Tough Saints


Most of us may not want to admit this,

but in the back of our minds many of us still have the idea that it's only

the somewhat abnormal Christians --                               

the Christians who have a touch of masochism in their nature,

who are ever going to see hard times.


You know what I mean...these people who can't just settle down and be normal.

They have to go off to some jungle somewhere and get killed.

They have to go down on Third Street, make a scene,

                                                            and get their heads bashed in.


If that’s their thing, fine let them go and do it.

But don't come around telling me that if I follow Jesus,

I'm going to have a rough times.

And don't be trying to make me feel guilty because my Shepherd happens to be

making me lie down in green pastures and

leading me beside the still waters.


Because I'm going to travel first class.

And I'm going to prosper and be in health.

And I'm going to leave the hard times to those twisted saints,

                                                            those morbid saints.

They can have their hard times if they want to.


The only problem with that, of course, is that

in order to convince yourself that it's green pastures and still waters all the way,                               

you have to chop out half the Bible.


What are you going to do with that part of the 23rd Psalm that talks about the valley of the shadow of death?


What are you going to do with a passage like this:


“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And  many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”  

Matthew 24: 9-12


“Hey, man, I'm going to be raptured before that happens.”

Well, okay, you’re going to be raptured before that happens.

How about this?

“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three…”   Luke 12: 49-52  

Suppose you are able to edit your Bible and bring it to the place where you have nothing but a lovely string of half-truths that ooze sweetness all the way down the line…you still have to contend with the world of everyday living and

         you're going to have to do some running to get away from

hard work,                                                             



broken bottles,

flat tires,


and corruption.


Jesus, indeed, came down to this world and died that we might be saved.

And this salvation, which Jesus gives us,

does not begin after we die when we go to heaven.

It begins down here, in this world.


And he gives us the Holy Spirit, who is to be

                                    our comforter, and

                                    our joy, and

                                    our source of unspeakable power here in this world.

But Jesus never promised us that in this world we would have smooth sailing.


Very clearly, again and again, he shows us that in this world it’s going to be war.

The atmosphere is battle.

And the delicate saints are going to be destroyed along the way.

They are either going to be scared out of the battle or

they are going to be lulled to sleep with false assurances or

they are going to be driven into some form of spiritual madness.


“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may fail not; and when you are turned again, strengthen your brothers.”   Luke 22: 31-32


Search the New Testament.

Search the whole scripture.

See if you can find any place where Jesus allows people to follow him

without also making clear to them what's going to be involved for them. That they are going to have to be tough. 

As they were going along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but  the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”

To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me say farewell to those at my home.”

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Luke 9: 57-62

Clearly the call is for tough saints.

Not tough like the super executive who

runs 3 miles every morning and then

does 50 push-ups and

knows karate and

can put a hole in the middle of a bottle cap at a thousand yards.


And not tough mouths or tough facades either,

but tough inside.

And it doesn't matter whether you’re a child, or a man, or a woman.

                                  Whether your health is delicate or robust.


You’ve got to be tough inside to weather the war into which God has put us.

     Tough to take long seasons of monotony.

     Tough to go through all kinds of strain.

     Tough to keep going when there is nobody to encourage you.   

     Tough when your life is spent and you’re tired of living.

                             Tough when there’s nobody standing there clapping and

                               saying what a “heavy” brother or sister you are.


So that no wind of any kind can blow us off the track.


So that our hearts are fixed on the cross of our Lord as our goal.


And neither success nor

                   failure nor

                   fear nor

                   threats can drive us away from that goal.


Our Lord went out to all Israel,

faithfully covered the land of Israel,

with good news.

It was good news. All the time.

As you know he didn't say to people who came to be healed, “Well, let me see.

If you’re going to be a Christian, sign on the dotted line and join my church.”

He healed them.

Free of charge.

No strings attached.


Good news.

Everywhere he went it was good news.

But as soon as people indicated their desire to really follow him,

then it's a different story.

