|STANDING FOR CHRIST
1 PETER 3:15
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 28, 1997
The following letter was received by an insurance company.
I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In block #3 of the accident form, I put “trying to do the job alone” as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more fully, and I trust that the following details will be sufficient.
I am a bricklayer by trade. On the date of the accident I was working alone on the roof of a new six story building. When I completed my work, I found that I had about 500 pounds of brick left over. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which fortunately was attached to the side of the building at the 6th floor.
Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out, and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 500 pounds of bricks.
You will note in block #11 of the accident report that I weigh 135 pounds. But to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down. This explains the fractured skull, and broken collar bone.
Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were 2 knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind, and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of my pain.
At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground, and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel then weighed approximately 50 pounds. I refer you again to my weight in block #11.
As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, and the lacerations of my legs, and lower body area. The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks, and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked.
I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the bricks, in pain....unable to stand....and watching the empty barrel six stories above me....I again lost my presence of mind and let go of the rope. The empty barrel weighed more than the rope, so it came back down on me, and broke both my legs. I hope I have furnished the information you have required.
There are days - and then there are days. Times when life can try to intimidate us and overwhelm us. As someone has said, “The one problem with life is that it doesn’t give you time to practice.” Life happens.
We have been sharing - these past few Sundays - about our witness for Jesus in the communities in which we live. What we want to look at this morning is how that witness is effected by the experiences we go through in life. I invite you to turn with me to 1 Peter 3:15.
When we come to Jesus as our Savior we know that our Christian life doesn’t end at the moment of conversion - we’re to grow in our relationship with Him. And as that relationship develops we’re called to share with others about the life we have in Jesus.
1 Peter 3:15: “But, in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
When it comes to sharing our faith with others - The Apostle Peter writes and says that how we live is far more important than the methods we use - the understanding we have - and anything else we may fear may be lacking.
What is most important is how we live in the same circumstances of life that everyone else is living through. When we’re pressured by circumstances - are we genuinely trusting in Jesus for the strength to go on - do others see Jesus in us.
Peter is writing from Rome - in 64 A.D. - to Christians in Asia Minor. When Peter arrived in Rome - he arrived just in time for the persecutions under the Emperor Nero. Nero set fire and burned an entire section of Rome. And then Nero blamed the Christians - made them into scapegoats - trying to justify his persecution of the Christians.
A Roman historian name Tactitus lived through that time, and he said that in the five-year period between 63 and 68 AD, every Christian in Rome either lost his life or fled the city for safety.
In ancient Rome, crowds by the tens of thousands would gather in the Coliseum to watch as Christians were torn apart by wild animals. Each Christian who died gave testimony with their lives of the reality of their faith.
One day I stood in that Coliseum. And I can still see the image of it in my mind. I wonder what it was like in Nero’s time.
Paul Rader, writing in Our Daily Bread - commenting on his visit to the Coliseum writes this, “I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, ‘Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get this Gospel to the ends of the earth?’”
Its just as true for us today as it was for those first-century Christians. What we experience today. And the words of Peter - who was there - apply to us today. Be ready to testify of Jesus in whatever circumstances you are in.
In the House Church Movement in China - pastors travel at night - preaching and speaking during the day - working in one of the world’s most dangerous mission fields. They endure the possibility of arrest by a hostile government - yet they give their lives to strengthen and build up the Body of Christ.
According to the Chinese Church Research Center, there are more Evangelicals in China than in any other country in the world - perhaps 75 million. Holding a house meeting of Christian believers is illegal. Those who are caught are often tortured - using boiling water to burn them in order to force confessions of loyalty to the Chinese Communist government. Many who are arrested are sent to prison camps where they are often denied food and water and are shocked with electric probes - where death is a real possibility.
And people still come to these home fellowships where they can hear the Word of God proclaimed and share life with other believers. The Church in China is growing in the midst of persecution.
According to those who have compiled the statistics - there have been more people martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ in the 20th Century than in all the previous nineteen combined - some 100 million martyrs in the 20th century alone. 160,000 have lost their lives in the last 12 months.
