully confess Jesus Christ – whether through endurance of revilings and insults, imprisonment, torture, or death, or any other form of persecution, any other expression of the hatred of the world – it is through His own faithfulness that we confess Him. It doesn’t matter how weak we are. It doesn’t matter how weak you or I are. It just does not matter. In fact, as we know the Lord Jesus better, we also discover how true it is that there is nothing in ourselves that can make us faithful. It doesn’t matter how fragile you or I are. It doesn’t matter how easily twisted you or I can be. It doesn’t matter how little of us there is. It also doesn’t matter how strong, how steady, how perfect, how great, any of us appear to be. Only by the Holy Spirit given us through the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus can you or I, or anyone else, confess Jesus as Lord, and by the Holy Spirit we cannot disown Him. Apart from His Holy Spirit, no one – however apparently strong, confident, unbreakable – can confess Him.
It doesn’t matter how easily swayed you or I may be. Jesus, in us, will keep us and give His strength, His overcoming love. His Holy Spirit in us can only be faithful to Him. If you realize how insignificant you are, how much everything in the world is bigger than yourself, that you can be swayed by anything, a word, a threat, a breeze, an opportunity, then that is good, for you have understood your true nature. But, He is not like that! Trust in His strength. Your own cannot but fail; you cannot confess Him apart from His Spirit, you cannot confess Him from your own strength (any such confession apart from the Holy Spirit is the confession of demons and can only damn). He can sustain you and me with His love. His Spirit will proclaim His Lordship through your and my lives and mouths, if only we will let Him. This holds true in all of life, in any circumstance, in any danger. It holds no less true for the dangers of pleasure, of wealth, of health, of friends and acquaintances, than it does for the dangers of imprisonment, torture, illness, loneliness. It holds no less true for the dangers of pain, of suffering, of torture, of death, than it does for those of pleasure, friendships, health, and many apparent choices or paths of life. If you have ever feared, or ever have what might seem cause to fear, mind-altering drugs or related tortures, this stills hold true. The faithfulness of God is a shield and bulwark. Christ is the Faithful and True, and He will be faithful to His people, to give them abundantly beyond all they could ask and imagine. He will withhold no grace from us, nothing of His love and nothing of His strength. There is nothing that Christ in us cannot overcome. Apart from Him we can do nothing, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us – that is, be happy in Him in all circumstances, poverty and abundance, pleasure and suffering.
No more is it by our own strength, virtue, by our own faith, that any of us rejoice in prisons, or sing amidst tortures, or welcome death with ecstatic joy. No, it is by the strength, the virtue, and the faith of the Son of God. All who ask receive and all who seek find. This strength, this virtue, this faith, Christ offers to whoever is willing to receive it. “I have been crucified with Christ and yet I live. It is not I that lives, but Christ that lives within me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It is YHWH God who gives songs in the night. It is the joy and peace of Jesus Christ that sustains us in the most painful and the most horrible of circumstances – whether that pain and horror is physical or emotional or whatever else. That peace and joy He wants to give everyone.
“I am coming to You, Father, but I have said these things while still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them.”
“But I will see you again, and you will rejoice, and no one will be able to take away your joy.”
“I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be made full.”
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid.”
It is in our very death with Christ, that we begin to live with Him. It is in our very endurance, that we begin to reign with Him. It is not only that we died with Him, and so we can and will live with Him. It is also that we live with Him, and so we die for Him. It is not only that we endure, and so we will reign with Him. It is also that we have begun to reign with Him – nay, already we reign with Him – and so we endure.
We are persecuted because we know the Lord Jesus already. We suffer because we have seen Jesus Christ. It is true that in our persecution and in our suffering we know and see Him more – in all that happens to us, we know and see our Lord, our Beloved, more – but we must know and see Him before we can be persecuted for Him and suffer with Him, and as surely as we know and see Him, we will be persecuted for Him and suffer with Him. The servant cannot be treated better than his Master, can he? The disciple cannot be treated better than his Lord, can he? The bride cannot be treated better than her Bridegroom, can she?
Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale
3 thoughts on “The Faithfulness of Christ: Why You Don’t Have to be Brave or Strong to be a Witness (Martyr)”
Great reminder to not be bitter when persecution comes. Thanks so much!
I really wasn’t thinking about bitterness at all when I wrote this, so I’m interested in why it made you think of that, though I can see how it applies: with the joy of Christ, it is only natural that there would not be bitterness.
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I think it’s really easy to be grateful for the faithfulness of Christ when things are going well. We don’t always see his faithfulness and sustaining in the midst of trial. It’s easier to ask him why all this has to “happen to us”.
Your post is a gracious reminder of all of God faithfulness, that’s just the part that stood out to me where I’m at right now.