Then he begins to make clear the requirements.


By the end of Luke 14, he turned and said to the multitudes that followed him,

“If anyone would come after me this is what he has to do…”


Again and again we see Jesus trimming down these followers of his

to hardened disciples who will be able to make it through that storm.

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?”

“Are you able to be baptized with the baptism which I am baptized?”

And we see the same thing with the apostle Paul.

Paul went out into the Greco-Roman world with good news.

A gospel. Not law, but gospel.

Good news.

“All you need is faith to receive God's grace.”


But notice, for all that, he makes clear that if you’re going to follow Jesus,

                                                                       you’re going to turn your life around. 


And he never watered down his message in order to increase the crowds.

And, I’d say, the apostle Paul would be absolutely sickened by these attempts at, what we call, mass evangelism that are going on in the world right now.


Paul's objective was to develop saints

…who could really go through that storm.     

…who would be tough enough to survive

the things they would have to face.


…so that we would no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…  Ephesians 4: 14-15


Likewise, we have a gospel that is to be taken out free of charge to everybody.

     We’re to cover this city with a gospel and

     we’re to lavish it generously on our city and its suburbs.

And join hands with brothers and sisters anywhere who are doing this.


The same way our Lord lavishes the seed to the earth.

To get one oak tree how many thousands of acorns are thrown out there?


Likewise, we go out there with the good news,

                                          with the gospel

               and make sure that everybody in this territory

               hears about Jesus and the warnings of the lateness of the hour.


But, when we see somebody responding to this good news,

immediately its up to us to make this person into a disciple.

Not some kind of hothouse petunia.


And in order to make strong, enduring saints,

we’ve got to be strong, enduring saints.


Now, there are certain characteristics that will be found in every saint of God on earth at this time who’s going to be of any earthly use to God and

                            who’s going to make it through the fire and

                                                                              the famine

                                                                              which lies shortly ahead of us.


1. The enduring saint will hold Jesus in clear view all the time.

Not doctrines about Jesus, but Jesus himself.


You can know all kinds of doctrines about Jesus.

And by knowing these doctrines,

you are going to be a heavy brother or sister in the minds of many people.


But doctrines about Jesus will not give you life.

Life comes by knowing Jesus himself.  

He who believes on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.

 And “to believe on me” you don’t just know things about me,

                                     you know me.


And so the question is;

Are we, right now, really walking with Jesus?

Are we beholding him?

Are we living in his light or

            are we sliding along on the fading memory of a vision that we once had?


If right now Jesus is not in clear view in your mind’s eye,

then whatever you are doing, stop it, and start seeking!

Rise up and cry out to God for vision,

                                            for life,

                                            for power to behold.

“Lord, I need to see you. Don’t let me get out of this place today until I do see you somehow.”


2. The enduring saint lives by the power of the Word.

                                                Not by experiences and feelings.


His prayer is not, “Lord, give me that feeling

                                   …give me another experience

                                   …give me a jolt like last evening

                                                                   last month.”


But his prayer is, “Lord, speak to me.”

And he goes into the Word like a humble child,

and listens,

and God does speak.

And he walks out into the world with his ear tuned to heaven.

And again, and again God speaks to him.


3. The enduring saint accepts the warfare of Satan as par for the course.

A fact of life.

He doesn’t try to push it out of his mind.

Pretend there is no devil.


Nor does he get paranoid about the devil

and imagine demons hiding behind every tree to jump out at him

when he walks the down the street.


Nor does he get panicky when things go wrong

                                        and everything just goes upside down

                                        and trouble hits his life.


He knows that the normal environment for the believer is trouble.

A stormy sea is exactly what our Lord was trying to get across to the disciples when the storm came up on Galilee. 

"In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have

overcome the world.”

I am Lord of the storm.


4. The enduring saint works where he has been put

instead of forever dreaming about another place or another time.


“Oh, if only I were in Alabama.

        If only I were in Israel.