And where the church is being persecuted the most is where its growing the fastest. In 1960, over 70% of all Evangelicals lived in North America and Western Europe. In 1990, 70% of all Evangelicals lived outside the West in the Two-Thirds world.
There is an exponential growth of Christians in places such as Latin America, sub-Sahara Africa and Asia. And, these are the areas of the world where Christians are experiencing discrimination, harassment, and persecution at the hands of those in power.
Christians standing firm in their faith - in the worst circumstances of life - giving testimony of the reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the way they live their lives.
For us, its not just Roman persecution that terrifies or the threat of torture or death - but the things swirling around us right now in our modern world. The prospect of the infirmities, weakness, sickness, trouble, and sorrow. Fears faced by us and by those around us. And the question they ask is this, “Christian - how do you handle these?” They’re looking at us - is our faith real?
When faced with persecution or hardship and struggles - what’s inside us comes out. People see what genuinely is most important to us and the power - hope - salvation - life of Jesus Christ in us. If the Gospel is true - it is seen best when Christians are under the microscope of persecution.
The Apostle Peter says, “Be Ready to witness for Jesus” - How? Two truths.
First, Peter says, “in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord.”
The Armenian translates the Greek this way, "Haba Der Asdvadz surdernout mech sourp bahetzek." A loose translation would be - “Keep the Lord God holy in your hearts” Put Christ first. No person - no activity - no thought or desire must occupy a greater place of priority in our lives that Jesus Christ.
By His resurrection, Jesus has demonstrated that He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He is over all creation, He is above and beyond the universe. We need to turn our world and our lives over to Him and allow Him to King of those also. We must make Him Lord of our lives on a day-by-day basis, turning over to Him our hearts, our spirits, every area of our lives. For the rest of our lives He will be asking us, “Can I be Lord of your family, your finances, your work, your inner thoughts and life?” And our daily answer must be, “Yes!”
If we live daily with Jesus as the priority of our lives - then when the storms of life come - its His power which sustains us - not ours - He shines through us - and in the storms of life - if He has been first in our lives - we will testify of Him by the way we walk through these circumstances.
Secondly, Peter says, “Be ready to give an answer - with gentleness and reverence” Our attitude is crucial.
In the movie “A Few Good Men” there is the courtroom confrontation that takes place between Tom Cruise - who plays a lawyer - and Jack Nicholson - who plays a hardened Marine Corps officer. Nicholson is in the witness stand. During the cross examination - in a very tense moment with high emotions - Tom Cruise shouts at Nicholson in anger, “I want the truth!”
Sometimes we think that giving a defense of our faith means being able to argue convincingly like a lawyer - or that the people we are sharing with are opponents to be backed into the corner of submission.
Gentleness does not mean hitting people over the head with a 2x4 - beating them down to the point where they “must” accept Christ.
Last Friday - at the Billy Graham Crusade. Many of us watched as Rev. Graham - 78 years young - quietly - personally - in simplicity and clarity - shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And 100’s of individuals came forward to receive Jesus as Savior.
Outside - as we were leaving - there were a few individuals who were also witnessing. They had these large signs - which said something like “Repent or Die.” I’m not speaking in judgment of these individuals - but just observing their methods. I noticed that even the Christians were trying to avoid them - to walk around them.
Gentleness.... and then Peter says, reverence - respect - awe. We are all sinners - each of us. And the people that we share the Gospel with struggle in life just like we do - with the same circumstances - temptations - issues. We’re not superior to them. It’s only by God’s grace that - as we go through the circumstances of life - that we live in the strength and power and wisdom of Jesus Christ. As we share - we need to be in awe of this - God graciousness towards us.
It’s not words that people respond to - it’s our attitude - our love - our character in the midst of circumstances. Its how we are living and growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is our best testimony for Him.
What Peter is saying is, Christian - as you grow up in your faith - if you learn to put Christ first in everything - then you’ll be okay. Even in the worst circumstances of life - you’ll make it. And others will see that - they’ll see Christ in you and they’ll want to know Him - or they’ll be encouraged in their faith. And you’ll be ready to give a testimony for Him.