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What Can the Righteous Do?

Our Lord has made it abundantly clear that following Him is a costly proposition.  In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  This is only one of many instances in which Jesus very bluntly stated His high expectations for His followers (see Matt. 5:10-12; 8:19-22; 10:34-39; Mark 10:29-31).  Certainly, no one could accuse the Lord of sugar-coating His message to gain more disciples.

Jesus said these things not to discourage us from following Him but to prepare us.  To demonstrate, consider Christ’s words from Luke 14:26-33.  Jesus stated that anyone who wants to be His disciple must "hate” his own family members and even his own life (by comparison to his love for Christ).  A disciple of Christ must also "carry his own cross” and be willing to give up earthy possessions in order to follow Jesus.  As He said these things, Jesus compared His prospective disciple to a man preparing to build a tower or a king preparing to go to war.  He showed that it was necessary to count the cost before undertaking such a difficult endeavor.  In other words, He was preparing His disciples for the difficulties they must be ready to face in His service.

Having read Christ’s words, we ought not to be surprised or become discouraged when trouble comes to us for the sake of righteousness.  Not only did Jesus warn us, but also Paul guaranteed trouble for Christians when he wrote, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2Tim. 3:12).  Peter also reminds of these things in 1Peter 4:12-16:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

Therefore, we cannot say we have not been warned of the cost of righteousness, and we should not react with shock and bewilderment when the trouble comes.

The word of God not only gives warning of the trouble that comes to the righteous, but it also gives instructions concerning what to do in times of trouble.  The eleventh psalm presents an excellent prescription for dealing with persecution.  David began the psalm by saying, "In the LORD I take refuge” (Ps. 11:1).  He then challenged the naysayers, pessimists, and doubters, saying,

How can you say to my soul, "Flee as a bird to your mountain; for, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.  If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:1b-3)

When anyone suggested giving up the fight for righteousness because the wicked were making it difficult, David utterly refused.  When asked, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” David had an answer: continue to be righteous.  Notice verse 7 – "For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face.”  David recognized that God from His holy temple in heaven was testing both the righteous and the wicked.  If he wanted to pass the test, then he could not flee to the mountains and give up the fight.  Instead, he took refuge in the Lord by holding firm to the practice of righteousness.

Today in many ways, trouble is coming and has come to the disciples of Jesus in the United States.  This trouble is nothing new, and our brothers and sisters in Christ through the ages have dealt far greater trouble than we have now.  Even so, today’s battle is our battle, and we must fight it.  We see that many foundations are being destroyed by humanism, evolution, feminism, and many other godless philosophies, teachings, and practices.  The foundations of our families, local churches, communities, and nation are under heavy attack.  The question we must now answer is, "What can the righteous do?”  We could "flee as a bird” in shameful cowardice, but that would lead us directly to the second death in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8).  Instead, we must be like David, who took refuge in God, or like Nehemiah, who asked rhetorically, "Should a man like me flee?” (Neh. 6:11).  Let us accept the charge given to Timothy by Paul, who said, "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1Tim. 6:12).  "Stand firm therefore,” and "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10, 14).  This is exactly what the righteous can and must do.

Stacey E. Durham



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