        If only I were in Nigeria.”


But you're not.

You're right here, and until God sees fit to put you somewhere else,

how about beginning to do the job that God has put right under your nose to do.


“Oh, but that’s  not dramatic enough.”

        “I have to fit in with other people.”

        “I want to do it on my own.”


It's wonderful how we can dream up the most marvellous things we are going to do for the Lord someday.


Those things that you dream up about what you're going to do for the Lord someday are nine times out of ten straight out of the pit.


The issue is what are you doing right now?

Are you fitting in with brothers and sisters

to accomplish the fantastic work

that God has given us in the city right now?


Never has the time been more opportune.

Never has the power of God moved like it’s moving now.

And here we are dreaming about some other time…


5. The enduring saint expects the Lord to fulfill his promises. 

“Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that you joy may be full. “  John 16: 24


“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  John 16: 7


“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth touching anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 18: 18-19

Now, those promises are either empty wind;

  in which case, let's forget the whole thing,

             let's close up our churches and quit playing games

or they are the Word of the Living Son of God to us.


And if they are the Word of the Son of God to us,

they then become our daily bread.

We live by them.

We hold on to these promises.

And as we do,

            we begin to see them materialize,


                                               fulfill themselves before our very eyes.


6.The enduring saint glories in the cross of Jesus more than in anything else.

The cross is our supreme joy.

                 It’s our rock and our fortress.

                      Our refuge and strength.

                      Our very present help in trouble.  

Far be it from me to glory save in the cross of Christ Jesus, my Lord, by which the world was crucified to me, and I to the world.  Galatians 6: 14

My friend, if you, at this moment,

are finding the vision of the cross getting vague,

                                           slipping from you,

drop whatever you are doing and pursue that vision.

        Whatever you're doing, drop it and seek the vision of the cross.


Because when your spirit loses its vision of the cross,

                                       it loses its contact with God.


And then it becomes open to all kinds of spiritual deception.

Determine to know nothing like you know Jesus Christ and him crucified.


It's at the cross that you learn to pray --

because your only claim on God is the blood of the Lamb.


It's at the cross that you begin to experience peace of mind.

You don't get peace

because you can look back on all the good things you did.


The only peace there is - is the peace of his death for you.


It's at the cross that you get a vision of God's love.

It's at the cross that you get a sense of God's holiness.


So awesome is this God that we're dealing with

that he has to go to these terrible lengths

to bring us back and atone for our sins.


“Lord, keep us near your cross.”  


7. And finally, the enduring saint carries a cross of his own.

It's a cross with your name on it,

that you are going to pick up and

       you are going to carry every day.


And, as you walk under that cross,

                            under the cross you will begin to learn to deny yourself

                        in favour of the will of God.


And at every point where you deny yourself in favour of God's will,

there will be a death that you die.

Like a little grave. And wonderful things will happen.


Out of that grave will precede life from God.

And it is that life that will keep you going through storms,

                                                                 through deserts,

                                                                 through misunderstandings,

                                                                 through trouble of every kind,

                                                                 through apparent failure.

                                                                 You go right on.

Now, let me be frank.

If anybody reading these words feels that this message is too hard,

                                                                                 too difficult,

                                                                                 too negative,

you know and I know, there are many places you can go

where they will tell you the nice things only.

They will tell you all the lovely things and they’ll leave the rest alone.


But if you really mean to follow Jesus Christ,

in all kinds of weather and in every circumstance,

then surely you must know

that the hard things Jesus does say to us –

and there are many,

and hard things that he allows to come in to our lives –

and there are many, are only to make us strong,

                                               to weather out the storm.

They are there for our good.


And if we will walk through that narrow gate, and stay on that narrow path,

he will put songs of joy in our hearts,

even when midnight covers us.

And shouts of praise on our lips when the smoke of the battle is so thick we can’t even see our hands in front of us.


Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil

for our Lord is with us and he will stay with us until morning breaks and shadows flee

and we see him face-to-face.